On the eve of Good Friday, I traversed, albeit very naively, across Sydney from the East to the West ready to experience the Good Friday Night Pilgrimage within the Diocese of Parramatta. I sat in a church at Seven Hills in absolute awe of the pilgrims piling in eventually making it full beyond seats available in the pews. I think this excitement and joy of over 600 young people gathering fuelled me through the initial stages of the pilgrimage, and then very quickly tapered off around 3am when after trekking 14km yet still being nowhere close to our final place, I started to question what little left of the sanity I had and why on earth I was doing this.
It’s a humbling experience to be in this position and realise regardless of the decision I made, I still had the ability to choose this, and a freedom in that choice. I wasn’t alone, all of the 600 people gathered doing the pilgrimage made the choice to do it. To add to this, I reflected on our privilege in being able to finish this pilgrimage, and return home to a safe, warm place where I would be able to eat and sleep. I think of all those who aren’t so fortunate to have the same choice and privilege, those fleeing war-torn countries, fleeing violent situations, those who are living in poverty because they continue to be disadvantaged in this pandemic, or within systems that continue to oppress them.
As I stood grateful for so many things, I also was in awe of the collective individual power of people, gathered and united for a core belief. Standing tall, proud of their faith, not needing to justify who they are, or why they are here. It gave me such hope, for the strength and courage of our young people, and being able to witness the young sense of hope knowing how valuable this will be for our future. More so, how the power of people making individual choices for the betterment of our world could have the ability to convey such hope like this daily.
Ignited by this spirit, I can’t help but imagine how we as individuals within the Diocese of Parramatta could use our collective individual power to unite and spread a hopeful message.
This week is significant in the history of Australia – Reconciliation Week. A time we now recognise, as historical moments of finally recognising our First Nations people as people. For the years and decades before, our First Nations people had to continuously justify who they are, and their place in spaces. I reflect on how our First Nations people still don’t have the constitutional voice, despite calls from the Uluru Statement of the Heart – and when the voices are there, and they are not being listened to. Despite the more intentional focus stemming from the Black Lives Matter movement, we are far from truly recognising First Nations people as complete, whole people, prioritising their wisdom and knowledges, and I think of what little choice our First Nations people have had in this.
The theme for this year’s Reconciliation Week is: Be Brave. Make Change.
The theme is highlighting the importance of the individual power we all hold to positively impact the ongoing journey of reconciliation. The illustrations headlining the event by Torres Strait Islander illustrator, Tori-Jay Mordey, depict the diversity and difference in faces of people working for a just and equal society, visually reminding us that reconciliation is everybody’s business. This theme challenges us to reflect on what brave change looks like.
In this one week, we celebrate, but why only one week? How can we, with our individual power, use our daily choices to convey hope, support brave changes, and walk alongside our First Nations sisters and brothers?
This is our chance, and our time to support the changes that need to be made. Recognising and valuing our First Nations People should be brought into our daily lives, into daily conversations, and it is with our hearts that we can choose to hold our First Nations people in this space.
Madeline Forde is the Campus Pastoral Associate (Students) at Australian Catholic University’s Blacktown campus. She is the Australian delegate for the Vatican’s international youth advisory board established by the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life.