After two years of the pandemic, it was a breath of fresh air to gather once more in large numbers with family, friends and fellow parishioners at the Easter liturgies held across the Archdiocese this year. Thousands of the faithful returned to their local parishes to participate in the liturgies and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Several parishes also welcomed new people into the Catholic faith, with one parish baptising up to 10 catechumens from two families.

Parish Priest of the Corio/Lara Parish, Fr Daryl Montecillo, described this year's Easter liturgies as ‘one of the most life-giving experiences I've been a part of over these last couple years.’ At the Easter Vigil held at St Francis Xavier Church in Corio, Fr Daryl welcomed members of the Pleseh and Premeh families into the Catholic faith. Both families are originally from Myanmar and arrived in Australia as refugees some years ago.

‘The two families met Archbishop Comensoli during his pastoral visit last year, but their baptisms had been rescheduled four times over the last two years. Every time we scheduled it, there was a lockdown!’

During the Mass, Fr Daryl affirmed the catechumens and thanked them for their witness of faith. ‘Tonight our 10 catechumens say yes to God in this most definitive way: by presenting themselves to receive the sacraments – being born anew in Baptism and being strengthened in their choice through Confirmation.

It hasn’t been an easy journey for them,’ he said. ‘Four times we’ve had to reschedule, but even before that: leaving their homeland, experiencing family tragedies, becoming refugees, learning a new language. Their “yes” is so generous.’

Fr Daryl even learned to speak a bit of Burmese to encourage the newly baptised. Speaking on behalf of the parish, he said to the families: ‘Thank you for saying yes to God. It’s not easy to be a Catholic but it can be “The Meaning” in your life. Lead each other, and all of us, to heaven. God bless you!’

The two families expressed their gratitude to the wider parish community and helped Fr Daryl provide refreshments after the Mass.

Fr Daryl said that the entire Easter Triduum was a source of ‘new life’ for the parish, with locals happily sharing that it was different from what they’d had in their region for many years. One even commented: ‘That went two hours. It wasn't long enough!’

‘Our Young Adult Choir led the music for the first time, with about 12 members aged between 17-33 years old,’ Fr Daryl shared. ‘They sang traditional hymns such as Jesus Christ is Risen Today and By Your Kingly Power as well as some motets with their young voices and great energy. They were absolutely fantastic and received lots of positive feedback from the community.’

Over in the inner north-east of the Archdiocese at the Brunswick and Moreland Catholic Mission, Parish Priest Fr Linh Pham welcomed three new catechumens and candidates at the Easter Vigil. One of the newly baptised, Keagan O’Guaire, shared that his baptism was a way of reconnecting to the Catholic faith of his grandfather, who had been a formative figure in his life.

‘What drew me to the Catholic Church was its appreciation of tradition and its dedication to anointing the sick,’ Keagan shared.

‘And a theology which I saw as being a theology of love and forgiveness, as opposed to the fire-and-brimstone theology of denunciation which had typified my earlier experiences of Christianity.’

And at St Scholastica's Parish in Bennettswood, the community welcomed four new parishioners into the Catholic Church. 'After many months of study, discernment and exploring the Catholic Faith, we officially welcomed four new Catholics at the Easter Vigil Mass,’ said Parish Priest Fr Thinh Nguyen.

‘We would like to congratulate and welcome Vivian, Corrinne, Kam and Shannon into our parish family of St Scholastica’s. Our Saviour, Jesus Christ, has conquered death and his resurrection is not simply a fact of history to be retold at Easter. It is a mystery to be lived every day.

‘And every Sunday we gather as the Body of Christ at the table of God’s Word and celebration of the Eucharist – the source and summit of our life in Christ. We gather as active participants in the life of our resurrected Lord!’

Fr Thinh Nguyen with the newly baptised and their sponsors at St Scholastica's Parish in Bennettswood Photo supplied