High spirits at Holy Spirit Parish, St Clair

By Jordan Grantham, 26 September 2017
The Altar at Holy Spirit St Clair Parish. Photo: Diocese of Parramatta

Holy Spirit Parish, St Clair is a warm and resourceful community, bursting with the fruits and gifts of its patron, the Holy Spirit. It is under the pastoral care of the Augustinian Fathers, including Parish Priest, Fr Michael Belonio OSA.

The parish has many groups based on age and activity that are large and active. This community mindedness also expresses itself in the generosity of parishioners to support the parish in resourceful ways.

Perhaps uniquely in the Diocese, the parish has its own grants team, which applies for different grants, thanks to the experience and expertise of a parishioner.

“[He] has experience with Government grants, which is a great asset to the community,” Fr Michael said.

“Our grant was approved for roofing from the NSW Government,” he said.

Fr Michael said there’s a remarkable amount of generosity and kindness in the parish.

“I enjoy the warmness of the people here,” he said.

He gave another example of the community’s generosity to their Church when air conditioning was installed for the hot summer months in 2015.

“We didn’t have to pay for labour,” he said. Skilled parishioners donated their work.

The same applies for repairs to the Church – parishioners do it for love and service.

Solar panels were also installed last year and the community was very generous in the fundraising.

Read more about the Augustinian Friars here.

Among the Church’s groups and events, the youth group, Marian Fiesta and Pentecost celebrations are highlights.

2017 was the second year the parish has celebrated their patronal feast of Pentecost on a grand scale.

“Celebration of the vigil Mass, BBQ, cake, cupcakes, face painting, jumping castle, fun games for everyone, especially families and children,” he said.

“We also have a Young Family Ministry, which I believe, is unique and not present in many parishes. They organise activities for kids, mums, dads, grandparents. For example last Mother’s Day, they had an activity called Eat, Pray, Paint. They painted on canvass an image of the Madonna and Child.

“This coming Father’s Day they are organising a bush walk for men and they are calling it ‘In the Footsteps of St Joseph’. They would have reflection while doing the walk and end with a Mass and lunch,” Fr Michael said.

The youth group, named BasicGift (Brothers And Sisters In Christ Growing In Faith Together), hosts Sunday evening Mass.

Read more about BasicGift youth group here.

Read more about the Augustinian Friars here.

BasicGift youth group often adds special touches to their liturgies, such as on the Good Friday liturgy, when parishioners covered the windows of the church with plywood and curtains to create a total blackout effect. They also used a spotlight and stage effects and participated in the live passion drama.

Each Friday night there are devotions, varying according to a rotation.

“In the past two years, we have exposition of the Blessed Sacrament in the first week, Praise and Worship on second week, and the third Friday was the Divine Mercy and with exposition of the Blessed Sacrament,” Fr Michael said.

“Parishioners are very involved, there are a lot of activities,” he said with a laugh.

The Marian Fiesta is probably their largest parish event outside of Christmas and Easter. It started with Filipino community as a parish based group under Fr Brian Fitzpatrick. Now, each year a different cultural group hosts it.

The Fiesta includes a nine-day novena in the evening. This year’s will be on Sat 21 October.

“Every night each cultural group lead the praying of the rosary,” Fr Michael said.

Before the start of the 9-day novena is a talk on Mary. Then there will be a talk about an image of the Blessed Mother and a procession with Our Lady of the Rosary.

Last year the invited speaker was Sr Lea Lirio Guillermo OAR, an Augustinian Recollect Sister.

Dinner and entertainment depends on that year’s team. The Indian community had a Bollywood team, Fr Michael said. Last year was hosted by the Mauritius and South Africa group.

This high-spirited Holy Spirit Parish is more active than Fr Michael’s previous assignments, he said. Large and active ethnic communities including people from the Philippines, Indians, the Maltese and Pacific Islanders make this parish assignment a real blessing to the whole community.

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