Normally swung shut and baldly unadorned, the wrought iron gates of the early Gothic church were flung wide open on Sunday morning, and tied with colourful ribbons.
They will remain that way at St Patrick's Cathedral throughout the course of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Ballarat, as an expression of the parish desire to be open to this ongoing pain.
Father Justin Driscoll was dressed in resplendent red for Mass, and he stood above the congregation of 100 or more, both welcoming and commanding, his hands raised as the searching homily began.
"I don't know what to say - and don't know what not to say," he said, pausing. "Part of me wants to be silent for long enough to allow the real impact of this past week to simply stay with us."
It has been a rough few days to be Catholic in this part of the world, and will be rougher still in the coming two weeks as the hearings continue. And yet the parishioners of this place are open to what comes of the investigation.
"We've heard so much about our church culture, that has enabled these crimes to continue - a culture of power and secrecy, silencing and clericalism, of protecting the institution," Father Driscoll continued. "For us it continues to be hard to hear, and it continues to be hard to bear, but that is no reason to seek to silence those voices who are seeking to bring the truth. Those who are speaking need our encouragement, not our condemnation."
Beyond that sermon, the gathering was rich with its particular stylised rites - creeds and prayers and liturgies in the cavernous space of stone and wood, windows from Germany and tiles from Austria.
Surrounded by the Stations of the Cross, the believers knelt and stood, and knelt and stood again, performing what one church-goer termed "Catholic aerobics" in front of the "frocks and smocks."
Afterwards, Margaret Millington of Nhill was among those who said she "rejoiced" that the victims were finally being given a voice.
"We hope this will be a cleansing moment," she said. "Everyone is deeply affected by this - that such an evil would be given a chance to fester. We need this moment in order to learn, so that this will never happen again."
Peter Pollard of Moving Toward Justice - a support group for victims of church abuse - said the hearings have been a "divisive" but necessary action.
"This is such an appalling situation and one that has shaken the beliefs and feelings of so many people. It'll split the church for some time to come."
Bernadette Brouwers said the hearings were an indispensable tool for moving forward.
"The church is going to have to go into the depths of darkness. We know these people who have suffered - these ripples resonate, But I hope the good people and the good hearts here are not lost."
Carolyn Bourke was not alone in praising Father Driscoll for speaking out early in support of the survivors.
"He pulled no punches," she said. "It's really affected the parish, but it's the victims we have to back. I read their stories and it sends shivers down my spine. I'm crying for them. We bleed for them."
John Mildren said it was a "very tough time to be Catholic in Ballarat", but it was time to face up to the past.
"I just feel so sad that all this has happened, for the young people whose lives have been ruined. Robbed of innocence. Faith undermined. Horrifying."
Stephen Waddington said the crimes of clergy in the past need to be answer by the church hierarchy of the present.
"The sooner George Pell gets brought back here to answer, the better," he said. "To say I am disgusted by the actions of the perpetrators and whose who covered up for them is an understatement."
Carolyn Waddington said the parish could not move forward, nor grow a new base of followers, without resolution.
"So many people have lost direction, because our leaders have abused our trust. We need to have all of this come out if we're to have a future."
In the meantime there will be a prayer twice daily for the victims, and other gestures such as a Quilt of Hope. This time will be tough, but, as Father Driscoll points out, the survivors must be heard.
"They will enable us to come to be the people of god that we are called to be, but who have not been and continue to not be," he said. "We need the truth that they have to tell us.