Faith, family and music make up the tripartite nature of the Samoan way of life or ‘Fa’asamoa’.
The weaving of the three elements into parish life and the Diocese of Parramatta is a gift that is joyfully given by the Samoan people.
The musical flair and talent that is attributed to the Polynesian culture is heard in the seamless harmonies of parish choirs they join.
Rhythmic and rich, the voices in the choirs could be said to pay homage to the ebb and flow of the tides of their homeland, washing over parishioners in a lively display of their devotion to Christ.
Fa’asamoa has transcended borders, enriching Western Sydney with its vibrant culture and dedication to the faith.
This is personified in the charity of Aleki Fa’amausili Ailua, the groundskeeper for St Oliver Plunkett’s Parish, Harris Park.
Mr Fa’amausili Ailua was born in Apia, Samoa and has served the Harris Park Parish since his arrival in Australia 24 years ago.
He was awarded the Diocesan Medal of Honour in 2014 for his longstanding service to the parish and the Samoan community, in serving as sacristan and acolyte, maintaining the church and grounds, and communicating with his Samoan community to organise their involvement in the parish.
Before he arrived in the parish, the Church and the grounds were not being maintained.
“There was no one here before I came. I knew something had to be done and that I would give my service freely,” he said.
Mr Fa’amausili Ailua decided he would volunteer his time to the service of the church.
“I mow the lawn, set up the church for Mass and I make sure everything is locked up after events.
“I offer my life to the parish,” Mr Fa’amausili Ailua said.
After many years volunteering for the Diocese, Bishop Kevin Manning offered him paid employment.
Mr Fa’aumausili Ailua reflects on his time at the parish with great fondness.
“I enjoy working with the priests. I had the honour of working for Fr Peter Williams for seven years. He is a good man,” Mr Fa’amausili Ailua said.
Mr Fa’amausili Ailua believes it is the support of his family that allows him to serve, as they are also heavily involved in the parish life.
His five children and wife are a part of the Samoan Catholic Community, joining in the choir and activities.
Moving from Samoa to New Zealand, and later from New Zealand to Australia, his faith, family and culture have provided him with stability and comfort wherever he travels.
This is founded in the universality of the mass, which is supported by its translatability:
I le suafa o le Tama, ma le Alo, ma le Agaga Pa’ia. Amene.
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Mr Fa’amausili Ailua’s passion for his work is displayed in how he devotes his time. He works seven days a week, coming in after-hours and on weekends to ensure the parish is secure.
“I don’t live far away so I am always looking over the Church.
“I love my job. I am very happy to serve the Church,” he said.
This generosity is not unfamiliar, with the Samoan Catholic community playing an active role in the social and economic development of parishes and schools in the Diocese, providing mutual support networks for its members and engaging in social activities, which include sporting and cultural performances. Their choirs also perform regularly at church services.
The Diocese of Parramatta has three communities based at St Oliver Plunkett’s, Harris Park, St Aidan’s, Rooty Hill, and Our Lady of the Rosary, St Marys.
St Marys and Rooty Hill choirs are combined and they can be heard singing at St Marys on the second Sunday of every month at 10.30am and at Rooty Hill on the fourth Sunday of every month at 10.30am.
The choir at Harris Park sings on the first Sunday of every month at 10.30am.