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Lidcombe, Berala, Auburn faithful take up the Cross for Lenten pilgrimages

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Photo: Alphonsus Fok/The Catholic Weekly

Parishioners from three Sydney churches have taken Jesus’ command to “take up your cross and follow me” literally this Lent.

Over 150 parishioners from St Joachim’s Catholic Church Lidcombe, St John of God Auburn and St Peter Chanel and St Joseph Berala came together on Sunday 10 March in the first of three inter-parish pilgrimages of the cross before Holy Week.

Pilgrims of all ages braved the blistering heat as they departed St Joachim’s at 2pm, stopping at Wyatt Park, Auburn Memorial Park, Auburn shops and St John’s Primary School to meditate on the stations of the cross.

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Voices echoed loudly as they walked through the acoustic underground tunnel of Auburn train station singing, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”

Cars slowed to catch a glimpse, onlookers stopped to take photos, and a parked taxi driver exited his car and watched before making the sign of the cross, as pilgrims passed him.

Parishioners took turns carrying the heavy cross before they arrived at St John’s after 4pm to join together in the Sunday liturgy.

Fr Epeli Qimaqima with parishioners. Photo: Alphonsus Fok/The Catholic Weekly

“It’s an important witness of faith and we want other people to see that it’s important as well,” said Fr Bijoy Joseph, assistant parish priest as St Joachim’s.

“Sometimes it can be scary to profess God publicly and we feel like we’re not brave enough to do it.

“The walk can be far, the cross is heavy, we don’t want to cause a fuss or get on the toes of wider society, but only good fruits can come from it.”

Each church will host the cross for a week of events centred around the Lenten season before the penultimate pilgrimage back to St Joachim’s on Palm Sunday for Mass celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop Richard Umbers.

Fr Bijoy told The Catholic Weekly the pilgrimages are as much a positive message about inter-parish communion as they are about a public witness of faith.

“It shows we’re a universal church and each have something to give to the other,” he said.

Fr Daniele Russo with pilgrims. Photo: Alphonsus Fok/The Catholic Weekly

“Perhaps 30 or 40 years ago people were more parochial and each parish was on its own, but we live in a more mobile society where people move between parishes quite freely.

“It shows the support we have of each other, especially in this day and age where we want to show the church is alive.

“That can give a lot of life to parishes who are doing it tough.”

Fr Bijoy hopes three weeks of processions will teach the importance of living out the same Catholic faith both privately and publicly.

“We can’t be two people. The faith is such that we need to be unified because God wants to unify us both in our outward person and in our inward being.

“We all have something to contribute to society as believing Catholics.”

Photo: Alphonsus Fok/The Catholic Weekly

St Joachim’s parishioner Antonia Lisica joined the first pilgrimage in the hopes of being one such public witness.

“I was approached at least three times on the walk from people passing asking what was happening,” she said.

“One was a Muslim woman who smiled and respectfully nodded, while a couple even joined us on the way.

“We don’t know how many lives we may affect simply by them witnessing us on this walk but can certainly hope that the seed is planted in their hearts to seek and follow Christ one day.

“For anyone considering, come along to the next processions, it is a powerful experience.”

Pilgrims will carry the cross again on Sunday 17 March from St John of God Auburn to St Peter Chanel and St Joseph Berala, before making the journey from Berala back to St Joachim’s Lidcombe on Palm Sunday, where Mass will be celebrated by Bishop Richard Umbers.

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