Scalabrini’s message on migrants ‘relevant’ now
Scalabrinian priest Fr Maurizio Pettenŕ says the mission of his order is as vital and urgent today as when it was founded in 19th century Italy.
“More than a century has passed (since then). In the meantime, migrants have grown in numbers. Is there any nation,” he asks, “unstirred by the exodus or inflow of newcomers?”
The Congregation of the Missionaries of St Charles Borromeo (or Scalabrinians, as they are known in Australia) is devoted to the care of migrants, refugees and seafarers throughout the world.
Fr Maurizio said books by the Order’s founder, Blessed Scalabrini, on immigration and the plight of poor refugees forced to leave their homelands “denounced the individual and social injustices which are at the roots” of their suffering.
His “prophetic” message is relevant to Australia today says Fr Maurizio, who is parish priest at St Francis De Sales parish in Surry Hills.
In November the Missionaries of St Charles celebrated the 114th anniversary of their Order.
And this year the Congregation celebrates 50 years of service to migrants in Australia. The first four Scalabrinian missionaries arrived on November 2, 1952.
They settled in the then newly established dioceses of Cairns and Wollongong.
At first they tended to scattered communities of Italians from the cane and tobacco plantations in Queensland and to groups in Tasmania and NSW.
They expanded to form communities in the urban areas of Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Newcastle and Wollongong, and in smaller cities like Shepparton and Red Cliffs.
They then moved into assisting ageing immigrant communities, particularly through the establishment of nursing homes and hostels, like the Scalabrini Villages throughout NSW and Village S Carlo in Victoria.
At the same time they reached out to other ethnic communities, particularly those from South America, and later to Filipino and Portuguese-speaking communities.s