The gift of life and hope

Each Advent, as we usher in a new Church year and patiently count down the days to the arrival of the Christ Child, our sense of hope is stoked by glimpses of a world transformed—of life blossoming, like a Jacaranda, into all it its promised fullness. Advent invites us to see each life as a gift, and to see Jesus Christ—God’s gift of himself—as the most wonderful gift of all.

We meet Sr Joan Healy RSJ, someone who has sought to live in the light of this Advent hope and to share it with those on the margins, walking closely with asylum seekers on the Thai–Cambodian border and with Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander peoples, among others.

For 20 years, the Australian Nativity Scene at St Elizabeth’s Dandenong—regarded as one of the largest and best in the country—has drawn people from far and wide, helping them journey through Advent and enter into the story of Christmas. We hear about the anniversary celebrations and speak with its creator, Wilson Fernandez.

Also this week, we consider the legacy of St Nicholas, and how the idea of ‘gift-giving’ is deeply engrained in the Catholic faith. Hundreds of young people gathered from across Melbourne at St Patrick's Cathedral for prayer and an end-of-year SummerFest celebration. We take a look at just a few of the many exciting Advent and Christmas events happening in our local communities of grace. And we hear from Abbot Steele Hartmann of Tarrawarra Abbey on the Advent call to live as children of God.

Finally, at this time of year, it can be hard to sift through the many, often superficial Christmas messages presented to us by Hollywood and the media, so we make a few recommendations for your Advent and Christmas ‘cultural consumption’ that might help you and your family to connect more meaningfully to the spirit of the season.

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Sr Joan Healy RSJ, embracing goodness and hope
Encounters with people on the margins have repeatedly, over many years, demonstrated to Sr Joan Healy RSJ the goodness, grace and hope to be found among people living in some of the harshest and most difficult situations. These encounters have shaped and formed Sr Joan, who has been a Josephite sister for 62 years. It is a life, she says, ‘of witnessing the power of God’ acting in the people she’s met and in all the places she’s served.
‘Back in time’: Australian Nativity Scene celebrates 20 years
On Saturday 2 December 2023, St Elizabeth’s Catholic Church in Dandenong North celebrated 20 years of the Australian Nativity Scene (ANS), widely regarded as Australia’s best and biggest traditional nativity scene. We talk with its creator, Wilson Fernandez, about what goes into creating something on this scale and how he hopes to share the true meaning of Christmas with people far and wide.
Giving in the spirit of St Nick
The idea of ‘gift-giving’ is deeply engrained in the Catholic faith. And if we examine the stories and legends associated with old ‘St Nick’, what we find is the kind of liberating giving that mirrors the giving of God, the ultimate Giver. As we draw closer to Christmas, these stories invite us to reflect on our own giving, and whether we are bringing faith, life, hope and freedom to others this Christmas, or just more stuff.
SummerFest brings young Catholics together in prayer and celebration
Written by: Proclaim: Office for Mission Renewal
As the beginning of summer approached, hundreds of young Catholics from across the Archdiocese of Melbourne came together at St Patrick’s Cathedral on Thursday 30 November to pray and celebrate the end of the year. The rainy weather couldn't dampen the mood as Archbishop Peter A Comensoli led a time of prayer and adoration at Six30 Holy Hour, followed by SummerFest, an end-of-year celebration in the beautiful Cathedral grounds that included a delicious barbecue meal, great music and even a conga line!
Christmas in the community: what’s on around Melbourne?
This Advent and Christmas, parishes across the Archdiocese of Melbourne are alive and bustling with community events. From Christmas carols to serving the poor, a great way to enter meaningfully into this season is to participate in the many local and wider community festivities taking place. We take a look at just some of the things going on in our local neighbourhoods of grace.
‘We are an Advent people’: Abbot Steele Hartmann on living as children of God
In an Advent reflection for staff of the Archdiocese of Melbourne, Abbot Steele Hartmann of Tarrawarra Abbey encouraged people not to rush too quickly past the themes of this season, which include the second coming of Christ in glory. He challenged people to think about what it means to be a child of God, and how we show this in serving our vulnerable neighbours.
Seeking the spirit of Christmas
As busy pre-Christmas schedules threaten to distract and overwhelm, how we spend our 'down time' can make a big difference. In the face of a barrage of often superficial Christmas fare, we offer a few suggestions for your ‘cultural consumption’ this season that might help you to connect more meaningfully to the spirit of Advent and Christmas.
‘In every place I have been sent to in my Josephite life, the seeds of hope have been there among the people. In the refugee camp and Cambodia, hope was there to be found ... I could see God’s grace at work.’
Sr Joan Healy RSJ
on finding hope
Upcoming events
An evening with Geoffrey Blainey, Australian historian
Thursday 7 December 2023
St Peter’s Catholic Church, Toorak, is hosting an evening with Prof Geoffrey Blainey. Prof Blainey will talk about his book A Short History of Christianity. Prof Blainey is one of Australia’s most prominent historians, held a visiting chair at Harvard University and two chairs at the University of Melbourne. The...
Catholic Women’s League of Victoria and Wagga Wagga Advent carols
Saturday 9 December 2023
The Catholic Women’s League of Victoria and Wagga Wagga will be hosting Advent carols at St Mary’s, St Kilda East. Led by Fr Jerome Santamaria and featuring tenor Matthew Bennett, this is an afternoon not to be missed! Carols will be followed by afternoon tea at 3pm. Register by ...
Christmas Carols, St Patrick’s Cathedral
Sunday 17 December 2023
Come along for a family concert of traditional and modern Christmas carols in the beautiful and inspiring space of St Patrick’s Cathedral. Featuring Cathedral Brass, Cathedral Schola and the Grand Organ, this performance will include plenty of audience participation, a children’s segment and ‘special guest’ appearance. Tickets: Adult—$30 Concession—$25 Children...
Christmas concert, St Dominic’s Church
Sunday 17 December 2023
St Dominic’s Church, Camberwell East, will be hosting a Christmas concert featuring composers from the 12th to the 21st century. The concert will also be broadcast live by the Australian Digital Concert Hall. Tickets can be booked via TryBooking link. For further information, call 0468 584 309.
Christmas Masses at St Patrick’s Cathedral
Sunday 24 December 2023
St Patrick's Cathedral will once again be live-streaming and televising the Midnight Mass (with carols from 11.30pm) and the 11am Christmas Day Mass to the Archdiocesan YouTube channel and Community Channel C31 (or channel 44 on TV). This year, the schedule of Christmas Masses at St Patrick's is as follows...

To learn more about upcoming events and opportunities, visit the Melbourne Catholic events page.

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of the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne.

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