2021 NAIDOC Week Mass a celebration of Indigenous history, faith, culture

15 Jul 2021

By Amanda Murthy

Aboriginal Catholic Ministry Chaplain Father Sebastian Fernando lifts the Body of Christ during a Mass held on Sunday, 11 July, at Embleton parish, in conjunction with the 2021 NAIDOC Week (4 to 11 July). Photo: Jamie O’Brien.

Gathering in faith and love, the Embleton parish community attended an Aboriginal Mass on Sunday, 11 July, in conjunction with National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee (NAIDOC) Week celebrations, held this year from 4 to 11 July.

This year’s national theme ‘Heal Country,’ provided an avenue for the Catholic community to celebrate the Indigenous cultural, faith and historical achievements, and continue to pray for God’s blessings. Mass celebrant, Aboriginal Catholic Ministry Chaplain Father Sebastian Fernando, began his homily, speaking about the rejection that Jesus faced from people in Nazareth, upon returning to actively begin His ministry.

“Jesus’ teaching was not greeted with wonder, but with a kind of contempt,” Fr Fernando said.

“The people took offence at Him. They were scandalised that a man who came from a background like Jesus should say and do things such as He did.

“They despised Jesus because He was a working man, He was a man of the people, a layman. A simple man,” Fr Fernando added.

  • The Embleton parish community gathered for a Mass held on Sunday, 11 July, at Embleton parish, in conjunction with the 2021 NAIDOC Week (4 to 11 July). Photos: Jamie O’Brien.

Fr Fernando went on to say that this lack of faith of the people would make it a challenging ministry for Jesus.

“Likewise, in today’s world, our churches would be different places if congregations would only remember that they preach far more than half the sermon,” Fr Fernando said.

“…In an atmosphere of critical coldness or bland indifference, the most spirit-packed utterance can fall lifeless to the earth. 

If men have come together to hate, they will hate. If men have come together to refuse to understand, they will misunderstand. If men have come together to see no other point of view but their own, they will see no other. But if men have come together, loving Christ and seeking to love each other, even those who are most widely separated can come together in Him,” he added.

“We have the tremendous responsibility that we can either help or hinder the work of Jesus Christ. We can open the door wide to Him, or we can slam it in His face.” 

At the conclusion of Mass, ACM Pastoral Worker for more than 12 years, Badimia Yamatji man Reg Carnamah, was presented with his 2021 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council (NATSICC) Adult Service to Community Award for his dedication and commitment to serving the people of Western Australia, through his various roles in the Archdiocese of Perth.

Aboriginal Catholic Ministry (ACM) Director Donella Brown announced ACM Pastoral Worker for over 12 years, Reg Carnamah, as a recipient of the 2021 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council (NATSICC) Adult Service to Community Award at the conclusion of a Mass held on Sunday, 11 July, at Embleton parish, in conjunction with the 2021 NAIDOC Week (4 to 11 July). Photo: Jamie O’Brien.

The award recognises the unheralded and showcases the gifts that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people bring to the Australian Catholic Church, to support and inspire their people in development of faith and culture.

Joining Mr Carnamah in receiving an award in the adult category was Philomena Manado. Susan Collins and Karl McKenzie received the Elder Awards, Sister Kerry McDermott, Fr Leo Wearden and Brother Vince Roche received the Non-Indigenous Awards.

ACM Director Donella Brown congratulated Mr Carnamah on his well-deserved award and recognised his many contributions to the community.

“This award recognised the 2020 project of producing artwork and reflection on the stations of the Cross and which resulted in the “Take a Walk with a Yamatji Man” booklet. It also recognised 12 years of pastoral work that Reg has been doing in the community with his visits to hospitals, family homes and hostels.”

Reflecting on the NAIDOC Week theme, Ms Brown cited that ‘Heal Country’ is a complex concept because it is a challenge for Australians to “look beyond and into the depths of our connection to land and sea.”

“….If we understand and acknowledge that as human beings we have been given the gift of choice and over the many hundreds of years choices have been made that have profoundly impacted on our relationship with mother earth or “country”, that this earth was given to us to look after for the next generation then maybe we can understand that we are at a pivotal point in time to choose to “Heal Country”. 

“To heal the wrongs of the past, to honour the stewardship of country that we were given by our ancestors and to reconnect and strengthen our relationships with country and each other. Maybe this is what we need to do to ‘Heal Country’,” she added.

Reg Carnamah is the sole representative from the Archdiocese of Perth to receive a NATSICC Adult Service to Community Award. He accepted the award at the conclusion of a Mass held on Sunday, 11 July, at Embleton parish, in conjunction with the 2021 NAIDOC Week (4 to 11 July). Photo: Jamie O’Brien.

Ms Brown concluded by giving thanks to God for the opportunities that are the Indigenous community in WA are given, and the many groups of people in the community.

“At ACM, we are most proud of supporting Aboriginal people through the services that we provide,” she stated.

“The most rewarding is the work that our pastoral team does in hospital and hostels, being with Aboriginal people on their journey of healing as well as maintaining connections and giving spiritual support to the families that live in Perth.”