It is a good bet that seminaries around the country would love to know how the Latin Mass community in Sydney raised more than $100,000 in one night at its last Southern Cross Seminarians’ Fundraising Dinner.
The popular event is on once again, and will take place at the Lemnos Club in Belmore on 16 July where the community hopes to raise a cool $125,000 in aid of supporting their seminarians.
And where does the money come from? By all accounts, not – in the main – from a handful of benefactors but from scores of ordinary Catholic singles, couples and families, around half of whom come from the wider Catholic community.
The parish priest of the Maternal Heart of Mary Latin Mass parish in Lewisham, Fr Duncan Wong FSSP, says past fundraising success could probably be attributed to the nature of the cause as well as the good will and diversity-appreciating outlook of Catholics in Sydney.
The money will go towards supporting seminarians from Australia, New Zealand and Asia as they study for the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter – a Society of Apostolic Life for priests – who wish to dedicate themselves to celebrating the traditional Latin Mass, or what the Holy See calls ‘the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite’.
The seminarians spend a year in novitiate at Ezechiel House, Petersham, under Fr Wong’s direction, before heading off to one of two FSSP seminaries; in Nebraska, USA, or Bavaria, Germany.
After ordination, the men will return to the Southern Cross region (Australasia) where almost all of them will serve in Australian communities. “I think for many of the faithful today it is not so much a question of which rite of the Mass priests celebrate,” Fr Wong told The Catholic Weekly.
“I think the faithful just want to ensure there are priests for the future, both throughout their life and when they are dying; that there will be priests to serve them in their present needs, and also after they have passed away, to continue to offer Masses for them.”
Their priestly ministry, Fr Wong says, is not only for Latin Mass congregations but they also assist elsewhere with confessions and catechesis and have been volunteering their services to places such as the Lewisham Nursing Home for the past 10 years.
“There are many people who live alone and go through great suffering, so we try to take notice when people stop coming for Mass, when they might have fallen ill. And we also try to be with people as they reach their last days, so that they do not die without being fortified by prayer and the last sacraments.”
The fundraising event will consist of pre-dinner canapés, a four-course meal and drinks, and an address from guest speaker Fr Peter Joseph, described in advertising material as “a Maronite Catholic with Lebanese-Irish-English heritage”.
(Fr Joseph was also the editor of the definitive biography of St Mary MacKillop – The Life of St Mary of the Cross, Mary MacKillop 1842-1909 – written by Fr Paul Gardiner SJ, and is chaplain to Courage, a ministry for people experiencing same-sex attraction.)
He is expected to speak on vocations, a much-addressed topic at Maternal Heart, Fr Wong says.
“We talk about vocations all the time from the pulpit and in catechism classes and invite religious from other communities, when they are in the area, to come and meet the faithful. So our children are used to seeing religious around the church. It’s very natural.
“We try to be universal and not ‘ghetto-ish’. If a man or woman feels called to other religious communities, such as the Benedictines or Dominicans, may God’s will be done.
“Since 2001, the church has been blessed with three women’s vocations and seven men’s, out of which only two entered our fraternity.”
Tickets for the seminarians’ fundraising dinner can be purchased here.