Holy Week and Easter is the busiest time of the year for parish priests and liturgy teams preparing to welcome people to their Easter Triduum services. Not everyone can make it to their local parish, though, with many in hospitals, hospices or aged care homes unable to attend the liturgies in person. Providing spiritual care and support for patients, residents and their families is something that chaplains and pastoral care teams are particularly mindful of during the Holy Week and Easter period, as some of them share with us below.

Reflecting on ‘peace’ at St Vincent’s

It’s a privilege to carry on Jesus’ healing ministry, says Fr Philip Matthew, who serves as chaplain at St Vincent’s Private and Public Hospitals. He has been chaplain at St Vincent’s for the last year and works with a team of 15 to support the spiritual and emotional care of patients.

‘We offer regular Mass—Monday to Wednesday at 12pm, and in the public hospital on Thursdays and Friday at the same time,’ he explains. ‘Every day I visit Catholic patients and fulfil their sacramental needs if they need it. Every season or feast, we provide for the patient’s spiritual needs or on special occasions. If they need anointing or confession, we will give that sacrament.’

This week, Fr Philip and the pastoral care team are offering an Easter reflection morning focused on the theme of ‘peace’. In the lead up to the session, the team asked patients and staff to reflect on what peace means to them.

‘We gathered their opinions and made it into a card, which will be available to all patients,’ says Fr Philip. ‘Each one’s perspective is different. Some shared that they feel peace when they read books, or when they go to the beach, or some shared that it’s when they talk with their family that they feel peace.’

Having worked as a hospital chaplain for many years, Fr Philip says he feels grateful to share in the ministry of Jesus and to minister to patients and their families. ‘I have so many experiences, especially with those of a very deep faith. I feel grateful to carry on Jesus’ healing ministry.’

Cabrini Health staff to visit patients on Easter Sunday

Over in the south-eastern suburbs, the pastoral team at Cabrini Health have distributed reflections on the Easter Triduum as well as the schedule of Easter liturgies being broadcast from St Patrick’s Cathedral.

‘We give all patients a tray card which has information about the services that they can view through Channel 31 from Holy Thursday through to Easter Sunday,’ says Michael Taylor, manager of pastoral services for Cabrini Health. The card also includes reflections for each of the days of the Easter Triduum.

Michael says he’s grateful to the priests in their area (Fr Michael Gallacher and Fr Tom Christie from the East Malvern, Malvern and Glen Iris Family of Parishes) who ‘are very attentive to any requests for the sacraments, particularly the Anointing of the Sick’, but is aware of how busy the Holy Week and Easter period can be for parishes.

‘We have volunteer Communion ministers from each of the [local] parishes and they come in every day of the week to distribute Communion [to patients]. And then on Easter Sunday, a number of us will come in to make sure the Catholics get visited,’ he says. ‘It can be a difficult time for families with loved ones in hospital, so we try and ensure that they get visited in the lead-up to Holy Week and Easter too.’

The Cabrini pastoral care team also provides other medical staff and management with an information sheet about Easter Sunday. ‘It’s an opportunity to educate the staff about this significant celebration for all Christians, so that on Easter Sunday—if they’re caring for a patient of a Christian background—they can wish them a Happy Easter.’

Praying with VMCH residents

‘Throughout the season of Lent, our pastoral care team have hosted Lenten reflection sessions across many of our aged care residences, and last Sunday, palms were blessed and distributed to residents,’ says Bridget O’Shannassy, chief mission officer for VMCH.

During Holy Week in particular, residents are invited to pray the Stations of the Cross and the Rosary with residents, including special intentions for their families. Bridget explains that where clergy are available, in-person Good Friday services will be offered for residents, while others are being encouraged to participate in the services broadcast from St Patrick’s Cathedral.

‘VMCH is committed to ensuring that all our residents can participate, as best as possible, in Holy Week and Easter celebrations,’ says Bridget. ‘Easter cards and chocolates have also been created for our residents, and many of our residents and staff groups are gathering to share hot cross buns and Easter treats.’

Mercy Hospital community invited into Easter through art

Joe McCarthy, manager of Mission and Formation (Health Services) at Mercy Health, works across the hospital’s sites to help ‘animate the Mercy story—its ethos and values—to create that faith-based organisation understanding across all the staff’.

This Easter, patients and staff at the Mercy Hospital for Women in Heidelberg are being invited into a reflection through art. The artwork will be placed in the multifaith chapel, which is a shared space between the Mercy and Austin hospitals, with staff, patients and visitors invited to reflect on the image.

‘The image is of the two disciples [Peter and John] running to the empty tomb [of Jesus],’ explains Joe.

‘It’s a gentle invitation to prayer. We’re inviting people to come in to sit and spend time with that art ... to contemplate the resurrection and how that impacts their lives.’

Peter and John Running to the Tomb
‘Peter and John Running to the Tomb’ by Eugène Burnand

Televised or live-streamed Holy Week and Easter services from St Patrick’s Cathedral

The following liturgies will be broadcast to Community Channel C31 (Channel 44 on digital television) and streamed live on our Archdiocesan YouTube channel:

  • Palm Sunday (24 March): 11am
  • Holy Thursday (28 March): 7.30pm (Please note: ‘The Watch’ will continue via our Archdiocesan YouTube channel)
  • Good Friday (29 March): The Passion of our Lord: 3pm
  • Easter Vigil (30 March): 7.30pm
  • Easter Sunday (31 March): 11am

Download the booklet for the 2024 Easter Triduum.