The pews and altars of two parishes in Sydney’s west were jam-packed with parishioners, priests and bishops last weekend, for their golden jubilee anniversaries.
The congregations at St Joseph’s Church in Moorebank and St Patrick’s in Revesby heights arrived on Sunday 26 November to celebrate Mass and give thanks for the communities they have fostered over five decades.
The Moorebank milestone Mass was celebrated by Sydney Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Terry Brady along with parish priest Fr Matthew Velliyamkandathil CRS and assistant priests Fr Chris de Sousa CRS and Fr Sheldon Burke CRS.
They were also joined by former priests who have remained close to the community, Fr John Iacono and Fr Graham McIntyre.
It was in particular a special occasion for Bishop Brady, whose links to the parish stretch back to 1983 during his time as priest at All Saint’s Liverpool.
“I always notice something very parochial about this community,” Bishop Brady said.
In his homily he praised the priests, lay leaders and congregation through the years who have cared for the parish.
“It’s beautiful how over the years all the different waves of immigration into this country have swept through this community.
“And each one has always found a place here around the Eucharistic table.”
Celebrations continued with an international food festival after Mass put on by the many families in attendance, showcasing the cultural diversity and traditions expressed in the homily that have enriched the Moorebank community since conception.
Over in Revesby, the St Pat’s congregation rose to from its seats as Bishop Richard Umbers entered to celebrate with parish priest Fr Salas Muttathukattil.
Looking back to the Church’s inception in his homily, Bishop Umbers recognised the great works of the parish’s original clergy Fr Daniel Lyons and Cardinal Freeman, who “looked to provide spiritual and pastoral care to all corners.
“It’s why they started here,” he said.
Fr Salas told The Catholic Weekly the milestone was a commemoration of the parish’s beginnings, when Irish missionaries first founded the church under the patronage of St Patrick.
“We do still have a lot of Irish people in our parish, so it means a lot [to reach 50 years], not only to the Irish people but to the whole parish,” he said.
The bishop and Fr Salas cut a cake in De La Salle Hall as food and entertainment were provided to over 200 parishioners.
Carol Cooper, a parishioner at St Pat’s for over 27 years, was proud of the continued community that the church had fostered, both young and old.
“I love the camaraderie. The parish is still going and it’s still going strong,” she said.
“In the next 50 years, I might not be here, but like the last 50, I hope the Church still keeps growing and growing, getting some more young people.”
It’s a communal theme that St Joseph’s has also shared since its beginning in the early 70s, becoming a place for families to grow into their role in the church.
Life-long resident of Moorebank Peter Scheel said it was from this context that the parish was established with Fr Terrence Dugan as its first priest.
“His efforts established the basis of what became a vibrant and inclusive parish where camaraderie and willingness to participate and assist were firmly embraced,” he said.
“This spirit has continued to grow with each of his successors.”
“Many vital members of the parish in early times have moved to other realms, and some are sadly no longer with us—however the spirit of willing involvement in parish life lives on in those who now look to the future.”
Mary Immaculate Parish in Bossley Park also commemorated its feast day at the weekend, with the mission of bringing together the different parts of its community as one.
The parish and primary school of the same name came together last Sunday to celebrate the patronal feast of the Immaculate Conception, which falls this year on Friday 8 December.
The feast attracted almost 1500 parish members, school children and parents together for Mass, performances and even fireworks.
“There were so many people. It took forever to give out communion!” joked parish priest Fr Danai Penollar.
“We had to add seats in the foyer and put extra in the aisles.”
The day featured a prayerful Marian procession before a Mass celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop Daniel Meagher.
Fr Penollar noted the timeliness of celebrating the Immaculate Conception on the first Sunday of Advent, recognising that in a community largely composed of Middle Eastern families the feast day might be a sign of hope for those impacted by the recent wars.
“With the immaculate conception comes preparation for the coming prince of peace,” he said.
“In a world where there’s war, here’s a community of those people who have come together with great joy, celebrating.”
A large group of volunteer parents saw their efforts come together with dinner and celebrations afterwards as a multicultural feast was put on for the parish, before students from each grade entertained with dance performances.
Principal of Mary Immaculate Beverly Coffey was pleased to see the efforts of the church and school come together in one celebration.
“The students have been learning dances in their dance and drama studies, and they wanted to show their talents to the parents and the parish community.
“There is a very big emphasis on community, both church and school being one, which we are all working towards.”
Topping the day off was a spectacular display of fireworks, concluding the solemn feast which achieved exactly what Fr Penollar hoped.
“The name of the school is Mary Immaculate. The name of the church is Mary Immaculate. Together, we are one Mary Immaculate parish.
“It was very important that we all come together, the church and the school, and we achieved that with great joy and festivity.”