The 90th anniversary of the dedication of St Raphael’s Church at South Hurstville was a time to give thanks for its past, and embrace a missionary future, said Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP.
The Archbishop of Sydney celebrated Mass on 11 November to mark both the 90th anniversary and commemorate the centenary of Armistice Day.
There was standing room only in the church for Mass concelebrated by parish priest Fr Isidore Ananth-araj EV with other priests from the region, and attended by state and federal members of parliament along with representatives of the Sisters of Charity who began the primary school in 1929.
The festivities included musical performances from St Raphael’s Primary School.
Archbishop Fisher began Mass with prayers for those who built the parish over the years, as well as those who have given their lives during the Great War.
In his homily he commended the parishioners on their support of St Raphael’s various ministries, and urged them to keep a missionary focus.
“We see that there is much to give thanks for to Almighty God and 90 years of generous parishioners and pastors,” he said.
“But there’s no cause for complacency.
“For every Catholic who regularly attends Mass here, there are as many as nine more out there who don’t.
“Even as we overflow with joy for 90 years of faith and fellowship in South Hurstville, we ache for the nine out of 10 who are not with us.”
The archbishop set parishioners a challenge for the next decade and beyond.
“Reach out to the unchurched in your community with the healing love of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” he said.
“By the time of the centenary celebration – which God willing I will be here for – perhaps you will be discussing with me your need to build an even bigger church to accommodate all comers.”
Monica O’Brien, 91, who grew up and married her husband Stan at St Raphael’s, said that the day was a “wonderful celebration” and that she still holds “very vivid” memories of the school and parish in days past.
“I commenced school in 1934 and at that time the school was only a small wooden building now used as the tuck shop,” she said.
“Fr McDonald, the pastor, owned a large woolly-haired black dog named ‘Sambo’, which roamed freely among the students at lunch time much to their delight.
“The Sisters of Charity travelled daily by taxi from the convent of St Mary’s Star of the Sea at Hurstville to teach us.”