The Mass is a joint initiative of the Knights of the Southern Cross, the Catholic Women’s League and the Therry Society, the first of which was held in 1981.
The procession began with representatives from each group carrying the Aboriginal, national and state flags.
“The door is to be opened and is an invitation to enter,” Sr Kathryn Travers RSM said during the Australia Day reflection. “South Australia is often depicted with an open door, inviting all to the wondrous bounties of the land.”
The sentiment was echoed by Archbishop Patrick O’Regan. “Australia earned the title, ‘The [Great] South Land of the Holy Spirit long before Captain Cook sailed to the east coast,” he said.
“It was a title given in 1606 by Captain Pedro Fernandez de Quiros of Portugal. No other nation has received this title.
“One of the most distinctive works of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost was the breaking down of ethnic, tribal and language barriers between people.”
Archbishop O’Regan acknowledged our role in bringing back a more just society for all, “especially our First Nations people”.
“Today should bring us together in a spirit of humility, reconciliation and deep thanks for what we have…As those who follow Christ and as Australians, we celebrate the good things to love about this country as well as recognising the wounds that need to be healed in this great land, the Great South Land of the Holy Spirit.”
There has been much public debate about the sensitivities around the January 26 date. Asked if this posed a threat to the continuation of the Australia Day Mass on this date, Knights of the Southern Cross state chairman Paul Hawkes said: “The Gospel preaches unity and not division and it is in that spirit which we are brought together at this Mass to pray for our unity as a nation.”
“I do not see any threat to the continuation of an Australia Day Mass in the future but acknowledge that it may evolve as society itself changes,” he continued.
“As Henry Newman said, ‘To live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often’.”
At the conclusion of the Mass, for the 29th year running, the Knights of the Southern Cross awarded two scholarships to Year 12 students attending Catholic colleges in SA. The scholarship of $1500 for each student will be used as they see fit toward their education this year.
The 2024 recipients are Nyasha Mativenga of Whyalla’s Samaritan College and Jasmine Dillon of Cardijn College in Noarlunga Downs who attended the Australia Day Mass.
Jasmine has been a student at Cardijn College for more than five years and is a member of Kolbe House, where she has held several leadership positions. Jasmine is a flautist, a member of the liturgical choir and an active member of the YCS group at the college, taking part in World Youth Day activities and supporting fundraising efforts for St Vincent de Paul Society and Caritas Australia.
Nyasha has been part of the Samaritan College community since Reception and is a member of the Whyalla parish. She has received Samaritan College Christian leadership awards and was dux in her 2022 subjects of Religion, Science and STEM. She also played the lead role in the school musical Annie and helped many of the younger students learn their lines.
The KSC John Brewer Memorial Scholarship is named after the late John Brewer, a highly regarded and long-serving member of the Knights at state and national level.