Melbourne Catholic - April 2016 - page 14

Kevin Dillon
Melbourne Catholic
It was the Wednesday evening after the 2007 AFL Grand Final.
In case you have forgotten (which would mean you don’t live in
Geelong!), Geelong thrashed Port Adelaide by 119 points. The
city and region delighted in the first premiership in 44 years, with
ongoing celebrations in the CBD until the wee small hours and a
victory parade through the streets later that week.
That Wednesday, an ecumenical service gave thanks for an
achievement that had given incredible joy to everyone—Geelong
barrackers or not. St Mary’s Basilica was awash with navy and
white scarves, jumpers and jackets worn by the 800-plus people
who filled the church. They thanked God for the happiness of
having won the flag, especially the frail and sick who had waited
patiently (and in some cases impatiently) for the elusive Holy
Grail of the premiership cup.
They prayed for the players, who for the rest of their lives would
wear the privileged yet burdensome tag of ‘premiership player’.
They prayed in recognition that victory had not come easily but
had been achieved only through perseverance, support, courage,
patience and commitment.
An ecumenical service attended by all and sundry, it was one of
most joyous and prayerful liturgies ever held in this city, where
footy has such a special place in the community.
Similar services followed the 2009 and 2011 premierships, with
the cathedral also packed to the rafters and filled with a genuinely
prayerful atmosphere.
Having a premiership celebratory religious service comes
naturally to a city where people of all churches support one
another in good times and in bad. Most times, St Mary’s is the
venue—not only because it can accommodate so many people
but because its magnificent architecture readily lifts the mind
Fr Kevin Dillon is the parish priest of St Mary’s Parish, Geelong.
and heart to God. The cathedral is also filled to capacity in times
of mourning and sadness, such as followed the terrorist attacks
on 11 September 2001 and the Bali bombing some months
later. Then there was the overwhelming catastrophe of the 2004
Boxing Day Tsunami, the appalling tragedy of the 2009 Black
Saturday bushfires and the mourning of Nelson Mandela in 2013.
That’s Geelong. With a regional population of around 200,000, it
is big enough to provide industry, education and health services
as good as any in Australia. But it is also small and tight knit
enough to maintain a keen sense of community on many levels.
This spirit is strong among Catholics, as well as ecumenically
and in the wider Geelong community, where volunteers are
numerous. Projects like Samaritan House (accommodation
for the homeless), Anam Cara House (Geelong’s community
hospice) and a wonderful meals service for the disadvantaged
all occur due to the combined efforts of the churches and the
broader community.
The nine Catholic parishes in the region work together in an
effective deanery. While not immune from the many challenges
facing most parishes, they are able to maintain vitality and a
sense of vision.
Enrolments in Catholic primary and secondary schools are high.
St John of God Hospital is renowned for its quality of care, and
the welfare provided by St Vincent de Paul, CatholicCare and
MacKillop Family Services all combine to ensure that those most
in need are well supported.
If we do say so ourselves, the engaging life, presence and
actions of Geelong church people, very much including Geelong
Catholics, arguably reflect a spirit consistent with the opening
lyrics of the Geelong Footy Club theme song, We are Geelong,
the greatest team of all!
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