THE Blessing of the Fleet remains an important local tradition and on Sunday a small but special took place.
On Easter Sunday, in Ulladulla Harbour the best traditions of the Blessing of the Fleet were solemnly repeated.
This centuries old practice was conducted by Fr Michael and Deacon Justin of the Milton Catholic Parish of which Ulladulla forms part.
The ceremony commenced at the Harbour Reserve with the celebration of Mass, along with a Choir under the direction of Anne Foster and over 150 people praying as the congregation.
The backdrop to the altar was the imposing statue of St Peter, patron of fishermen. The statue was donated by Italian fishing families many years ago.
It is usually proudly displayed in the Holy Family Church at Ulladulla.
In his homily Fr Michael referred to the inspiration of new life arising from the Risen Christ whose resurrection was celebrated on this Easter Day.
The day was special in a number of ways.
Fishing is the basis of the livelihood of three generations of Italian families
On a beautiful and sunny April day people at the event celebrated Easter Sunday with Mass and the joy of the Risen Lord .
Everyone enthusiastically and actively participated in the Mass and were able to sing with joy to the Lord for the first time in a COVID year.
Mass concluded with the usual Buona Pascha (Happy Easter) greeting extended by all.
The focus then moved to the fishing boats and their crews.
Fr Michael and Deacon Justin then boarded the Marine Rescue Vessel to be ferried alongside the fishing boats that motored out into the harbour or were moored in the harbour.
"The Marine Rescue crew were their usual supportive best and welcomed their own vessel and crew being blessed," Father Michael said.
The boats and their crew were blessed liberally with Holy Water and God's blessing extended to the boats and the crew for their continued safety at sea and abundant catches of fish while preserving the oceans for us all.
Five fishing trawlers revived the traditional lap outside the harbour on the day.
Many people then stayed to share a meal on board one of the boats, on the Wharf or on the Reserve to complete the festive occasion.
The joy of Easter Sunday was reflected in the spirit of all those present for this important Christian celebration and blessing of God on all those who have now for generations toiled through all weathers, rough seas and black nights to engage in their daily occupation and bring us food from the ocean.
The appreciation and good will of those present was obvious to all .
The fishermen and their families were of course well represented throughout these celebrations.
This is a significant occasion for all of this important group in our community .
It gives the community an opportunity to recall that not every catch is plentiful, not every night is easy and that families who remain at home wait at times with apprehension for the return of their men and for us to be grateful for the bountiful produce of the sea that they bring home for our tables. All those realities are celebrated on this day.
They create the emotion and the dedication to this one day of the year. All were present, talked about and celebrated on Sunday.
Fr Michael was happy to take part in the event.
"Easter is a celebration of Hope and Joy. They flow from the Risen Lord," he said.
"Both were manifested with alacrity by successive liturgical celebrations from Easter Vigil night through Easter Sunday.
"The faith and enthusiasm of the people who joined in the celebrations was an important tribute to our God but also a distinct recognition of the faith of the people.
"At a time when traditional structures are less well supported and rejected by some, the faith we saw demonstrated does give hope for the future.
"We are actively on a rebuild. Our approach is to go out to the people wherever they are .
"Their response as reflected this weekend shows the merit in that approach and we are dedicated to continue to reach out as Jesus showed us.
"In our local community it is a privilege to pray God's blessing on these fishermen, their boats and crews.".
He added that the Italian community were delighted their younger members took the initiative this year to have the fleet blessed and all want next year's Blessing of the Fleet to be even more animated.
He enjoyed the seeing the families on boats and dockside.
Father Michael said the Fishing Co-op directors should be congratulated for their efforts and in particular said Tony and Maria Lavelle deserve praise for their efforts.
Blessing of the Fleet has its origins in Mediterranean countries centuries ago but has spread world wide since then.
The Ulladulla Blessing of the Fleet commenced in 1956 shortly after a small number of Italian fishermen established the beginnings of the fleet around 1950.
At that time there were only eight houses in Ulladulla.