People who live in Lurnea are used to having their south-western Sydney suburb confused with Leumeah or lumped in with Liverpool.
But there is no mistaking their stunning Catholic church and its vibrant and diverse faith community.
When former parish priest Fr Robert Hayes built the current St Francis Xavier church with its stunning contemporary stained glass windows in 1994, it was technically a multi-purpose hall that blended the traditional and modern.
Now a major renovation has built on the original vision and parishioners are delighted with their gorgeous, light-filled, place of worship.
Auxiliary Bishop Anthony Randazzo blessed and rededicated the church at Mass before a packed congregation on 15 July.
“The blessing of this church building offers us the opportunity to rededicate our own lives and lives of all the people of God in this parish,” he said.
Parish priest Fr Thu Nguyen said it was the people’s desire “to have a proper church dedicated to worship”.
“Some aspects were a little bit awkward, such as we had rows of plastic chairs here, the tabernacle was in a chapel off to the side and statues in a glass cabinet on the side as well.”
The two-stage project saw rows of plastic chairs replaced with pews and cushioned kneelers, substantial changes to the sanctuary including a new marble altar, baptismal font and lectern.
A new wood-carved crucifix and Stations of the Cross were installed, along with ceremonial doors to match the original stained glass windows.
Also included were renovations to meeting rooms and a kitchen, flooring, roofing and toilets and the creation of a memory lane outside the church.
In all, the project was completed in less than four months with Masses temporarily held in the St Francis Xavier primary school hall.
The $800,000 renovations was split between the archdiocese’s Catholic Development Fund and the parish, which has been busy seeking donations and fundraising.
“People have been very positive about the new church,” said Fr Thu.
“They feel they can worship better, there is more space, and are happy that the statues are back.”
Fr Thu, who has served the parish for the past five years, says there are people from about a dozen different ethnic groups very active at St Francis.
“It’s a very welcoming parish with people who are very down to earth,” he said.
Bishop Randazzo said he was delighted to visit the “remarkable parish”.
“It’s a good example of the catholicity of the Church in this diocese,” he said.
Parish secretary Mary-Ann Laoulach said that numbers are up at Masses since the church has re-opened.
“Everyone’s happy to be able to kneel during Mass and have the tabernacle back in the centre of the church.
“It’s really nice to have it; it’s got a real church atmosphere now.”