An unexpected sight met Fr Joby Kadambattu MS, Parish Priest of St Anthony of Padua Parish, Toongabbie, on Good Friday 2021. There were so many parishioners attending the Celebration of the Passion of Christ, the church, the courtyard and the church hall were overflowing to the extent there were even parishioners outside on the street.
Last year, Good Friday services were cancelled with only livestreams occurring. In 2021, restrictions were lifted, allowing parish communities to come together again with slight modifications to the Veneration of the Cross (no touching or kissing) and parishioners have responded with their feet.
Related story: Bishop Vincent Long’s Easter Message for 2021.
For Keith Steele, a member of the choir of St Anthony’s, there was also joy in hearing the congregations singing again. “It was very lonely singing on your own,” said Keith of the restrictions on congregational singing that were only lifted a few days ago.
Fr Joby certainly didn’t expect as many parishioners to attend on Good Friday, although he and his parish Liturgical committee have worked carefully throughout the Lenten period to ensure the services engaged as many people as possible. In particular, they have highlighted the Year of St Joseph wherever they could. “For yesterday’s Holy Thursday Mass, we asked all fathers to be those whose feet we washed,” he said. “The Liturgical Committee has also prepared reflections for the beginning of each Sunday Mass throughout Lent focused on the Year of St Joseph.”
The visit of Bishop Vincent for Palm Sunday Mass also helped generate enthusiasm for parishioners returning to Holy Week Masses said Fr Joby.
In his Good Friday homily, Fr Joby asked parishioners to consider taking home three points from the Passion of Christ:
Firstly, Jesus asked God to forgive those who condemned and tortured him, saying “they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). This, said Fr Joby, reminds us of our need to make allowances for the ignorance of others and to allow forgiveness.
Secondly, when the lance pierced Jesus’ side on his last moments on the cross, the soldier, a blind man, was healed. This, said Fr Joby reminds us to find the blessings in the blows that we encounter in our lives.
Finally, Jesus suffered greatly on Holy Thursday and Good Friday: injustice, loneliness, betrayal, fear, pain, humiliation and destitution among other things. We can always remember this, said Fr Joby, when we may be feeling similar feelings and take comfort that Jesus, having also endured these and understands what it feels like to experience them.
Many members of the Toongabbie parish community have a close relationship through many years of worshipping together, and with Holy Week, many people are returning to Church after a break due to COVID restrictions. “This week I have met people I haven’t seen for 12 months,” said parishioner Paul Sinclair.
Keith Steele agreed. “It’s like a family reunion,” said Keith. “It feels like I’ve come home.”
To see the photos from the Passion of Christ at St Anthony of Padua Parish, Toongabbie, please click on this link to Flickr.
Information on Easter Mass times in the Diocese of Parramatta can be found here.
Links to livestreaming of Easter services from St Patrick’s Cathedral can be found here.