Saturday, 20 October 2007

Paddling into Victoria

This morning the Cross and Icon passed over the South Australian border and into Victoria. Just over the border at a truck stop a contingent from the Ballarat Diocese awaited a contingent from the Port Pirie Diocese. The truck stop was the location for the official Diocesan handover of the Cross and Icon.

We quickly discovered that the people in Victoria are very friendly and so are the flies! The people of the Riverland reluctantly handed the Cross over to applause from the Ballarat group. The contrast in emotion was quite stark. To anyone driving past, we were just a group of people on the side of the road but we stood there as two distinct groups; those who had journeyed and those were about to.

Our first stop for the Diocese was Merbein. It was a brief pause for prayer and reflection before the Cross and Icon was on the way to the Old Mildura Homestead Wharf. We boarded the paddle steamer Avoca with excited parishioners, some in their national dress. We passed through Lock 11 which was quite exciting and a first for the Cross and Icon.

A crowd awaited the Cross and Icon at Mildura Wharf. A welcoming liturgy was held and the procession we were about to set off on was blessed by Bishop Connors. The Tongan community had gathered in large numbers to join in the welcome liturgy. They performed a traditional welcome dance with energy and grace and then led the first leg of the procession.

We processed through the main street with the Tongan community leading us in full voice. Other groups and communities took their turn at carrying the Cross as we headed for Sacred Heart Church where a vibrant youth Mass was celebrated.

It is the weekend of the Mildura Show and the organisers kindly allowed the Cross to be processed around the main area. Some drag cars were presented and revved at 5000RPM before the Cross entered the arena. It certainly was a very different warm-up act! We walked around the arena waving the WYD flags and the Cross followed on the back of a truck. Some people in the stands waved, some clapped and some even made the sign of the Cross. One little boy held up two light sabers to make a cross. After the lap of the arena was complete, the truck with the Cross on board was parked in front of the main stand. The main lights were all turned off, but a spotlight was shone on the Cross. A fireworks display officially ended the show. The reception was amazing; it was a pretty fantastic welcome for a secular event.

Thanks Mildura, Jess

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