Parishioners of St Anthony of Padua Croatian Parish in Summer Hill celebrated the 50th anniversary of their church on Sunday 16 December.
Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP presided over the special anniversary Mass attended by many members of the Croatian Catholic community.
Archbishop Fisher paid tribute to the hard work of the Franciscan Fathers and members of the local Croatian community who had drawn upon the inspiration of the great preacher St Anthony to establish thriving youth groups.
He pointed out that as a pioneering church, St Anthony’s laid the foundation for other Croatian parishes across Sydney, in Blacktown and St John’s Park.
The Archbishop also praised the parish’s vibrant youth ministry, in particular, the recent Theology of the Body course, which proved a great success.
Parishioners presented Archbishop Fisher with a golden chalice to thank him for celebrating the Mass.
Festivities continued after the Mass with a gala lunch at the Croatian Club in Punchbowl.
Member of the Pastoral Council, Ivica Kovac, said it was a “fantastic day” for the community, particularly as some of the parishioners have been part of the parish for 50 years.
Enjoying the celebrations were Fabian Lovoković and Vinko Bezić, who were both present at the very first Mass at St Anthony’s in 1968.
Many of parishioners had fled communism in Croatia following the Second World War, Mr Kovac said.
“It’s in our DNA to fight,” Mr Kovac said. “After WWII over 600 Croatian Catholic religious were killed. That caused us to flee and spread all around the world.”
“We love Australia and love our Croatian bloodlines. For me, there’s nothing more beautiful than being Australian and Croatian Catholic. It was such a big deal to have the Archbishop there to celebrate with us and hopefully he felt that Croatian love.”
St Anthony’s Parish was dedicated by Cardinal Norman Gilroy on 15 December 1968. In his dedication speech, Cardinal Gilroy had praised the fidelity of the Croatian community to the Catholic faith and their courage in fleeing war-torn Europe to start a new life in Australia.
There are currently 200,000 Croatians in Australia.
St Anthony’s Parish is under the care of the Franciscan Fathers from Croatia who are inspired by St Anthony of Padua, the great 13th century Franciscan preacher in Italy.