Embracing cultures which have been important to our Australian way of life were part of my Easter celebrations.
I was able to attend Mass with members of the Aboriginal community on Sunday then join with several hundred people who have links to Ireland for another Eucharistic celebration in the afternoon.
Waverley cemetery was the location for the Irish event, which was held in common with commemorations stretching from Dublin across many cities of the world to mark the centenary of the Rising in Ireland’s capital at Easter 1916.
It was on Easter Monday of that year, with the date then 24 April that armed insurrection began that was to last for six days and lead to the loss of nearly 500 lives in street fighting with many of the leaders later executed or imprisoned for their attempts to demand an end to British rule and the establishment of an Irish republic.
The reading of the Proclamation on the steps of the Dublin GPO is recalled as the most positive moment for the Rising, and copies of that document continue to adorn the walls of many homes of people who have family connections to Ireland.
A crowd estimated at 250,000 lined the streets of that city to remember the event last weekend, dwarfing the number at Waverley which still boasted the largest gathering for many years for its annual Easter Sunday commemorations at the grave of 1798 Irish republican leader, Michael Dwyer.
Sydney’s Mass was celebrated by Bishop Terry Brady assisted by Irish-born Bishop David Cremin, whose homily drew also from recent events linked to terrorism in Belgium and Pakistan to remind those present to “pray and work for a better world”.
Further words invoking memories of the sacrifices of people who worked towards freedom in Ireland were delivered by their Consul General to Sydney, Ms Jane Connolly and visiting parliamentarian, Paul Maskey.
Readings of the Proclamation were presented in the Irish and the English languages and were delivered again from the steps of the Sydney GPO on Easter Monday morning.
Attendance at the Easter Mass for the Aboriginal community which was held at Redfern for the first time in several years failed to rival the numbers at Waverley, but they were well in excess of those who had been part of the congregation at the former location – Our Lady of Perpetual Succour at Erskineville.
They ensured a welcome homecoming for the Mass at the church of St Vincent de Paul at Redfern, a location that’s close to both the heart and the location of the city’s Aborigines.
Chaplain to the Aboriginal Community, Fr Barry Brundell MSC who is the parish priest of Erskineville agreed to the move, sanctioned by the PP of Redfern, Fr Melvin Llabanes and the Aboriginal Catholic Ministry is planning to make it a feature on one Sunday each month, along with monthly celebrations held each first Sunday at the Reconciliation Church at Yarra Bay near La Perouse.
St Vincent de Paul is a church which has undergone extensive renovations recently, and its walls embrace the Aboriginal community by quoting words from Pope John Paul II during his visit to Alice Springs in 1986 when he appealed to them to be faithful to their worthy traditions but to open their hearts to the uplifting message of Jesus Christ: something that was reflected in that Easter Mass.
At the Stations of the Cross in my own parish on Good Friday, the first and the eleventh stations reminded us to “respect and love Christ in all people” regardless of “the colour of their skin” and to remember: “He is crucified in all who are marginalised in our society because of their race”.
That message lingered as I observed a good number of non-Aborigines on Sunday morning at Redfern.
Setting the scene for the Easter break was attendance at Mass on Holy Thursday which set the theme for the weekend through the gospel message to “Love one another; just as I have loved you” (John 13:34)
Christ delivered on that through sacrificing his human life for others, and the events of Easter continue to offer refreshment for this important key to our faith.