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Panania parish celebrates four centuries of Saint Francis de Sales

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Holsworthy Barracks Army Chaplain Fr Joel Vergara with family and friends at Panania.  Photo: Three Two One Photography
Holsworthy Barracks Army Chaplain Fr Joel Vergara with family and friends at Panania. Photo: Three Two One Photography

Four hundred years after the death of St Francis de Sales in France, parishioners of St Christopher’s Panania gathered to celebrate his life.

More than 700 people from all over Sydney attended Mass last weekend to honour the patron saint of journalists, prolific letter-writer and priest who preached “simply, briefly and with great love.”

In what has been declared the year of St Francis de Sales by the superior-general of the order Fr Abraham Vettuvelil, the Sydney festivities are among many being held world-wide.
Celebrated by Bishop Daniel Meagher, the mass was followed by morning tea and musical performances by students from St Christopher’s Primary School.

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Parish priest and one of only four confreres in the Sydney Archdiocese of the Missionaries of St Francis de Sales, Fr Salas Muttathukattil MSFS said it was a terrific opportunity to educate people about the great saint and their order inspired by him.

“I was so pleased with the celebration of the Year of St Francis de Sales and that this wonderful event brought the parish together in a spirit of great joy and celebration,” he said.

“The eucharist, morning tea and the performances were a fitting tribute to the great saint and a reminder of his teachings, which continue to inspire us today.”

Bishop Daniel said while not a well-known saint in Australia, his love of “ordinary people” was.

“He got to know his people and all their struggles and then preached simply, briefly and with love,” he said.

“Having a passion and knowledge of the average person, St Francis used to write letters to them about how to come closer to God.

“An Introduction to the Devout Life came to be printed from these letters, which was ground-breaking at the time and has become a spiritual classic.

Fr Joel Vergara, Fr Mani Malana MSFS, Bishop Daniel Meagher, Fr Salas Muttathukattil MSFS, Fr Vijaykumar Boilla MSFS and Fr Tom Jose MSF at a Mass and Morning tea commemorating the 400th death anniversary of St Francis de Sales, which was celebrated at St Christopher’s Panania. Photo: Three Two One Photography
Fr Joel Vergara, Fr Mani Malana MSFS, Bishop Daniel Meagher, Fr Salas Muttathukattil MSFS, Fr Vijaykumar Boilla MSFS and Fr Tom Jose MSF at a Mass and Morning tea commemorating the 400th death anniversary of St Francis de Sales, which was celebrated at St Christopher’s Panania. Photo: Three Two One Photography

“We give thanks to God for the Missionaries of St Francis de Sales and are so grateful to have them here in Sydney, and pray that God bless them all and make their ministries fruitful.

“And, Fathers, we pray that the spirit of St Francis always goes with you.

“A spirit that prompts a priest to get to know his people; to love them and assist them where they are; a gentle, kind and gracious spirit.”

Founded by Fr Peter Mermier in 1838, the missionary order was established to renew Christian life as St Francis had done.

Six priests were sent to India in 1845 and The Missionaries of St Francis de Sales were established in Australia in 1998 with the arrival of Fr Mani Malana MSFS to the Sydney Archdiocese, who 25 years later was made parish priest of Holy Family Parish at Menai.

Today, there are 17 confreres working in Australia in the dioceses of Parramatta, Broken Bay, Toowoomba, Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney.

World-wide the order now has 1650 priests ministering in 20 countries including the USA, Switzerland, Namibia, Mozambique, Austria, Germany, Trinidad, Italy, Uganda, and Papua New Guinea.

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