The Mass was said for the 33 million people living with HIV all over the world, those who have lost parents, children, brothers, sisters, friends and those who are carers and campaigners.
A special penitential rite asked God to forgive us all when we exclude, disrespect, forget or do not care for others and reminded us that we are living in a world where every 15 seconds someone somewhere dies of an AIDS related illness. It also gave thanks for all those who tirelessly care for those affected by HIV and AIDS.
As the first reading said, we are all part of the one body of Christ (1Corinthians 12: 12-26) and if one part suffers, every part suffers with it. So, we in turn, as Father Mark pointed out in his homily, are affected by the plight of others all around the world. The Gospel of the Good Samaritan then underlined the importance of caring for our neighbour both near and far.
During the offertory students brought up candles representing people in each continent, affected by and living with HIV and AIDS. As each candle was lit, prayers were said for those who are discriminated against, judged, excluded, whispered about, fired from their job, arrested, beaten, or thrown out of their house.
Pupils were asked to think about individuals across the world such as Winnie from Zambia, whose mother died of an AIDS related illness when she was seven and whose relatives abandoned her for some time.
As the final hymn died away the candles, brought up at the offertory, were left on the altar to continue to bear witness to the community’s solidarity with those affected by HIV on this special day.
Our heartfelt thanks go to Father Mark, Jill and Virginia, the wonderful choir, the musicians, fantastic readers, all the staff and all those who attended and made it such a memorable occasion.