With relatives in the Philippines and New York, the significance of being able to celebrate Easter Sunday Mass as a community was not lost on Maria Valentin, who read at the Solemn High Mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral.
Maria realised the privilege we have in the Diocese of Parramatta, “It’s like a miracle to be able to celebrate like this,” she said. “They can’t have Mass in the Philippines or New York. They cannot believe that we don’t even need to wear masks all the time.”
Related story: Easter Traditions: Holy Week 2021
The overflow of parishioners to the Cathedral cloister was in keeping with what parishes throughout the Diocese of Parramatta had experienced all Holy Week. Having had Holy Week services cancelled in 2020 due to COVID, parishioners throughout the Diocese enthusiastically returned to them in 2021.
The entire Bernardo family were in attendance with the children, Ava, Caitlin and Jacob serving at the altar for the first time at an Easter Mass. The ability to be present at an Easter Mass at this time was not lost on Dennis, their father, who realised he had taken being able to go to Mass for granted until last year, when, he said, “The pandemic highlighted how easy that was to be taken away”.
Parishioner Sathish Ravi also attended with his family, saying that this year it felt “more spiritual”, to come together as a community.
Lin Surch and Tracey Brataniec moved into the Diocese just before COVID closed down services last year. They have used this Easter to start their “pilgrimage” to find a new parish. “We have been driving past St Patrick’s Cathedral looking at the architecture,” said Lin. “I’ve really been looking forward to coming today.”
Promoting a community of equals
In his Homily, Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, who celebrated the Mass, spoke about the need to be inclusive to all, to ensure that the Church stays true to promoting a community of equals, and provides those seeking Jesus Christ with what they need. This aligns, he said, with the heart of the Easter message, ”the summons to a new future against the background of entrenched hopelessness.”
Related story: Bishop Vincent’s homily for the Easter Vigil
After listing the many women who have made significant contributions to our faith, from as far back as the Old Testament, he acknowledged the “turbulent time for women in Australia” recently. Bishop Vincent used this as an example of how the Church must be an alternative to the current status quo of unequal power in our society, particularly when the Church seeks to be a “prophetic voice” for our world.
He told parishioners about the recent review of the Diocese’s governance structures with the intention of implementing a “bottom-up” approach that allows for greater empowerment of the faithful so they can better contribute to the mission of spreading the Good News.
Reconnecting with music
The St Patrick’s Cathedral choir led the congregation throughout the service, following recent lifting of government restrictions around congregational singing.
Choristers Samuel Berceluz and Lucy Smith had been looking forward to the Mass which featured the Kyrie and Gloria from the Mass in D by Anton Dvorak. Both agreed that the “soaring lines” of the Dvorak piece had been the highlight for them. As a member of the congregation commented, it appeared that everyone present in the Cathedral was also transfixed by the brilliance and precision of the sound.
Bernard Kirkpatrick, Director of Music at St Patrick’s Cathedral was not surprised at the response of the congregation. “The beauty of sacred music is its ability to stir the spirits within people in the way that nothing else can,” he said.
All Holy Week he had noticed the enthusiasm and volume of congregational singing at the Cathedral. “There hasn’t been anything like it before,” he said, describing how congregations have engaged in singing “like there is no tomorrow.”
All Holy Week, parishioners around our Diocese have told Catholic Outlook of their happiness at being able to come to Masses together as community and are realising how grateful they are to be able to do so once again. Bishop Vincent’s closing remarks also appeared to reflect this. “I hope this has been a spiritually invigorating experience,” he said. “It has been our chance to reconnect.”
Watch the livestream of the Solemn High Mass and hear the choir sing here.