By Sylvia Defendi
Thousands flocked to their local Church over Holy Week to attend ceremonies throughout the city of Perth, where parish priests noted unprecedented attendance.
According to Dean of St Mary’s Cathedral, Monsignor Thomas McDonald, the closure of St Mary’s due to construction works made very little difference; hundreds spilled out of St Joachim’s Pro-Cathedral at each Easter ceremony.
Although St Joachim’s is a slightly smaller church building, Mgr McDonald said crowds had definitely increased since last year’s Easter celebrations.
He said he was surprised by the numbers, even more so by the overflowing crowd that congregated for Holy Thursday’s Mass of the Last Supper.
“Typically, Holy Thursday Mass receives smaller numbers, however this year many flooded the Pro-Cathedral at Victoria Park.
“It was good to see how many appreciated the centrality of the Holy Thursday celebration as the installation of the Holy Eucharist, and Holy Orders,” he said. Mgr McDonald said many who had previously attended the Cathedral’s Holy Week celebrations were pleased to see the ceremonies had not changed despite the change in location.
“Keeping the ceremonies as they were celebrated within the Cathedral was a must, and even those who were loyal parishioners of St Joachim’s truly appreciated the processions, full choir and intricate details that made each ceremony special,” he said.
Other parishes throughout the Archdiocese commented similarly on record attendances.
Parishioners at Applecross were pleased to utilise the newly built Church of St Benedict with attendance doubling for each Holy Week celebration. “The new Church already holds an extra 130 seats, and yet crowds were still flowing out of the Church,” parish priest, Fr Peter Whitely said.
The attractive new Church was certainly a draw-card, according to Fr Whitely, who said it drew people inside and, much like the many beautiful churches of the world, lifted spirits to God. Speaking at Masses on Easter Sunday morning, Fr Whitely described the Church building before it was consecrated as an empty shell and that without Christ we too would be just an empty shell.
One other Perth Church that was not an empty shell over Holy Week was Bateman parish, which determined that approximately 14,000 people attended services during Holy Week. At Bateman’s 3pm Good Friday service, over 4,000 attended alone.
Tents were required outdoors to accommodate all those attending and four priests offered the Sacrament of Reconciliation for one and a half hours prior to the Masses.
Parish priest at Bateman, Monsignor Michael Keeting welcomed 22 adults into the Catholic community from his parish alone and reminded his rather gigantic congregation on Easter Sunday that each year the equivalent of a small city (80,000 – 100,000) is received into the Catholic faith worldwide.
“Christ is risen and we too, like these adults being accepted into the faith, need to rise in our faith,” he said.
Those 22 from Bateman only formed part of the 83 who became Catholics throughout the Archdiocese over the recent Easter period.
Director of Perth’s Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults program, Eddie Brett, said it was pleasing to see so many aged between 20 and 30 looking to be received into the Church.
At Sts Simon and Peter’s Church in Ocean Reef 10 RCIA candidates were welcomed at the Easter vigil.
Assistant priest Fr Derek Krzysztalowicz, said attendance at the Ocean Reef Church had definitely increased since last year and that outdoor re-enactments, such as the Palm Sunday procession using a real pony, had really drawn families with children.
Easter Sunday received the greatest crowds at St Simon and Peter Church, where congregations filled the church to capacity at each of the five Masses.
Close by in Whitford, parishioners of Our Lady of the Mission Church also noted record numbers with over 9,000 attending during Holy Week.
Parish priest, Fr Joseph Tran said the increase was partly due to many families in the area staying at home with Easter occurring out of the school holiday period this year.
Like many other parishes, parishioners at Whitford prepared for Easter celebrations by posting copious amounts of leaflets with Mass times in surrounding mailboxes.
But it was not only Archdiocesan parishes that recorded an increase in attendance and interest in the Easter message this year.
Parishioners packed Our Lady’s Assumption Church in Inglewood, Perth’s only Melkite Rite Catholic Church for the annual Easter vigil. Perth’s growing Latin Rite community also received record numbers as they utilised some larger facilities.
Operating out of St John’s Pro-Cathedral and the much larger St Brigid’s in Northbridge people came from as far as Esperance and Albany to attend the Latin Rite Easter Tenebrae.
Speaking to the large congregation, chaplain to the Latin Rite community, Fr Michael Rowe reaffirmed the reality of the resurrection amidst the recent allegations that claimed otherwise.
The West Australian had published a feature before Easter where Anglican bishops openly refused the reality of the resurrection.
“As St Paul said, ‘If Our Lord did not rise from the dead then our faith is in vain.’ Likewise, if those bishops do not believe in the resurrection than their faith is also in vain,” Fr Rowe told his Easter congregation.