By Natashya Fernandez
It was a meaningful evening for the parishioners of St Francis of Assisi Church in Maida Vale who participated in the Flores de Mayo (Flowers of May) and the centenary of the apparition of Our Lady of Fatima on Saturday, 13 May.
A truly special event organised under the guidance and leadership of Parish Priest Father Francis Ly, the procession and Mass was celebrated by Emeritus Archbishop Barry Hickey and concelebrated with Fr Francis Ly, as well as Royal Perth Hospital Chaplain Fr Arnel Taracina and assisted by Deacon Trevor Lyra.
Combining the annual event with the centenary of the apparition of Our Lady of Fatima, parishioner Adrian D’Cruz said that the youth of the parish and in particular Maria Filamor, another parish volunteer, truly outdid themselves into making it a huge community event for the Church.
“Celebrating the Flores de Mayo festival that honours our Blessed Mother, as well as the centenary celebrations of Our Lady of Fatima was really special this year for our Parish.
“The evening commenced with the blessing of the new Rosary Garden Path which was followed by the procession around the grounds, a re-enactment of the Fatima Apparition, Mass celebrated by Emeritus Archbishop Hickey and then a dinner for all parishioners with entertainment organised by the committee,” Mr D’Cruz said.
The solemn procession led the congregation into the Church with Emeritus Archbishop Hickey welcoming everyone to the celebration, saying that it was a beautiful night for those who were present at the procession and Mass.
“It is the centenary as we know of the first Apparition of Our Lady to the children of Fatima and also to celebrate Mother’s Day this weekend,” he said.
Nine year old Joshua Crestwell played a musical organ solo of the Ave Maria which left all the parishioners mesmerised just before Mass could commence followed by a brief re-enactment of the apparition of Our Lady of Fatima performed by children of the Parish, Mr D’Cruz said.
“The re-enactment illustrated the appearance of an Angel and Our Lady to three poor children in Fatima, Portugal and the messages for personal conversion and prayer received by the children which stand as one of the most famous miracles in the Catholic world,” Mr D’Cruz explained.
Special emphasis on the readings and Gospel was given by Emeritus Archbishop Hickey who reminded everyone present that we are a Church, a community of followers of Jesus Christ.
“We see the appointment of deacons in the first reading, where there was service to be done,” the Emeritus Archbishop said.
“A lot of non-Jews had no community around them, the Greek widows were in need, they were in poverty, and the church rallied together in order to support them.
“St Peter told them to call seven worthy men to be servants and look after those in need.
“They were the first deacons. 2000 years later we still have deacons, like the deacon at Mass here today who is called to serve.
“To serve the community, at Mass and to serve people who are in trouble. The Deacon is a wonderful ministry and is part of the church,” Emeritus Archbishop Hickey continued.
Emeritus Archbishop Hickey went on to emphasise the words of St Peter who spoke about what the Church is supposed to be, emphasising that we must be a penitential Church and faithful to the initial invitation, which came from Christ.
“Jesus didn’t say, please everybody and be acceptable; he said the opposite. There will be trouble when you preach the Gospel but the Gospel comes from the Father. And therefore what I transmit to you is coming from my Father and that’s the Gospel you must live and proclaim.
“Listen to what St Peter says. He said the Lord is the living stone, be close to him because you too must be the holy priesthood and also to be living stones, making a spiritual house.
“There’s a lot in those words. Jesus was the stone that was rejected and yet he was the one that was finally honoured by the Father as he was raised from the dead.
“A rejected one, a rejected stone that the stone masons didn’t want was now the headstone. So we too must be living stones and build a spiritual house.
“We’ve been singing the praises of God, Jesus and mother Mary tonight. Because God called us out of darkness, the darkness of sin, confusion, hopelessness and despair into wonderful light.
“That is the mission of the Church; to worship God as a priestly people and we do that every time Mass is celebrated. And also to draw people out of darkness into the wonderful light of the love of God. That’s our charter, that’s what we have to do in the world.
“So, if anyone asks us how we reform the Church, we say, we go back to Jesus – who’s the way, the truth and the light in today’s Gospel. We go back to Peter, the first head of the Church and there we see that we have a mission to draw people and worship God and out of darkness into wonderful life.
“I say this on the 100th year apparition of Our Lady of Fatima. Her message was the same, said in different words but it was the same.
“She told people to pray, to convert from their sinfulness, the wrong pathways they were taking.
“To come back to God, to be full members of the Church, to pray for sinners and the conversion of sinners.
“Let us always remember that whatever the culture, the way things are organised all this is in order that we may worship God as a people. As living stones with Jesus, the rejected one who became the living stone. And pray for and work for the conversion of people who are treading a path that is very dangerous and call them from darkness into God’s wonderful light,” the Emeritus Archbishop concluded.