Diocese hosts inaugural memorial service for homeless people 

By Mary Brazell, 25 June 2024
Candles surround a large cross during the inaugural Diocese of Parramatta Homeless Memorial Service at St Patrick's Cathedral. Image: Jazz Chalouhi/Diocese of Parramatta

 

On the longest night of the year, the winter solstice, the Diocese of Parramatta remembered the lives of some of the most marginalised people in our community at the inaugural Homeless Memorial Service. 

Held on the steps of St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta, the gathering on Friday 21 June recognised homeless people from across Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains who have passed away – some often without recognition, acknowledgement or companionship. A similar event was held in Martin Place, Sydney.  

In a sign of ecumenism, Fr Robert Riedling, Dean and Administrator of the Cathedral opened the prayer service, Fr Robert Albayeh from the Maronite Catholic Community gave the reading and Uniting Church Minister Rev Geoff Smith from Parramatta Mission closed the prayer service. 

Fr Robert Riedling (centre), Dean and Administrator of St Patrick’s Cathedral Parish, Parramatta, speaks during the inaugural Diocese of Parramatta Homeless Memorial Service at St Patrick’s Cathedral. Image: Jazz Chalouhi/Diocese of Parramatta

Reflecting on the significance of the event, Fr Robert Riedling reminded participants of the privileges that many of us have that we take for granted and pushed for the recognition of the human dignity in each person. 

“As we hear stories of people who have been and are homeless, as we pray for them, reflect on them and encounter them, we are called by God to do something to alleviate this situation,” he said. 

“In our commemoration of those who have died, we remember them and pray for their families and friends, who, in many cases, perhaps haven’t had contact with them for some years. 

Fr Robert Riedling, Dean and Administrator of St Patrick’s Cathedral Parish, Parramatta, speaks during the inaugural Diocese of Parramatta Homeless Memorial Service at St Patrick’s Cathedral. Image: Jazz Chalouhi/Diocese of Parramatta

“We also pray for those who maybe died alone, who had no one to care for them in their final days, final hours, final minutes. We know, as people of faith, that Christ is with all people, and we commend them to God. 

“We pray for those who are homeless now and commit ourselves to doing what we can to alleviate the suffering, to bring some sort of dignity to people who are created in the image and likeness of God, who perhaps society doesn’t realise or understand or acknowledge in that way. 

“We also plead for more funding and a commitment by the government and others who can assist to provide affordable housing and housing for those who are in need to ensure that they have the dignity which they deserve as people made in God’s image and likeness.” 

A moving part of the service was participants lighting candles representing those who had passed away and placing them around a large cross. Members of the homeless community were overheard dedicating their candle to those they knew who had died. 

A participants lights a candle during the inaugural Diocese of Parramatta Homeless Memorial Service at St Patrick’s Cathedral. Image: Jazz Chalouhi/Diocese of Parramatta

Before the gathering, local services who support the homeless community including Thread Together, St Vincent de Paul Society, Anbaalayam Tamil community and the Cathedral Parish’s social justice group provided warm clothing, food and drink. 

James Atanasious, Peace Justice and Ecology Facilitator in the Diocese of Parramatta, explained that as faith bearers, we are called to act and advocate to end social inequality in our society. 

“Caring for the human dignity of all, caring for the common good and caring for one another is a big part of social justice teaching in the Catholic Church,” he said. 

“This inaugural prayer service is our commitment to pray and work side-by-side with homeless people.  

Participants search through donated clothing from Thread Together during the inaugural Diocese of Parramatta Homeless Memorial Service at St Patrick’s Cathedral. Image: Alphonsus Fok/Diocese of Parramatta

“Homelessness affects all our communities and must be eradicated and we all must do more to end this issue. 

“I hope that this service continues in the years to come and we are able to join forces together with other faith communities and organisations to support homeless people.” 

The Diocese of Parramatta would like to thank our partners in their assistance for this inaugural memorial service: Payce Foundation, St Vincent de Paul Society, Thread Together, Parramatta Mission, Faith Housing Alliance, Community Migrant Resource Centre, Uniting Church, Anbaalayam, St Merkorius Charity, Wesley Mission, Catholic Cemeteries, Jesuit Refugee Service, House of Welcome, St Patrick’s Cathedral Parish Social Justice group, Catholic Care Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains and Catholic Schools Parramatta Diocese. 

View images from the inaugural memorial service here or below:

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