‘Where now is the ground on which we need to plant the gospel; and how do we step out towards it?’

These were questions posed by Archbishop Peter A Comensoli on Wednesday night at the 2021 Patrick Oration held at the Catholic Leadership Centre in East Melbourne. The Oration was broadcast live to community channel C31 and YouTube.

The Archbishop was joined by parishioners, clergy, teachers and students from across the Archdiocese of Melbourne, as well as religious and community leaders including the Hon. Michael O’Brien (Leader of the Victorian Opposition), the Rt Rev Philip Freier (Anglican Archbishop of Melbourne), Fr Shenouda Boutros (President of the Victorian Council of Churches), Adel Salman (President of the Islamic Council of Victoria) and Vivienne Nguyen (Chairperson of the Victorian Multicultural Commission).

It has been two years since the inaugural Patrick Oration, where Archbishop Comensoli offered a picture of how the Church in Melbourne might continue to be a voice of hope in the wider community. This year's Patrick Oration was no different, with the Archbishop acknowledging the resilience shown by locals during one of the world's toughest lockdowns due to the COVID pandemic.

‘As we now move tentatively out of exile – still in a state of ebb and flow, still uncertain of the future – we should not miss that COVID has shifted and sifted us,’ said Archbishop Comensoli.

‘Over the last twelve months we have suffered through the experience of our place of worship being locked to the visitor, and the person in need. And yet, in our homes we rediscovered the living bread of God’s love for each person, and the call to serve one another.’

While the community continues to be transformed by the pandemic, the call to live out the Gospel remains unchanged, the Archbishop reflected. Indeed, a world “shifted and sifted” by COVID has laid the groundwork for a renewed sense of Gospel boldness and hope within local communities.

‘With us this evening is a group of parishioners who have used the distressing closure of the Flemington towers last year to grow a mission to the struggling families in their neighbourhood,’ the Archbishop said.

‘Among us is someone who leads an organisation that supports at-risk mothers and mothers-to-be to keep their children. There is someone here who, with a couple of friends, produces a weekly podcast discussing faith, science and life. And with us are some people who began a nightly rosary on Zoom during lockdown, gathering dozens of families in prayer every single evening,’ he said.

'At this time when the institutional Church is being pushed ever further to the margins of social discourse and life,' he said, 'this baptismal calling of the laity is to be a leaven in the world and it strikes me as a deeply important sense, and in need of being reclaimed.'

Watch the 2021 Patrick Oration below or read the full text here.