This year has often felt like a dark, long winter – one that at times has left people feeling flat, fearful and isolated.

As Pope Francis said in his Urbi et Orbi message in March, the pandemic has held us in a thick darkness, rendering our cities and streets empty and our routines useless.‘We find ourselves afraid and lost. Like the disciples in the Gospel, we were caught off guard by an unexpected, turbulent storm.

We have realized that we are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed, all of us called to row together, each of us in need of comforting the other. On this boat… are all of us. Just like those disciples, who spoke anxiously with one voice, saying “We are perishing” (v. 38), so we too have realized that we cannot go on thinking of ourselves, but only together can we do this.’

What a blessing it has been in these last few weeks for the State of Victoria to move towards a COVID-normal situation, with glimpses of hope as our communities slowly but gradually re-emerge from months of lockdown. This year’s Christmas celebrations in our parishes and homes will look and feel markedly different. Despite this, the invitation from our Lord remains – he invites us to share in the life of faith and to trust in him in times of uncertainty.

Let us invite Jesus into the boats of our lives. Let us hand over our fears to him so that he can conquer them. Like the disciples, we will experience that with him on board there will be no shipwreck. Because this is God’s strength: turning to the good everything that happens to us, even the bad things. He brings serenity into our storms, because with God life never dies. (Pope Francis)

Offering a sign of hope in our local neighbourhoods

As part of the Season of Advent this year, Proclaim: The Office for Mission Renewal has produced a suite of resources for parishes, including a banner that will be sent to each parish in the archdiocese with the simple message of “Jesus: Gift of love and hope for our world”.

‘Imagine driving around our neighbourhoods and seeing, at Catholic church after Catholic church, a simple message offering Jesus as our hope even in the midst of pandemic, isolation and fear,’ says Teresa Rhynehart, director of the Proclaim Office.

In this simple but striking graphic, we could show our city that we are here united as one, that we’re open and that we have a message that can speak meaningfully into 21st century life.

The banner is offered in the hope that you will join this simple effort to propose Jesus – as the answer and a way forward in this tumultuous time around our globe.

Along with the banner, parishes will also be sent a range of ready-to-print, editable templates that you can download and use on your parish website, social media pages, letterbox messages and real estate boards.

Archbishop Peter A Comensoli expressed his enthusiasm for the project, encouraging parishes to make this message available to their community and neighbourhood in every possible way:

I commend this beautiful, unifying and simple image as one that offers Jesus – our light and our salvation – as a hope and an anchor in our neighbourhoods and our families in this most joyful Advent and Christmas seasons. May we be united across our neighbourhoods as we emerge from lockdown and fear. May God bless us with a new energy for love and for mission, both profoundly needed in this time.’

Teresa said that while it has been a tumultuous year, it has also been an opportunity for parishes to reach out in new and innovative ways.

‘Thank you to our parishes for the courage, innovation and perseverance they have shown this year, leading our people into new ways of praying, reflecting, meeting and working together. We hope this simple banner and the resources for this markedly different Advent/Christmas time will help to support the vital missionary role each parish has in their local neighbourhood.’

Parishes will receive their free Advent banners from Friday 20 November. For more information contact Proclaim: The Office for Mission Renewal on