Holy Cross Parish Granville was full to the brim recently when people from near and far gathered to celebrate and give thanks for the golden jubilee of five of the Missionary Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of the World, who are resident in the parish.
Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, presided at the Mass on Sunday, October 2, when Sr Mary Justina Pham Thi Tran, Sr Mary Chanel Dinh Thi Hoai, Sr Therese Michaela Pham Thi Thu, Sr Mary Gemma Pham Thi Huyen and Sr Therese Miriam Vu Lanh Hai celebrated 50 years of service to their order and to the Church.
The Sisters arrived in Australia from Vietnam in 1975 and first lived at St Joseph’s novitiate in Baulkham Hills.
After two years, they moved to Lawson, but bushfires in 1977 destroyed their convent. It was this disaster which took them to Granville on February 16, 1978. Since arriving in Granville 44 years ago, the Sisters have occupied St Joseph’s Convent and, more recently, the former Patrician Brothers monastery in William Street.
“The Sisters’ firm commitment to the Granville community, to the parish and to the Vietnamese community has made them a backbone of Holy Cross Parish,” says Parish Priest, Fr Andrew Bass.
“In the Granville community, the Sisters’ apostolic work includes the CMP Store on Jamieson Street, selling religious and devotional items, and assisting and teaching at Holy Trinity Primary School.
“As we celebrate with the Sisters this auspicious and holy anniversary, we thank almighty God for them, for it is the Church that receives the vows of those who make religious profession, begs God’s grace for them by its public prayer, puts them in God’s hands, blesses them, and unites their offering with the sacrifice of the Mass.”
The five Sisters were all among the first of the Sisters from their Order to arrive in Sydney and say they have been blessed by their four decades in Granville Parish.
“For the first many years we attended Mass daily in the parish church with Father Campion at 6.30am with many of the people who were on their way to work, and of course, on the weekend,” says Sr Justina.
“We helped playing the music and leading the singing at weekend Mass and developing the slides every week for the old projector system.
“We took care of the altar linen and of Fr Campion, because there was no house-keeper.”
The Sisters say that over the years, the parish grew more multicultural, with the arrival of Asian and Indian parishioners and today the parish has a vibrant worship and community life.
The Sisters remain involved with the Parish Council, parish youth group, children’s liturgy, hanging the banners, playing the music and leading the singing at the weekend Mass, along with reading and commentating.
Sr Justina says the Thanksgiving Mass for the five Sisters celebrating their 50 years of religious profession was “packed with people”.
“Our relatives from Vietnam and interstate joined us. Some of our friends from interstate came also. We have a lot of friends from many years doing the apostolate services at different places, such as people from parishes in Melbourne, Wollongong, Canberra and many different Eucharistic Movement Youth Groups in the Archdiocese of Sydney and Dioceses of Parramatta, Wollongong and Canberra as well as some Legion of Mary Groups and Catholic Mothers’ Groups,” she says.
“We are grateful to God, that our friends still have a close relationship with us,” says Sr Justina. “We are very happy that our friendship is still alive. They still remember us and came to give thanks to God with us.”
In his homily at the Mass of Thanksgiving, Bishop Vincent said the occasion was “a celebration of God’s providential care and an expression of deep gratitude”.
“It is a great joy for us to be here, to give thanks to God for the gift of consecrated life and to renew our commitment to be the sign of the kingdom,” he said.
“Fifty years ago, these jubilarians dedicated themselves to the Charism of Missionary Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of the World. They pledged to extend the Kingdom of God’s love by living their vowed life.
“Well, they have extended it by coming to Australia following the turbulence of the Fall of Saigon. They have faithfully lived their profession in a different environment. The Church in Australia is enriched by the witness of their generous service, unwavering hope and vulnerable trust.”
Debra Vermeer is a freelance journalist and contributor to Catholic Outlook.