With many local events not able to be held on July 5 to mark Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sunday, a national Mass will be livestreamed from St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral in Adelaide to celebrate the occasion.
The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council (NATSICC), like so many other groups, saw its plans have to change due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As a Council, we prayed upon and discerned for many months as to the theme for this year’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sunday,” said chair John Lochowiak, a Wadi (initiated man) who has strong ties to the Pitjantjatjara, Kaurna, Ramindjeri and Arerrnte language groups.
“While there were many options discussed, the developing COVID-19 situation and its widespread effects and concerns throughout our communities, made our decision on the theme clear: ‘Together in the Spirit’.”
The decision was also made to livestream a national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sunday Mass on July 5 – which will promote a sense of oneness, albeit at a distance.
“Whether we are able to come together physically in churches or via a digital platform, we feel enriched by the fact that, as Australians, we will be ‘Together in the Spirit’ on that day,” Mr Lochowiak said.
“The Gospel of the day calls for those of us that are weary to share our burdens with God. Communities around Australia, both First Nations and non-Indigenous, have endured bushfires, droughts and now a pandemic. It is only natural that our spirit also becomes weary.
“There are already many burdens that exist in our communities. With the new challenges presented in times like these, it is important that we continue to place our trust in God, and try even harder to embody the spiritual gifts of empathy, friendship and love for one another.”
Mr Lochowiak said COVID-19 restrictions “have had an impact on family units, but I am proud that most of our communities have heeded the warning and adhered to social distancing”.
He said video technology has become part of the lives of those communities, noting it has been uplifting for people to be able to see their own country, even if not be physically present.
That video technology will also allow the tyranny of distance and separation to bring people together on July 5. The mass will be livestreamed at 11.30am AEST.
“I am filled with pride at the thought of people coming together via the web from all over Australia – and also our friends overseas – to celebrate our faith as Australians and Catholics,” Mr Lochowiak said.
Mr Lochowiak has even recorded a virtual Acknowledgement of Country for Catholic parishes, ministries and agencies to use.
Bishop Columba Macbeth-Green OSPPE, chair of the Bishops Commission for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, said he and his fellow bishops would be adding their prayers to those offered in Adelaide.
“The Church is richly blessed by our First Nations Catholic brothers and sisters, who have been growing in number in recent years,” he said.
“May the Church continue to be a place of welcome and comfort for all of us as we journey together.”
Click here to access resources for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sunday, including the virtual Acknowledgement of Country, homily notes, hymns and slide shows.