The comfort offered by parishes
Towards the end of her life, poet Anne Bradstreet’s library went up in smoke.
British-born Bradstreet (1612-72) was the first poet in the modern era to have a book of poems published. Losing her cherished library prompted her to pen Upon the Burning of our House, which begins:
In silent night when rest I took,
For sorrow near I did not look,
I wakened was with thund’ring noise
And piteous shrieks of dreadful voice.
That fearful sound of “fire” and “fire,”
Let no man know is my Desire.
Our recent fires have been devastating. Floods at least leave something behind. Fires do not. Nothing is left. Lives have been lost. Property has disappeared almost without trace.
One of our churches did not survive, Our Lady of the Princes Highway, Kiah, on the south coast. It was opened in 1929, ironically replacing an earlier church which was razed by fires just three years earlier.
Some of our parishioners have lost their family homes. It was not until last year that I began to understand the effect of losing your home to fire.
Retired Deacon Paul Rummery and his wife Jo were out to dinner in December 2018 when their house burnt down. A neighbour took them in. Waking the next morning, they realised they did not even have a toothbrush. Everything had gone.
With so many houses lost, the Archdiocese mobilised her parishes.
Unaffected parishes contributed at least $3000 to people who had lost their homes. These small but significant contributions have helped families until other relief arrives. The expressions of gratitude have been edifying, to say the least.
I marvelled at the ease and accuracy with which my brother priests and parishioners shared information.
This meant that parishes and the Archdiocese could pay money directly into the bank accounts of those most affected. We have the joy of knowing that the money given is the money received, and speedily.
It is true that in times of crisis the goodness of people seems to be like incense rising to the heavens.
Perhaps people do experience the grace of acceptance, a sense of the mystery of God’s love amid the horror and a new awareness of the fragility of earthly riches.
We pray for everyone who has suffered from this calamity. And we hope those families feel some comfort in knowing the 51 parishes in the Archdiocese keep them in their prayers.
Thank you to all the parishes, communities and individuals who have given to bushfire-affected parishes in our Archdiocese.
Diocese of Wagga Wagga
St Mary’s Parish Crookwell
Mary Queen of Apostles Parish, Goulburn
Mary Help of Christians Parish South Woden
Corpus Christi Parish South Tuggeranong
St Christopher’s Cathedral
St Benedict’s Parish Narrabundah
Canberra Central Parish
Korean Catholic Community Canberra
St Anthony of Padua, Wanniassa Parish
Holy Spirit, Gungahlin Parish
Parish of the Transfiguration, North Woden
St Patrick’s Boorowa Parish
St Joseph’s Grenfell Parish
St Mary’s Young Parish
St Thomas the Apostle, Kambah Parish
Order of Malta