Sydney parish responds to hate-crime with love

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Fr Hamilton ‘Casey’ Ureta, parish priest of Our Lady of Fatima, Kingsgrove with the vandalised statue PHOTO: Patrick J Lee

The Sydney Parish of Our Lady of Fatima, Kingsgrove, have chosen to imitate the example of Saint Francis of Assisi to pray for peace and healing in response to the malicious vandalism of his statue in an anonymous hate-crime. The Statue of Saint Francis, which was a feature in the outdoor prayer space ‘the Garden of peace’ was found beheaded in early August to the dismay of the parish community.

Fr ‘Casey’ Hamilton Ureta, parish priest at Our Lady of Fatima, spoke to The Catholic Weekly on the proactive response the community is undertaking in response to the hate-crime.

Responding in a positive way – that is what us as Christians should do

“This made me think – maybe we need to pray for peace in the world,” said Fr Ureta. “Yes, the community is sad and upset – some are even angry – but after reflecting, St Francis is a man of peace and prayer so maybe this is a sign a calling for us to pray.”

St Francis of Assisi, founder of the Franciscan order and advocate for Christian forgiveness, poverty and peace was the target of the hate-crime but in his own charism the parish have responded to the call to forgiveness IMAGE Portrait of Saint Francis by 17th Century Spanish Artist Jusepe de Ribera (Public Domain)

While COVID-19 restrictions prevent large gatherings, Fr Ureta is nonetheless encouraging his flock to respond in their hearts with a forgiveness and tenderness that is in desperate need as an antidote to the increasing hate engulfing the world at large; a tenderness imitating the life of St Francis and the life of Christ.

“Responding in a positive way – that is what us as Christians should do and pray as a community,” said Father Hamilton as the sun poetically pierced through with shining brilliance the space where the head of the statue once stood PHOTO Patrick J Lee

“The challenge for me and for the community is to not just pray for ourselves but to pray for the one who committed this one – to pray for those people who are against God and the Church.”

“Responding in a positive way – that is what us as Christians should do and pray as a community.”

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