Monday, 12 November 2007

Taking Steps Towards Reconciliation; Pilgrimage Crosses First Bridge Over the River Murray

Today the Message Stick, Cross and Icon of Our Lady made their entrance to the town of Murray Bridge by being processed on the first bridge to span the mighty River Murray. Many parishioners and school students joined in this historic walk which was to then proceed through the main street to the oval. Before reaching Murray Bridge, a morning liturgy was held in Millicent. We then traversed north alongside the Coorong and not far from the struggling Murray Mouth. Later the final event of the day would take place in Mt Barker beginning at St Francis de Salles College.

The bridge was built in 1879, and while it now seemingly covers a lot of land, the red marker showing the 1956 floods is evidence of what the width of this bridge would have been required to cover. While the Murray may still appear healthy at first sight, with a depth strong enough to allow for watercraft, not far from here, where the river meets the ocean, the Mouth is often banked up with sand. This has a negative effect on the ecology of this area, and is such a strong example of just how much water is taken from this river for irrigation, drinking, washing and general water use.

Before the walk began, one of the local elders from the Ngarrindjeri tribe spoke about the importance of reconciliation, and playing this out within our communities as an example to each other. This tribe has been very active in educating the South Australian community about the culture of their land, with many of the dream time stories taught in school both at primary and secondary level. There is much dreaming for the Ngarrindjeri tribe associated with the Murray River, and the region that is known as the Coorong. The Coorong area is also suffering so much from the overuse of the Murray River further upstream, with what could be luscious wetlands, currently highly concentrated salt pans.

The procession was colourful and coordinated in such a way that almost everyone had an opportunity to carry the Cross if they chose. The younger students of St Joseph’s school lined the street clapping and cheering before joining in behind gradually increasing the size of the already large crowd. An enthusiastic drummer kept beat the whole way, drawing those inside shops or offices out to see what all the commotion was about. Once finally at the oval, ‘We Are One, But We Are Many’ was sung in full voice in celebration of the symbol of peace evident in the procession which brought so many from diverse backgrounds together.

The Cross is often referred to metaphorically as a bridge; both in forming a closer relationship with Christ and in helping to heal relationships that are broken. May the presence of the invitation in the Message Stick and the WYD Cross today help to be a part of that bridge. I see significance in walking the Cross over such a historic bridge today, especially a bridge that covers a spanse of water that has been taken for all it can give. May relationships in the town of Murray Bridge grow stronger from this visit, and may the relationship between us and our environment and waterways grow closer so that we are more considerate of the damage we may be causing to our nations life blood.

Jacs :)

1 comment:

Charlie from Dublin, Ireland said...

Thanks for your account of the journey of the Cross preparing for WYD08. It helps to get us ready.

Could I make a small suggestion? One of the great ways of uniting Catholics internationally is praying the Pope's intentions for each month. They are always topical and up-to-date. Unfortunately they are not well known. For Jan 2008 they are for Church Unity and Peace and Reconcilation in Africa. Could this become part of WYD08? Making them better known? Perhaps part of the follow up? Blessings on your preparation!

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