ON a windy Sunday afternoon along the foreshore of Brisbane’s bayside suburb of Wynnum, a procession of the faithful walking behind a crossbearer, playing guitars, beating drums and singing songs of thanks to the Lord.
It is quite a spectacle for onlookers – the families of picnickers on their blankets and those out stretching their legs along the esplanade walking track.
The procession stops and the group from the Wynnum parish gather on a spare patch of grass to begin giving their experiences of conversion.
Some of the experiences are brief, some are full of life’s detail, others highly charged and passionate.
Every Christian experience is different.
As the stories are told, passersby stop to listen, drawn in perhaps by the way the stories resonate – the familiarity of personal struggles of faith, of family and community.
It’s exactly what Pope Francis described in Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love) as the “messiness” of our lives.
Then the microphone is passed to anyone who might wish to speak – and they do – welcoming the chance to have listened to others, and then give their own experience.
By this time, a large crowd has gathered.
It’s an inclusive community event, which concludes with more singing, Latin-step dancing and an open invitation to come to church – in this case, Wynnum’s Guardian Angels’, which stands on the hill overlooking the esplanade.
Each year, on the Sundays of the Eastertide (this year in April and May), parishioners belonging to the Church’s Neocatechumenal Way take part in the “Mission in the Squares”, taking the Good News out into the community, to people who may not regularly attend church, and probably don’t read the Bible.
On April 9, Archbishop Mark Coleridge celebrated Mass in St Stephen’s Cathedral with Brisbane’s Neocatechumenal communities – within the parishes at Wynnum, Newmarket and Loganholme – offering a blessing and officially dispatching them on their Eastertide missions.
Fr Tony Trafford, a catechist of the Neocatechumenal Way, said more than 20,000 communities in 120 countries take part in the “Mission in the Squares” announcing the risen Christ.
“All around Australia some 70 communities are doing this, because it is important to ensure that mankind everywhere (Luke 14.23) can hear the Good News: that Christ is risen from the dead, which means our sins are forgiven and there is the possibility of a new life if we convert,” Fr Trafford said.
“This is done in obedience to the command at the end of the Gospels (Mark 16.15-18) to go out and preach to all nations … St Paul speaks of salvation coming from ‘the foolishness of the kerygma’: it seems something unbelievable, that a poor person with no special education, gifts or merits, but with a real experience of Christ, can bear witness to him by preaching this Good News – and people convert.”
By Mark Bowling