2022 World Day of Prayer at the Cathedral09 March, 2022
On Friday the 4th March, representatives from seven churches of Rockhampton joined together at St Joseph’s Cathedral to celebrate the World Day of Prayer. Traditionally, the service for these days is prepared by women from a different region or country each year. This year’s service was written by women from England, Wales and Northern Ireland. (The women of Scotland prepare a service separately.) Sr Beryl Amedee and Helen Truscott organised and prepared the service in Rockhampton.
The theme taken for this year was ‘I know the plans I have for you’, from the prophet Jeremiah. In the service we were reminded of the difficult situation under which Jeremiah preached to the people of Israel. After the reading from the prophet Jer 29: 1-14, we heard the stories of three women who had faced differing difficult situations and who came, after some time, to realise that God’s plan had been working in their lives even when it seemed so dark and full of pain.
A special Ecumenical choir led us all in prayer. They were wonderful. Led by Di-Anne Rowan as choir leader, with Philip Alley of Peace Community, accompanying from the piano, they had us lifting our minds, hearts and voices to God.
The Reflection was given by Sr Kym Harris. She told the story of her niece who was part of the recent evacuation of Ballina Hospital during the floods. Even though carried out in the middle of the night, under difficult circumstances, the hospital was successfully transferred to the local Catholic College. It succeeded because they trusted the plan that had already been drawn up. She used this image to suggest that we ponder on the pattern of God’s plan in our lives as a way to support and strengthen our faith. The full text of the reflection is below.
A collection was taken and this year it will go the to Bible Society’s Bibles for Bubs program, which aims at introducing children to the Bible early in their life and gives parents help in sharing God’s Word with them. Each registered baby is gifted a toddler Bible at the start of the program, sent birthday cards each year for 5 years, and on their 5th birthday, is gifted a full children’s Bible. Parents also receive annual guides to help them share God’s word with their child as they grow.
The participants of this year’s service were the Salvation Army, Peace Community, Anglican, Uniting, Seventh Day Adventist, Baptist and Catholic churches. The service was very well attended.
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord.
I have a niece who works at Ballina Hospital. This is part of a message she sent her mother a few days ago.
We evacuated the hospital to the Catholic school in Skinners Head! It’s insane how they have moved everything overnight: we have a triage, ED bay and general ward, medications, fluid bags, narcotics, oxygen, paperwork for notes, beds, linen. People who work in other hospitals, in Tweed, Lismore and the Gold Coast, but who live here and can’t get to work have just turned up to help out: doctors, pharmacists, interns, nurses. It’s pretty incredible.
There are 55 beds at Ballina Hospital, and if it is anything like other country hospitals most of the patients would be our age or older. There would have been elderly, infirm and even some confused. And in the middle of the night, in awful conditions they were moved into a makeshift arrangement in a school. You may have seen it on TV, with the staff, SES and army being hailed as heroes.
There were other heroes: those who wrote the plan. Every hospital, aged care facility and medical practice in this country has to have an evacuation plan. The one for Ballina was good. The people who wrote it did their job well. Months, even years ago, they were possibly pedantic, possibly annoyed the busy staff trying to work so that they could find what would need to be done but, this week, the plan they had hoped would never have to be used had its time.
In the chaotic night, the people doing the move would have followed what was next on the list. Each would have just a small part to play, but each playing their part made the whole work.
In our lives, we are often like the women in these stories, the people in the hospital beds at Ballina, frightened confused and in pain. Once when I was in a difficult and painful situation, a wise person recommended to me that I say: I do not understand what is happening to me now but one day I will say this is the best thing that could have happened to me. Saying that transforms how we see things, we recognise that we don’t have the ‘big picture’ and that often we are journeying blind. But looking back and pondering we see God had a plan in the midst of the mess and muddle. We just didn’t have the capacity to see it in the situation. God’s will is often only discovered in the rear view mirror.
Later, we gain the wisdom to see some of the lines God was writing in our lives. They are part of our personal Good News story. Remembering for us as Christians is more than recalling what happened and having a warm fuzzy feeling. Rather remembering in faith makes present again the power of God in our lives. We reactivate the graces we have received. They offer new insight, give us new strength: they deepen and broaden our faith, they offer us hope.
And hope we surely need for sometimes, something can happen to us about which we will never be able to say, ‘This is the best thing that could have happened to me.’ The death of a child, an adult child with serious and ongoing mental illness, whatever trial that may have tested your faith and made you cry out with Jeremiah, ‘Woe to the day that I was born,’ These are the times when we are profoundly distressed by the plan God has for us. We find ourselves with Jesus on the Cross. The faith we have cultivated remembering how God carried us through the (lesser) hard and difficult times will help us cling to God, even though we may feel he is killing us.
So let us remember, let us recall the past where God carried us in the wind and the darkness. As we remember let us open our eyes of faith to the lines of the plan he has for us. We don’t see it all yet, but we do have glimpses. In those glimpses, we see the richness, the fullness of life, the joy and celebration that is our destiny, the fulfilment of his plan.