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2021 NAIDOC Mass: ‘Heal Country’ by walking towards God, Bishop Don says

NAIDOC Mass celebrant Perth Auxiliary Bishop Don Sproxton blesses the congregation present at Saint Mary’s Cathedral on Sunday, 1 August. Photo: Ron Tan.

By Amanda Murthy

The theme of the 2021 National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee (NAIDOC) Week ‘Heal Country’, serves as inspiration to Catholic community about “how we can be healed spiritually, physically, emotionally, socially and culturally by regaining the art of walking with all other creatures towards God.”

Those were the remarks of Perth Auxiliary Bishop Don Sproxton, during his homily, at the NAIDOC Mass on Sunday, 1 August at Saint Mary’s Cathedral. The 11am Mass, concelebrated by Aboriginal Catholic Ministry Chaplain Father Sebastian Fernando and Fr Carmine-John Millen, began with a smoking ceremony and a welcome to country.

Aboriginal Catholic Ministry Director Donella Brown stands beside two didgeridoo players during the smoking ceremony, held before the annual NAIDOC Mass at St Mary’s Cathedral on 1 August. Photo: Ron Tan.

The welcome to country, announced before the NAIDOC Mass at St Mary’s Cathedral on 1 August. Photo: Ron Tan

This is the second Mass dedicated to NAIDOC Week, with the first held at the end of NAIDOC Week 11 July at Embleton parish.

In his homily, Bishop Don spoke about the things that human beings strive for, to achieve a balanced lifestyle.

“Good nourishment, good exercise and sleep, good relationships at home and work are all we need for a sense of satisfaction and positiveness in our daily living,” Bishop Don said.

“Simply taking a walk in the early morning or after work has a remarkable effect on the body and mind. Getting some fresh air and walking in bush and the natural environment seems to rejuvenate the soul. There is a sort of healing that takes place and the resting of the mind and emotions.

“The people who first came to our great south land have found that the land was like a mother: it gave food and pointed to how humans should live with each other and other creatures and the land itself. The land had stories to tell in its features, the hills, the water sources and the animals and birds. These stories were discovered by those Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as they studied the land and its creatures. The stories enabled the people to connect with the forces that created nature and gave the people a way of finding the meaning of things and their place within the universe,” he added.



In his homily, Bishop Don spoke about Jesus as the Bread of Life at the annual NAIDOC Mass at St Mary’s Cathedral on 1 August. Photo: Ron Tan.

The spiritual quest of Christians, Bishop Don cited, has been helped by great mystics and saints who found that the natural world was a kind of sacrament that points to the “One who is responsible for all of creation,” Bishop Don stated.

“St Francis of Assisi prayed in praise of our Lord for the beauty of the world, adding that our common home is like a sister with whom we share life, and a mother who opens her arms to embrace us - Praise be to you, my Lord, through our sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs,” quoted Bishop Don.

Bishop Don then connected the theme of this year’s NAIDOC Week (4 to 11 July) ‘Heal Country’ to the healer and purpose of all, Jesus Christ.

“The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have received the knowledge about Jesus, as have all the people in every land on earth. They are joined with every other Christian and are our brothers and sisters because of their Baptism and initiation into the faith communities. We are all called to listen to the voice of the Spirit, especially in this privileged moment when we come together to celebrate the Eucharist.”

Aboriginal Catholic Ministry Chaplain Father Sebastian Fernando administers the Bread of Christ to the congregation present for the annual NAIDOC Mass at St Mary’s Cathedral on 1 August. Photo: Ron Tan.

Bishop Don explained that Jesus’ miracle of bread and fish, teaches the faithful that Jesus not only satisfied the people’s physical hunger, but that those who would listen to Jesus should be able believe in Him who has come to be their Bread forever.

“Jesus offered the grace for those who witnessed the miracle to see him as the Son of God, who provides the food to nourish faith and the relationship with Him,” Bishop Don said.

“This is what the Eucharist is - The food that will nourish our faith along the journey of our lives. If we believe in the One who the Father has sent, all the concerns of our lives will fall into their proper place and we will be able to see their meaning and purpose.

“Our journey through life with Jesus Christ will be the most natural one we take. It will be like the refreshing and healing walk we take in nature itself. It will bring healing as we face the fear of looking into ourselves. It will be there that we will realise that will find God, loving us as we are and offering us the companionship to move beyond our self-interest to reconnection with life and the others with whom we walk in life,” Bishop Don concluded.