St Catherine Labouré Parish in Gymea is a powerhouse when it comes to assisting those in need.
Under the guidance of Parish Priest, Monsignor Brian Raynor, they have donated 215 shipping containers filled with all kinds of goods to the people of Fiji.
Following the devastation of Cyclone Winston, which struck Fiji in February 2016, the country has about 350,000 homeless people. Out of a population of around 885,000, over half are still living in the tents that were provided by the UN following the cyclone.
Monsignor Rayner, who has visited Fiji numerous times, says the poverty of the people there is severe and his parish are doing all they can to alleviate the situation. They send donations on a regular basis through their Pacific Mission program.
“We make a bit of a difference but the people in the parish here are the ones who benefit because of their kindness to others who they don’t know,” he told The Catholic Weekly.
“The parishioners are very tuned-in to helping other people.”
The shipping containers they donate are filled with clothing, tools and equipment, towels, linen, desks for schools, and pretty much anything else you can think of. They also send water tanks for local schools and parishes, and recently they even sent a tractor.
“I don’t think there’s another parish doing anything like this in Australia,” Mons Rayner said.
He also pointed out that the St Vincent de Paul Society in Condoblin and Forbes contributed by donating 717 bails of clothing to the people of Fiji.
The items the parish send are invaluable to those who receive them, Mons Rayner said, and in the mountainous region of Fiji some households are known to only have one towel to share between them.
“They lack a lot of the basic things that we discard. For them they’re precious items.”
Only about 10 percent of the Fijian population are Catholic but they are a very “wonderful and prayerful” part of the population, Mons Rayner said.
While his parish’s donations are distributed to all those in need, regardless of religious affiliation, some are aimed at particular Catholic entities in Fiji, including the Fr Law Nursing Home, Sisters of Nazareth home for aged sisters, the Home of Compassion, the Seminary, the Marist Sisters, Vincent House for the mentally ill and the Salesian Fathers.
At Easter time this year the parish also started a sponsorship program where parishioners “adopt” a Fijian child and donate $100 per year for his or her education. So far 170 parishioners have signed-up.
Mons Rayner said parishioners and volunteers from a local high school help to load the shipping containers and some people choose to donate the actual containers, which cost $2,500 to ship to Fiji.
The Gymea parish contributes to many needy causes, not only to the people of Fiji. They send financial donations to the Redemptorist Fathers in Thailand who care for unwanted children and handicapped people and they assist some of the poorer parishes in NSW, in the Diocese of Wilcannia-Forbes, as well as sending money to underprivileged communities in Broome, Darwin and East Timor.
“We’re broad in helping wherever we can and if every parish can even do something, that would be fantastic,” Mons Rayner said.
“It’s good work. Very tiring work, but if you’re getting tired working for the Lord, then it’s good way to get tired.”
Anyone who wishes to contribute to the people of Fiji through the Gymea Parish’s Pacific Mission program is welcome to contact Mons Rayner on 02 9525 9993.