In the spirit of friendship and community, the Diocese of Parramatta hosted a lunch in the park for marginalised people from across Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains.
On Wednesday 20 November, more than 200 marginalised people gathered at Prince Alfred Square, Parramatta for the inaugural Parramatta Street Feast.
The event was sponsored by the PAYCE Foundation, Paynter Dixon and the Saint Merkorious Charity.
The Saint Merkorious Charity provided a lunch of grilled meats, salads, sweet treats, and refreshing drinks, as the Sydney Street Choir and Riverwood Community Choir performed some crowd favourite songs.
Volunteers from organisations that provide support and outreach to the marginalised including Parramatta Mission, St Vincent de Paul Society and CatholicCare Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains, Catholic high schools, and the Diocese of Parramatta, served food and drinks and shared conversations with the attendees.
Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, gave the welcome address before engaging with attendees.
“It’s great to have so many people here for our first edition of Street Feast,” Bishop Vincent said.
“This city, Parramatta, is a boom town. But underneath these cranes, fancy office buildings or expensive apartment buildings, there are people that struggle. There are people who struggle to make ends meet, there are people who sleep rough and don’t know where their next meal is coming from.
“A mark of a civil society is that of inclusion, that of care and outreach to those who are on the margins. And this is also the constant theme of Pope Francis’s pontificate – wherever he goes, that message of love, of care, of common humanity shines through his message, his gestures and his actions.
“We want to replicate this theme of Pope Francis of care, love, inclusion and celebration of our common humanity here in this Diocese of Parramatta, Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains.
“This [Street Feast] is an attempt to create a sense of community and belonging, no matter where we are in our life journey, no matter what situation we find ourselves – it’s the bond of our common humanity that binds us all together,” Bishop Vincent said.
At the end of festivities, attendees were given a care package from the organisers full of toiletries.
Diocese of Parramatta Social Justice Coordinator Sr Louise McKeogh FMA said that the Street Feast “created a wonderful atmosphere to bring people together from different areas of life in Parramatta and share each other’s company in a spirit of hospitality, welcome and inclusion.
“The presence of the Sydney Street Choir and the quality and care of the meal served by Saint Merkorious and our volunteers honoured everyone and made it such an enjoyable and engaging day.
“Our Faith In Action students from Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta secondary schools saw it as an important opportunity for mission. Speaking with students and teachers as they left the Street Feast, they were keen to make sure that they were able to take part next year, as it was such a positive and meaningful experience for them.
“Talking to an elderly homeless and socially isolated lady after Street Feast, she said she felt happy to have come along and shared a meal with old friends and was so very grateful for the practical gift of toiletries and hygiene products provided by Chemist Warehouse.
“I think Bishop Vincent summed it up in his introduction, that this was a meal of inclusion and welcome and that Pope Francis is leading the way.
“It was seen as a very practical way of saying that everyone is welcome here,” Sr Louise said.
The Parramatta Street Feast is an initiative organised in response to Pope Francis’s World Day of the Poor.
In 2017, Pope Francis called on all Catholics to acknowledge a World Day of the Poor on the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time each year.
View images from the inaugural Parramatta Street Feast here or below.