Mildura Sacred Heart Catholic Parish Priest Father Mick McKinnon, is happy the religious and spiritual meaning behind the Easter holiday period is still widely celebrated. Photo: PAUL MENSCH 

By VINNIE RODI

WHILE Easter has different meanings for different people, and is marked in a variety of ways across not only Sunraysia but the world, for those of Christian faith, like the Catholics who call our region home, the religious and spiritual meaning behind the holiday period is still widely celebrated.

This is according to Mildura Sacred Heart Catholic Parish Priest Father Mick McKinnon, who has called Mildura home for the past nine years, who said that Easter remained one of the Parishes busiest periods.

More than 1000 local residents and visitors alike are expected to attend services and events at the Sacred Heart Catholic Parish starting this Sunday, with Fr McKinnon saying that Easter remained an important date for those of Christian faith.

“Easter is our central Christian feast, it’s the major one, and is more important for us than Christmas in the sense that we celebrate the central aspect of our faith – the suffering, death and rising of (Jesus) Christ,” he said. “During our Easter masses we also renew our baptismal commitments… so it’s an important feast.

“Not only do traditional Catholic families across our district celebrate… but because of the large number of visitors who come into the region, our numbers can get very big.”

Fr McKinnon said Catholic Easter commemorations actually begin a week before Good Friday.

“Our Easter commemorations begin with Palm Sunday, which is this Sunday, where we commemorate the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem – which is the beginning of the story to his death and resurrection,” he said.

“Then we have the Holy Thursday evening mass, where we commemorate the Last Supper, and the call to serve – and where we have a traditional ritual called ‘The Washing of the Feet’.”

The Washing of the Feet aims to imitate the “humility and selfless love” of Jesus Christ, who washed the feet of his disciples at the Last Supper – the night before his crucifixion (John 13:1–15).

The practice was originally an act of hospitality in Palestinian homes performed for guests (who wore sandals and walked on dusty roads) by a servant or the wife of the host.

Fr McKinnon said that following Holy Thursday, commemorations then moved to Good Friday morning, where a number of local churches take part in a ‘Stations of the Cross’ event.

“This begins at Sacred Heart and ends at the river, and has been taking place in Mildura for close to 30 years,” he said. 

“We have number of churches participate, and this is always well attended.”

The Station of the Cross refers to a series of images depicting Jesus Christ on the day of his crucifixion, and accompanying prayers. The stations grew out of imitations of Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem – believed to be the actual path Jesus walked to Mount Calvary.

Fr McKinnon said a 3pm Good Friday mass – which commemorates the crucification of Jesus Christ – was often the largest gathering of the weekend.

“Among participating Christians, the meaning and spiritual aspect behind Easter is still very much celebrated, that has never really changed,” he said. 

“I think aspects and traditions, including the actual holiday, has changed, but that’s just the way society is.

“There is still a significant number of people who come along and celebrate in our church, and any of our big celebrations produces a good mixture of age groups, particularly Good Friday, which is a really good mix of ages.”

Fr McKinnon said that the multicultural make-up of the church’s congregation was also cause for celebration each and every year.

“We have a significant number of our Indian community with younger families who come along, as do our Philippino and Tongan communities,” he said. “We also have a lovely group of East Timorese adding to our congregation at the moment.

“It’s a wonderfully multicultural gathering for Easter, and we’re expecting to see another significant attendance this year.”