Vestments inspired by Indigenous wonder

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Father Paul Smithers of Sydney City South Parish proudly models the vestments for the celebration of Mass he commissioned at St Vincent’s Church in Redfern. Photo: Giovanni Portelli
Father Paul Smithers of Sydney City South Parish proudly models the vestments for the celebration of Mass he commissioned at St Vincent’s Church in Redfern. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

From Rome to Redfern … Fr Paul Smithers’ vision of indigenous-inspired vestments for his inner city St Vincent de Paul Church have finally become a reality.

Designed around the theme of unity, he said the decorated chasuble and stole reflected both the local community as well as the recent amalgamation of the parish with St Joseph’s Rosebery and Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Waterloo.

Created in the parish colour of purple by artist and Bidjara Wakka Wakka woman Danielle Leedie Gray, he said he wanted to connect the sacred liturgy of the church with the oldest living culture in the world. With a significant Indigenous population within the parish, he said he wanted the design to depict the coming together of all people to worship Jesus Christ.

“Looking at the finished product I am very pleased I did, they represent our community in the past, the present and the future beautifully.”

“I had been thinking about some indigenous vestments for some time and remembered I purchased some plain ones in Rome a few years ago but didn’t know why,” he grinned.

“Looking at the finished product I am very pleased I did, they represent our community in the past, the present and the future beautifully.

“Given the fact we’ve recently merged to become the one parish of Sydney City South, they represent the strength that occurs when the unity of people and culture come together.

The vestments incorporate Indigenous themes, reflecting the history and culture unique to Australia. They also affirm the importance to the Church of Indigenous Australians. Photo: Giovanni Portelli
The vestments incorporate Indigenous themes, reflecting the history and culture unique to Australia. They also affirm the importance to the Church of Indigenous Australians. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

“When I look at the vestments which feature a cross, water, a tree and people, I see a storyboard of our community.

“The indigenous are a big part of our community here and I’m pastor for everybody.”

Artist Danielle Leedie Gray, whose work came to Fr Smithers’ attention at the recent installation of Brisbane’s new Auxiliary Bishop, Tim Norton, who wore vestments featuring her designs, said there was a beautiful synergy between religion and contemporary indigenous art.

“As an indigenous woman it was important the work reflect people gathering around the tree of life and uniting together as one.”

“I showcased the purple colour of the parish logo with the cultural and spiritual element of my people,” she said.

“As an indigenous woman it was important the work reflect people gathering around the tree of life and uniting together as one.

“While always a challenge to connect the western world with traditional indigenous beliefs, I think the design reflects a happy medium in a simple and elegant way.”