The beautiful pilgrim statue of Don Bosco, in which a bone from the saint’s arm had been inserted, arrived from Melbourne on Monday 21 March in the company of Sergio, a Brazilian, and Carlo, an Italian. These men are travelling from nation to nation with the relic; their last port of call before Australia was East Timor.
Also accompanying Don Bosco from Melbourne was an Aboriginal message stick, received in ceremony in the parish on the morning of Tuesday 22 March.
Our Lady of the Rosary Church and the parish community provided warm and continuous hospitality to Don Bosco and his family, and to many other interested visitors, from Tuesday morning until Wednesday evening.
Visitors came from all over Sydney and the Blue Mountains, and as far afield as Newcastle, Melbourne and Canberra. On Wednesday evening a bus-load of pilgrims came from St John Bosco Parish, Engadine, NSW, for the Mass with Bishop Fisher Anthony Fisher OP, Bishop of Parramatta.
“It’s always good coming over here,” said one Engadine pilgrim. “The people are always very hospitable.”
After days of fruitful rains, God blessed the occasion with two beautiful sunny autumn days.
The event brought many national and international Don Bosco past students to St Marys. Large numbers of former students, particularly from South America, Africa, the Philippines, India, Sri Lanka and Australia, came together to share the company of Don Bosco. In the process, they came to know each other, and intend to continue the acquaintance.
Well over 1,000 attended the relic reception, Masses, talks, all-night Eucharistic prayer vigil and silent veneration and prayer times, with many availing themselves of the opportunities for the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Students from Our Lady of the Rosary Primary School and Wollemi College at Werrington, together with representations from neighbouring Emmaus College at Kemps Creek, and St Dominic’s College at Penrith, came to learn something of Don Bosco, ‘father and teacher of youth’. St Dominic’s College band provided music for the Mass in honour of Don Bosco’s student, St Dominic Savio.
Only God knows all the graces of the visit, but a time of grace it was; a time of silent and communal prayer and veneration, of joy, of encouragement, and of re-visiting Don Bosco’s perennial message.
“Absolutely spiritually uplifting – out of this world,” commented an African past student, who was present for the two-day visit.
“It gave me the faith I was looking for,” said another pilgrim.
A young mother reflected: “It’s like his holiness is here … It’s possible for us to be a saint as well.”
“A once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said a young Filipino Bosconian.
“It was a bonus to have Bishop Anthony with us,” reflected a young mother. “A heartfelt celebration,” commented her companion, of the celebration of the Eucharist.
“The quote (on the church banner) of St John Bosco, ‘The young need to know that they are loved’, kept speaking to me during the past few days,” commented one of the parishioners.
Don Bosco has in one sense come and gone, off to Hong Kong and Burma on the next leg of his pilgrim journey. But he gathered his family, and made new friends, some of whom are eager to learn more about him.
And his family are better for his visit, having been reminded not only of his achievements, his love and his very real ongoing presence, but also for his messages of love for Christ in the Eucharist, Mary our Helper, the Pope and the Church, and the needy young.
A time of grace, and a time of encouragement and renewal. Thanks be to God, and to Don Bosco.
By Fr Brendan Murphy SDB, parish priest of Our Lady of the Rosary Parish, St Marys, NSW