“What do you give the woman who has everything?”
This was the question Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP asked student representatives from Catholic primary schools in the Sydney archdiocese who gathered at St Mary’s Cathedral today to celebrate the solemnity of Our Lady Help of Christians.
Also present to honour the patroness of Australia was the new executive director of Sydney Catholic Schools Tony Farley, Sydney Catholic School directors and senior staff, schools chaplain Father Gary Perritt CP and teachers and principals from systemic and congregational primary schools.
Looking out at the sea of young faces, the archbishop said his “young friends” had brought the perfect present for Christ’s mother with them. “It’s children like you and your prayers and love for the Lord and for each other,” he said. “Praise be to God for each of you and your gifts for Our Lady’s feast day.”
In his homily Archbishop Fisher told the children that Jesus wants them to think of themselves as much a part of his family as his much-loved mum.
“[Jesus says] what matters most about my mum is not that she’s related to me but that she is such a good disciple,” he said. “Jesus says who you are deep down and what you do matters a whole lot more than who you’re related to or any titles.”
Jesus shares not only his heavenly Father but his earthly Mother with them as well, he told them.
Students from St Michael’s Lane Cove, St John Vianney Greenacre and Our Lady of the Assumption North Strathfield formed a glorious 100-strong choir with support from Catholic Schools Performing Arts Sydney (CaSPA).
Other students read prayers, sang the psalm and formed the offertory procession.
Education officer for primary religious education at Sydney Catholic Schools Jodie Micallef said the day was a great opportunity for the students to come together to celebrate the patron of Australia.
After Mass students emerged from the cathedral into the autumn sunshine and lingered with their teachers to get a photo and chat with the archbishop.
“I think this part of the day will be the highlight for them that they will remember for a long time,” Ms Micallef said.
Year six students Annie Nguyen and Arianna Rossman from Holy Cross Catholic Primary School at Woollahra said they felt honoured to be chosen for the offertory procession.
“It was pretty special,” said Annie.
The feast of Our Lady Help of Christians has been celebrated in Australia since 1844. It was the first country to make her its Patroness and also the first to have a mother-cathedral, St Mary’s Cathedral, under the same title.