On Sunday 26 March, Fiat—A Weekend of Prayer came to an end. Throughout the weekend—which began the previous Friday on the eve of the solemnity of the Annunciation—parishes, communities and movements throughout the Archdiocese gathered to pray and to meditate on Mary’s total ‘yes’ to the Lord. As an Archdiocese, we were encouraged to reflect prayerfully on how we might follow Mary’s example as individuals, parishes and as a local Church in Melbourne, particularly as we continue to walk the ‘Take the Way of the Gospel’ journey. This was a time of grace for the local Church in Melbourne, a time to be united in prayer for 48 hours straight.
Many parishes reported that their congregations engaged enthusiastically and prayerfully with Fiat, and thanks to the sheer number of parishes signing up to pray—more than 50 parishes and communities were represented on the schedule for the weekend—people found opportunities to pray in ways they might not otherwise have known about. Importantly, people reported real moments of encounter with God and a deepening of their relationship with him.
Here we take a quick look at some of our local communities of grace, and how different parishes and movements entered into this grace-filled time.
Fiat kicked off at Sacred Heart Church in Carlton with Nightfever, which ran from 6pm until midnight. Nightfever is an international initiative that has taken place in over 80 cities, providing an opportunity to invite people to encounter God’s love and mercy in prayer, even welcoming in passers-by who may be far from the faith. Participants may light a candle and pray before the exposed Blessed Sacrament, write down their prayer request and place it in an intentions box or receive the sacrament of Reconciliation.
The Emmanuel Community evangelised in the street and led part of the evening, as did other groups, including Catholic Overseas Students Down Under (COSDU) a student club from the University of Melbourne. Both contemporary and traditional music were featured, as were a variety of prayers, including the Rosary.
From midnight, the seminarians and seminary staff took up the baton, praying through the night before the Blessed Sacrament and concluding with 8.30am Mass for the solemnity of the Annunciation.
That same Friday, St Luke’s in Lalor offered six hours of Eucharistic Adoration, with Reconciliation throughout. The first two hours were led by the Vietnamese community.
Parish Priest of St Luke’s Fr Luciano Toldo CS described the night as ‘a beautiful time’ of opening their hearts to God: ‘We open the doors of our church and say “yes” to the proposal of discipleship, to continue to announce the Gospel, to continue to proclaim and encounter Jesus.’
While the community prayed the Rosary and sung at times, the ‘main proposal’ was for an extended period of silence before the Blessed Sacrament, Fr Toldo said.
From Friday night through to Saturday morning, St Mary’s in Ascot Vale also welcomed the faithful to Eucharistic Adoration. They began with 6pm Mass on Friday, followed by praying the Stations of the Cross, and concluded with 9.30am Mass on Saturday. Following this, they offered another hour of Adoration and the annual regional Legion of Mary ‘Acies’ recommitment ceremony.
The Fiat weekend had a special resonance for St Mary’s, whose parish priest, Fr Justin Ford, is moving elsewhere after 13 years of ministry there.
Fr Justin said that this was ‘a time of opening ourselves to God’s will in our own lives, for our Church in Melbourne and particularly for our parish in this time of transition’.
The idea of God’s will has given peace to my heart moving forward after 13 happy years here but I’m looking forward to my new ministries, so it is very much part of the theme. I think it is a beautiful theme … it enables us to enter into the very heart of spirituality and the love of God.
Fr Justin hoped this time of prayer will lead the community into a ‘deeper openness to God’s will, a new fervour going forth in mission, of taking the Way of the Gospel, and a deeper love and holiness as we move into the new stage of our parish’s life’.
The light of Fiat travelled out from inner-city Melbourne, reaching all the way into our country towns. The parishioners of Mansfield Catholic Parish gathered on Saturday morning for Mass, a reflection on Mary’s ‘yes’ and a cuppa.
The connection of Mary to the Eucharist is close to the heart of Parish Priest Fr George Feliciouz. As he pointed out, Mary went over the hill after the Annunciation to proclaim to Elizabeth, and so we too are sent on mission today. ‘We should become broken ourselves and be poured out into the community,’ he said.
A mix of young families, older parishioners, priests and religious gathered at Our Lady of Perpetual Help on Saturday night for an hour of prayer. Led by Parish Priest Fr Rene Ramirez, together they prayed the Rosary and had a time of silent contemplation. One parishioner hoped Fiat would be a time ‘to be open to what God wants … because that’s always going to be great.’
Every year for Lent, the youth of St Christopher’s, Syndal, do a 24-hour fast. Called FAST24, and beginning on the evening of 24 March, the practice is designed to help the youth enter more deeply into Lent as well as pray for their parish. It is an overnight activity and includes Stations of the Cross, some activities, talks and a time of praise and worship; they even build their own cardboard houses to sleep in. This year lined up perfectly with Fiat.
The youth minister, Jess Fernando, said on Saturday morning, ‘We are half way through our 24 Fast with the youth group—we’re all hungry! We do this annually at this time, and when we heard of the Fiat initiative, we felt it fitted perfectly. To be able to come together in praise, worship and Adoration with our young people and invite parishioners on this feast day during Lent is very special.’
For their Fiat hour on Saturday morning, the community gathered for praise, worship and Adoration.
The team of chaplains from CatholicCare Victoria Prison Ministry guided their flock in different prayers and activities throughout the weekend. Sr Mary O’Shannassy SGS OAM leads the team of chaplains who serve in 10 prisons for adults across the Archdiocese. She wants residents in prison to feel they ‘belong’ and can participate in the activities of the Archdiocese.
In the lead-up to Fiat, Sr Mary described to us what they would be doing for their ministry, saying, ‘It will be general, though there will be an introduction about the fiat and Mary’s ‘yes’ and how the residents can perhaps say yes to what God is asking of them in their lives now. We can do the best we can within the limits of the prison environment.’