As their parish emerged out of lockdown last year, Fr Raju Jacob and the Holy Trinity (Bentleigh, East Bentleigh, Moorabbin) parish leadership team recognised that their community needed a time of prayer, healing and hope. An image of the Emmaus walk spoke to them of the way Jesus accompanies us, even—and perhaps especially—in the midst of our darkest and most grief-filled times, leading us out into the light and hope of the resurrection.
Holy Trinity Parish was formed with the amalgamation of three parishes in 2012. Donrita Reefman, the parish’s Pastoral Coordinator, says, ‘Even before COVID, Holy Trinity Parish was a parish struggling while “dealing with change”. Some changes had been done in a way that people found difficult to accept, and the parish was really hurting.’ Fr Raju has had to work hard over a number of years to resolve the many issues that arise as three communities continue to come together as one parish with a shared vision and a common purpose.
With discussion and prayer, an Advent-to-Easter theme—‘From Darkness to Light’—was developed, based on the Emmaus story. Parishioner Marjorie Brady created banners for each church in the parish, which were hung during Advent and which continue to be a focus for prayer.
For the Lenten part of this journey, Fr Raju has encouraged the development of a program that recognises the breadth of parishioners’ experiences of their spirituality and how they choose to pray. It also recognises the need for reconnection with each other as they emerge from the ‘darkness’ of COVID disconnection and the pain of change, into a shared vision for the future.
Across Lent, several groups have met, discussed and prayed together, using the resource Remember, produced by the Diocese of Wollongong. Groups are offered at different churches and at different times of day.
The night focused on enlivening music, deep prayer and a message preached by Deacon Malcom Lock. It was well attended and parishioners commented on the ‘refreshing and healing’ experience of meeting together and praying in this way.
More than 60 parishioners attended a whole-day retreat at the parish. Bishop Tony Ireland led several sessions based on the parable of the Prodigal Son. He encouraged the community to see that out of darkness, God leads us into the wilderness—a place of hardship, but also a place where people go to find God and from where new life can spring forth.
The day began with a chanted morning prayer of the Church and concluded with guided meditation during exposition of the blessed sacrament and benediction. It included times of silence, an elaborate shared lunch to which participants each contributed, and a time of shared testimony on insights gained during the retreat. Great music, led by the Missionaries of God Love, was an important feature of the day.
Donrita was particularly touched and surprised by an ‘avalanche of beautiful and intimate sharing’ towards the end of the retreat, and that a number of people felt that they identified with the ‘stay-at-home’ son in the parable of the Prodigal Son. Since the retreat, Donrita says that other parishioners have expressed regret that they didn’t make the time to attend. However, the parish team is already planning another retreat—something really significant in the life of the parish.
Parishioners are invited to pray the Stations each Friday evening with Fr Jacob.
Masses with anointing are offered at each of the parish churches.
The Second Rite of Reconciliation is offered at each of the parish churches before and during Holy Week.
Donrita says that this Lent has been a time of refocusing. She mentions work the leadership team is doing to make sure that newcomers to the parish are welcomed and invited into the life of the community and that there is now live music at every parish Mass. The parish is currently running an Alpha pilot progam, and they plan to offer Alpha to guests in coming months.
Donrita says that ‘In Fr Jacob, we have a beautiful priest who has taken on a difficult task, having to lead people to places they hadn’t necessarily wanted to go.’ She notes that in the midst of this struggle, a great team has been formed, new ways of reaching people are being tried, and parishioners are beginning to return to the community with a renewed feeling of hope for the future of the Holy Trinity Parish.
VMCH11 December 2023
Melbourne Catholic08 December 2023