Parishioners of St Joseph’s, Belmore, bid farewell to their pastor of three years earlier this month as Fr Heneli (Loni) Mafi prepares to continue his mission in his homeland of Tonga.
Fr Loni’s strong devotion and practice of the traditional Church prayers and ceremonies was acknowledged throughout the High Mass and the parish get together that followed.
Parishioners paid tribute to the priest’s contribution to the parish, which included establishing committees, the growth of several ministries to enhance and practise the faith, celebrating regular Mass at the two nearby nursing homes, the installation of the St Mary MacKillop statue, processions at the end of Marian months, all-night vigils, recitation of the Rosary and exposition of the Holy Eucharist.
The farewell for Fr Loni, chaplain to the Sydney Tongan community, included a strong Polynesian presence, the rich voices of the Tongan choir, and traditional Tongan cuisine.
The Mass and parish gathering also served as an opportunity for the parish to welcome Fr Loni’s successor, Fr Emeni Silito (Lito) Samisoni Tupou, also of Tongan descent.
A week earlier, Belmore parish farewelled the Han family who performed in the Vigil Mass choir.
After singing and worshipping at St Joseph’s for more than a decade, the family moved to Sydney’s lower north shore several months ago, but had been returning for Mass each weekend.