Parish merger gets blessing from Sydney Catholics

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Rosebery parish stalwart Kath Atkins says its sense of community is its strength and looks forward to the future with Waterloo and Redfern Catholics. Photo: Giovanni Portelli
Rosebery parish stalwart Kath Atkins says its sense of community is its strength and looks forward to the future with Waterloo and Redfern Catholics. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

New energy as church for everyone comes together

Sydney’s newest parish, Sydney City South, will encompass Rosebery, Waterloo and Redfern.

Ninety-year-old Kath Atkins has attended Mass at St Joseph’s at Rosebery her entire life and is known as a stalwart of the parish. Over the past nine decades she has seen many parishioners – and priests – come and go but admits the one constant within the parish is its sense of community.

Established in the post-war year of 1949 when it separated from Waterloo Parish, Kath said she was “absolutely delighted” the parishes were re-uniting and said Fr Paul was an “absolute blessing”.

She has filled most roles in the parish including a reader at Mass, Eucharistic minister, cleaner as well as opening the church and setting up the altar and while she’s not quite as active as she used to be, is completely behind the merger in spirit.

“We are so lucky to have Fr Paul, and we are all in favour of what he’s doing and so fortunate to have him.”

“I think it’s marvellous that we are all coming back together again,” she said. “I was born in the parish, and apart from two years overseas, haven’t gone anywhere else because this is my home.

“We are so lucky to have Fr Paul, and we are all in favour of what he’s doing and so fortunate to have him. I am thrilled we are coming together as one parish, Fr Paul is exceptionally nice and we appreciate everything he is doing to keep us going.”

Aboriginal heritage honoured

Aboriginal elder Ralph Townsend feels home at Mass in Redfern each week and wants others to feel the same. Photo: Alphonsus Fok
Aboriginal elder Ralph Townsend feels home at Mass in Redfern each week and wants others to feel the same. PHOTO: Alphonsus Fok

Sitting in the same seat at the back of the Church every Sunday morning, Ralph Townsend says it’s the one place he feels like he belongs … and hopes everybody feels the same.

The Aboriginal Elder and long-time parishioner of Redfern’s St Vincent de Paul Catholic Church says that despite its colourful history, it’s not a Church for Indigenous but for all.

Fulfilling a promise he made to a long-time parishioner decades ago to never leave the Church, he hopes he leads by example in the way he lives his life and encourages all members of the community to find God in their own way like he did.

“While I really do like my Church at Redfern, it’s multi-cultural, it’s not just for indigenous, it’s for everybody, that’s what a Church is,” he said. “Amalgamating with the other nearby parishes just reinforces that, we are one Church and all here for the same reason, and makes us stronger.

“We are all very different but it just works, we are all here for the same reason.

“The Church really is there for everyone, we all bleed red.”

“I know I belong and Fr Paul makes me feel good too. It doesn’t matter who you are, you are a human being and welcome. The Church really is there for everyone, we all bleed red.”

Parish priest Fr Paul Smithers has devoted time to learning about the pain and pride of being Aboriginal, and focused on addressing not only the diverse spiritual needs of the indigenous but the entire diverse and changing community.

He said that he acknowledges and embraces the Aboriginal spirituality of Redfern and hopes that it enables all people to feel welcome there as well.

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