What a day! A beautiful, full, rich and event-ful day, with harried dashes connecting up the islands of deep present meaning-making. The ‘islands’ were all commemorative celebrations, for four entirely different reasons, but in God’s good design I was blessed to be present at each.

The first was not so much an ending, as a recognition of the finality of life on earth. I went to Wami Kata, the Aboriginal nursing home, for a service. This ministry I have grown to love, as I get to know the residents, staff and other ministers in this place of rest and endings. I am so privileged to lead the service, as I think we are in a place that few others can be – providing a space to reflect, pray and offer peace to each other. One resident loves the music we bring – often from the Areyonga Gospel Singers. She called me over during ‘How Great Thou Art’ to ask what the words meant. But her favourite song is ‘Coming Home’ and so we finished with that. I told her after that I didn’t know the words and was about to say that I would Google them (though she would not have known what that meant!) when she gave the practical solution of checking a hymn book. However, I reverted back to Google to find these words we sang: I’ve wandered far away from God, Now I’m coming home; The paths of sin too long I’ve trod, Lord, I’m coming home. Coming home, coming home, Nevermore to roam, Open wide Thine arms of love, Lord, I’m coming home.

My second event today was the year 12 Graduation Mass at Caritas College. The whole school, from Reception up, gathered to celebrate the year 12s in a moving liturgy with lively, well-chosen music. The students are about to set off in new directions, but there is no doubt that today was a great opportunity to look back with love to the school that had been their second home for years. I found the year 12 leaders’ speeches to be quite moving and one even shared a short poem about the gifts of the school. The final song was sung by a year 12 with his guitar and the applause went on and on.

From there I rushed to my ‘beginning’ event – the opening of the Well Women’s Centre in the central town district of Port Augusta. It will be an Aboriginal women’s health centre, with a team including doctor, nurse, maternal and infant care worker, etc. The occasion was celebrated with speeches, a cutting of the ribbon and a smoking ceremony through the new house. Then we all processed through to see the facilities, complete with posters, artwork and photos of staff and ‘well women’. It seemed to hold great potential, with a few people around me saying they knew others who would benefit from the service. As we witnessed the collaboration of services and agencies, we also experienced the power and success of Aboriginal women working together on such an important project.

Finally I drove to Adelaide for the last Mass of the Catholic Theological College. It was a poignant but beautiful occasion, as we remembered all the good times of community and learning we had had at the college. When I was there three years ago, it was still in ecumenical partnership with the Uniting and Anglican Colleges, which everyone regrets is no longer a reality. Now it is a college in transition, with various pathways of theology being offered in different formats, but not ‘how it used to be’. What really touched me was Fr Philip Marshall’s homily, in which he preached on a passage from John about love – very similar to the one used at the earlier school Mass. Fr Philip is well known for his preaching on love, but he began by saying that while the passage should be a gold mine for him, he is finding that the older he gets, the less articulate he is about love. His honest spiritual reflections were perfect, and exactly fitting for any celebration of ending or beginning. Love is so fundamental to our lives, and lack of love so destructive in our world, yet words cannot do justice to what, in the end, must be experienced.

Each of those residents at Wami Kata will ‘come home’ to God and their lives will never be repeated. The unique personalities of the year 12s will never be present at the school in the same way. The Catholic Theological College set-up will die for something new and different to rise in its place. And the collaborative energy that got the Well Women’s Centre going will make its unique mark on history. But in each of these diverse circumstances and groups, the character of love, inexplicable as it is, keeps bringing us together, keeps filling the lonely places in our hearts. It is a quality I felt in each of these four events, and I can’t conjure or describe that feeling, but I can graffiti on my memories: ‘God woz here’.