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Bushfire Appeal Mass: ‘Be the light in the midst of darkness’, says Archbishop Costelloe


Perth Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB celebrated a special Eucharistic Mass on Sunday 26 January, Australia Day 2020, for the bushfire crises that has impacted the country. Photo: Matthew Lau.

By Theresia Titus

Perth Catholics have last weekend gathered at St Mary’s Cathedral on Australian Day, 26 January for a special Mass for the victims and survivors of the bushfires as well as for those who have been, and still are, caught up in fighting the fires and in supporting the fire-fighters, and for all who have been affected in any way by this disaster.

The Mass was celebrated by Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB, who was joined by concelebrants Fr Peter Whitely VG, Cathedral Assistant Priest Fr Conor Steadman, and Fr Richard Charlwood from the Ukranian Catholic Church, with Permanent Deacon Bruce Talbot assisting.


In his homily, Archbishop of Perth Timothy Costelloe SDB invited the congregation to be the light in the midst of darkness the country is facing by giving generously to the Vinnies bushfire relief fund to support bushfire-affected communities. Photo: Matthew Lau.

In his homily for the occasion, Archbishop Costelloe spoke about the first reading from the prophet Isaih, as well as the Gospel from Saint Matthew, reminding those present that “a great light would shine on those who walk in darkness and in the shadow of death”.

“As we gather in the Cathedral for Mass today, and as we celebrate and thank God for all the gifts with which God has blessed this land of Australia, we are particularly conscious of the terrible suffering which has been experienced, and still is, by so many people whose lives have been impacted, sometimes in terrible and deadly ways, by the bushfires which have raged across so much of our country, “ he said.

“The darkness which descended on people as the thick smoke blotted out the light of the sun, and the shadow of death which enveloped so much of our land, have been frightening, destructive and deadly.”

Archbishop Costelloe explained that “it is in the midst of this great crisis that the promise of today’s gospel that a light would shine in the darkness challenges our faith”.

“Whenever we are faced with great suffering or tragedy it is understandable if we ask ourselves why God allows such terrible things to happen,” Archbishop Costelloe added.

“We are tempted, perhaps, to doubt whether all that Jesus tells us about God, that he is a loving Father who cares for his children, can actually be trusted.


Joining Archbishop of Perth Timothy Costelloe as concelebrants were Fr Richard Charlwood from the Ukranian Catholic Church (pictured), Fr Peter Whitely VG, Assistant Priest at St Mary’s Cathedral Fr Conor Steadman, and Deacon Bruce Talbot. Photo: Matthew Lau.

“Or perhaps, even if we do not doubt, we still cry out with anguish, or understand and identify with those who do cry out with anguish, as Jesus himself did: ‘My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why have you abandoned us?’,” he continued.

Archbishop Costelloe emphasised that while God may seem have allowed for the sufferings to happen, it is important for us to trust that God is also joining us, lending us his strength and offering us the saving power of his presence in enduring our sufferings.

“God did not save Jesus from death, just as he did not deliver him from his anguish in the garden of Gethsemane; he saved Jesus in and through his suffering and in and through his death.

“The two sayings of Jesus on the Cross, which seem to be in contradiction to each other, are in fact two deeply human and completely harmonious responses to great suffering,” he added.

“It is right for us to cry out to God in anguish and confusion, just as Jesus did – but at the very same time, we are invited, in the midst of our darkness, to entrust ourselves to God with faith – and allow God to be our saviour in the way that he chooses.

“It is faith, trusting faith, which enables us to commit ourselves and our lives into God’s hands at moments of great suffering and pain.”


Special collections dedicated for the Vinnies bushfire relief fund are being held at all parishes across the diocese on Australia Day weekend to support bushfire-affected communities. Photo: Matthew Lau.

Quoting the words of St Teresa of Avila, Archbishop Costelloe explained that to have the light shines in the midst of the darkness Australia is facing from the bushfire crisis, “it will be because we are ready to allow God to use our hands, our feet, our sense of compassion to reach out and be that light and be that presence which drives the darkness away”.

He also invited the congregation to donate to the St Vincent de Paul Society (Vinnies) Bushfire relief fund.

“As Christians, we do it first and foremost by our prayer, genuine and sincere and persistent, for all those who are suffering and for all those who are generously trying to help in so many different ways often at considerable cost to themselves,” the Perth Archbishop said.

“We can also do so by providing whatever relief we are able to through our contributions to the relief effort. Many of us have done so already.

“Today, across Australia, Catholics are being asked to contribute to a special collection which will be forwarded to the St Vincent de Paul Bushfire relief fund.”

He asked for those who are in a position to help to be generous at the special collection which was dedicated for the St Vincent de Paul Society (Vinnies) Bushfire relief fund.

“The people that lived in darkness have seen a great light; on those who dwell in the land and shadow of death, a light has dawned,” he said.

“Let us all help to make this prophecy come true, at this time of crisis for so many, by the urgency of our prayer and the generosity of our practical assistance.”

The special collections dedicated for the Vinnies bushfire relief fund are being held at all parishes across the diocese on Australia Day weekend to support bushfire-affected communities.

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