The annual National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council (NATSICC) Mass is an initiative of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference that recognises the spirituality, identity and culture of the First Peoples.
The theme of ‘Together in the Spirit’ was explored through a short video featuring representatives of Aboriginal Catholic ministry in different parts of Australia. The Mass commenced with a traditional smoking ceremony led by NATSICC chair John Lochowiak and featuring young didgeridoo player James Saunder.
Mr Lochowiak gave the Welcome to Country in the Kaurna language of his great grandmother’s people. He said it was important for us to walk together because when we walk together we learn about each other.
He also said if all Australians learned some of the traditional stories of the First Peoples it would “just make us more Australian because we learn about the country and have that spiritual connection”.
“On behalf of my grandmother Linda Walker and all the Kaurna elders – past, present and emerging – I welcome you to the traditional grounds of the Kaurna people,” he said.
“I say emerging because it’s important that we prepare our younger people because they will be our leaders one day.”
Mr Lochowiak sang a song that his grandfather taught him that “builds our spirit up and brings us all together as one”.
Archbishop Patrick O’Regan said that as we express our “deep solidarity with our sisters and brothers who are the first inhabitants of this land, it is with that great disruptional and surprise element of the Spirit at work in our lives that we seek pathways forward to heal the past and to work for a better future”.
He referred to Pope John Paul II’s Uluru statement in which he said the Church in Australia would not fully be the Church that Jesus wants her to be until Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have made their contribution to her life and until that contribution has been joyfully received by others.
“By coming together today to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sunday we are doing this step, we are trying to embody the spirit of Christ and become symbols of practical reconciliation.
“We’ve realised that we are better together than we are apart because we are together in the Spirit but please be careful, that Spirit makes demands.
“Yes God wants to be part of our lives, that’s the incessant knock on the door, that invitation ‘come’.
“Are we prepared to open that door and be surprised by the Spirit because if we do then our lives will be full of hope and…also of joy. May that characterise our lives.”
The Mass concluded with members of the Otherway Centre, Adelaide’s Aboriginal Catholic Ministry, gathering at the altar and leading the recessional hymn ‘We are one big happy family’.
The Mass, which was replayed on Channel 44 community TV station in Adelaide, can be viewed at www.adelaide.catholic.org.au or www.natsicc.org.au
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