Australia’s Virgin patroness the centre of attention at Midland Parish
The statue of Our Lady Help of Christians being led through Midland by St Brigid’s parishioners. Photo: Supplied.
By Deacon Liam Ryan and Eric Martin
St Brigid’s Church, Midland Parish, celebrated the feast of the patroness of Australia “Our Lady Help of Christians” with a procession on Sunday morning, 26 May.
Blessed with sunshine and a solid attendance from the parish community the procession made its way around the Church grounds culminating with a solemn consecration to Mary, for all the intentions of the local community.
The procession has been a highlight on the parish calendar since the earliest days of St Brigid’s and brings to an end the Marian month of May.
More than 200 people attended the event, singing and praying the rosary as a community.
Parishioners gather outside St Brigid’s Church in Midland, ready for the start of the procession. Photo: Supplied.
The celebration was originally introduced to the community by Italian migrants who settled in the Midland area after the war, but is now enjoyed by the wider community at St Brigid’s.
It had a special flavour this year for the Sri Lankan parishioners who were grateful to be able to express their faith publicly especially in light of the recent tragedies on Easter Sunday.
The procession was led by Parish Priest Fr Benny Calanza and was well supported by the two local Catholic schools, St Brigid’s Primary School and La Salle College.
The celebrations were followed by a morning tea put on by the Italian community and various volunteers.
The head of the procession through Midland, led by Parish Priest Fr Benny Calanza and Deacon Liam Ryan. Photo: Supplied.
Our Lady has been invoked as the Help of Christians since at least the 16th-century.
A Turkish fleet was defeated by a Christian fleet in 1571 and Pope Pius V, who had previously called upon Catholics to invoke Mary’s assistance so that the Turkish threat may be averted, inserted the title “Help of Christians” into the Litany of Our Lady as he believed that the threat of invasion had been averted through Mary’s intercession.
The date of the procession has its origin in the 1800s, when Napoleon Bonaparte had gaoled Pius VI and later, Pope Pius VII, keeping the Pope prisoner at Fontainebleau.
The Holy Father vowed to God that if he were restored to the Roman See, he would institute a special feast in honour of Mary.
On 24 May 1814 Pius VII was released and returned to Rome and 12 months later, the Pope decreed that the Feast of Our Lady Mary Help of Christians be kept on 24 May.
The Feast Day of Our Lady Mary Help of Christians has been celebrated in Australia since 1844.
Mary has a special place in the history of Australian Catholicism: no Catholic priests were sent to the colony in its early days and Mass was not allowed except for one brief year until 1820.
Catholics relied on the rosary and the Hail Mary to sustain their faith during this time and Australia was the first nation to choose her under the title, “Mary Help of Christians” as principal Patroness.