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Lighting a candle in honour of victims of family violence at the Holding the Light ecumenical service in Melbourne (CSSV)

As people gathered in silence in a Melbourne church, a bell tolled 54 times – one toll for each woman known to have been murdered in Australia since January 1 as a result of domestic and family violence. Source: CSSV.

The ecumenical Holding the Light service is an annual opportunity to remember and pray for victims and survivors of family and domestic violence. 

The service is one of a number of awareness-raising events held during the annual 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence campaign, from November 25 to December 10. Organised by a committee of representatives from Catholic, Uniting and Anglican faith traditions, this year, the service was held in Wesley Church Melbourne with Wesley minister Rev. Rachel Kronberger and Anglican Fr Michael Bowie leading.

The service included a candle-lighting ceremony for the women being remembered. The candles were placed on the church sanctuary floor and steps.

“The candles are a sign of hope and promise in the midst of pain and suffering,’ Rev. Kronberger said. “Let us hold these beloved people silently in our hearts, as the candles symbolically hold the light for them.”

Mercy Sister Nicole Rotaru highlighted the deep effect family violence has on children. 

As part of her ministry, she attended to children who found refuge and safety in the care of staff at McAuley Community Services for Women, a ministry of the Sisters of Mercy. 

“Within the safe and caring environment of McAuley, trust was fostered and nurtured,” she said, “I found that many of the children who engaged with me through play therapy were happy to talk about their paintings and sand trays. Glimpses of what had been a secret, and hidden, came out in their works of art and accompanying stories.”

A collection was taken at the service, with money raised going toward the work of McAuley Community Services for Women. 


Holding the light for those impacted by family and domestic violence (By Fiona Basile, Catholic Social Services Victoria)