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Easter in Jerusalem – Part One: Perth pilgrims offer insight into Holy Land


Bateman parishioners, Angela McCarthy and Brenda D’Sa, pictured in front of the south wall of the Temple Mount during their recent trip to Jerusalem. Photo: Supplied

When Bateman parishioner Angela McCarthy travelled to Jerusalem to study Matthew’s Gospel last year, she had no idea she would be invited to return less than 12 months later as a music director.

Describing the offer as one she “simply could not refuse”, Dr McCarthy has shared her incredible experiences of Easter in the Holy Land in a two-part feature for The eRecord.

Dr McCarthy was invited back to Jerusalem to direct the music for this year’s Easter Triduum at the Ecce Homo convent, home to the Centre for Biblical Formation.

Run by Sisters of Notre Dame de Sion, the convent is located in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City on the Via Dolorosa – the traditionally honoured route that Jesus took while carrying the cross.

Dr McCarthy made the trip to Jerusalem with fellow Bateman parishioner, Brendan D’Sa, after recognising that the job was too big for one person.

“Providing the music for the Triduum is a complex task, even after having directed it for many years in my own parish of St Thomas More Bateman, particularly when the desire is for full participation by an unknown group assembled from countries all over the world,” she said.

“I therefore invited one of our excellent musicians, Brendan D’Sa, to join me. He is both a cantor and keyboardist and his youthful energy and intelligent liturgical musicianship formed the partnership needed for the task.”

Alongside their musical roles, Dr McCarthy and Mr D’Sa were lucky enough to participate in the Passover and Easter course at the Centre for Biblical Formation while they were in Jerusalem.

The course examined the Book of Exodus and John’s Gospel under the guidance of biblical scholars, Father Walter Vogels and Sister Joan Campbell.

It also included lectures from Jewish and Muslim academics, visits to a synagogue and Hebrew-speaking Catholic community and walking tours through Jerusalem.


The students at Bethlehem University made a profound impact on Bateman parishioner Angela McCarthy during her recent trip to Jerusalem. Photo: Supplied

Dr McCarthy, who is a Senior Lecturer in Theology at the University of Notre Dame Australia, said examining the city’s ancient heritage, particularly the Temple Mount, was “completely fascinating”.

The Romans destroyed the famous temple in 70AD but parts of the platform have been excavated, including the original steps to the Pilgrims’ Gate, through which Jesus and His disciples would have entered.

“This highly contested space is sacred to Judaism, Christianity and Islam,” Dr McCarthy said.

“When we visited it, I was taken once again by its intense sense of the sacred. Jesus taught in this space and, over near the Eastern Gate (where the Messiah is supposed to enter), there is a beautiful olive grove and I couldn’t help but feel that this was the kind of space where Jesus taught.”

The group also visited Bethlehem, including the Church of the Nativity, originally commissioned by Constantine the Great and his mother, St Helena, in 326AD, and Bethlehem University.

Run by the De La Salle Brothers, with New Zealand Brother Peter Bray as Vice Chancellor, the university left a strong impression on Dr McCarthy.

“It is truly inspiring to talk to the young people who, through all the oppression they suffer, still have dreams of peace for the future,” she said.

“Even though it is a Catholic university, 80 per cent of the students are Muslim because there are very few Christians left. The population of the Holy Land is only two per cent Christian.

“The university is 75 per cent female because the Muslim families do not like their daughters to go away to another country for study, plus many of the young men are required to work to help earn a living for the family, and many young Palestinian men are in Israeli jails.”

When it came time for the Easter celebrations, the Ecce Homo convent was joined by the Tantur Ecumenical Institute, including five Western Australians who had been sponsored by the Catholic Education Office.

Their principal celebrant was Fr Russ McDougall, the Rector of Tantur Ecumenical Institute and a Holy Cross priest from Notre Dame University in Indiana.


The Palm Sunday procession down the Mount of Olives was one of several Holy Week events attended by Bateman parishioners, Angela McCarthy and Brendan D’Sa. Photo: Supplied

The group began Holy Week by attending the Palm Sunday procession down the Mount of Olives, before Dr McCarthy and Mr D’Sa took some time to prepare the music and organise choir volunteers ahead of the Easter Triduum.

Read The eRecord next week for Part Two of Dr McCarthy’s experiences in Jerusalem.