Serving the needs of some of the most marginalised and disadvantaged people in Western Sydney can be a challenge, but Holy Family Parish, Mount Druitt, see it as an opportunity for living Christ’s mission.
“You experience so much here at the parish,” Parish Secretary Malia Lolesio explains. “You get to witness people’s joys and struggles alongside the poverty of some of the people.
“But that also brings out a richness in compassion,” she adds.
Malia has been working for the parish as one of its few paid staff for eight years, and has been a parishioner for over 30 years. She was spending most, if not all, of her time at the church anyway, so applying for the secretary role was an easy transition, she concludes.
“Working here and being involved in the parish has made it a hard place to leave. In my role, I give so much, but I have received so much more in my interactions with parishioners and the community.
“It’s one thing to go to Mass, but to give back, is another thing,” she says.
Giving back to those in the local community on the margins is a core practice of the Jesuit community who have run the parish since 2008.
Fr Gregory (Greg) Jacobs SJ, the current parish priest, came to the parish in 2014, and serves the community alongside his Jesuit brother, Fr Patrick Mullins SJ.
“I’ve fallen in love with the place. I love the work here and what we’re trying to do,” Fr Greg explains.
Looking at the whiteboard situated in front of the parish office, it’s amazing to see how many different organisations and groups utilise the site.
Welcoming the wider community
“Holy Family Parish is a very welcoming parish,” Parish Pastoral Council Chair Marissa Logronio tells me, saying that the facilities on site support not just the parish community, but the wider area too.
Groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous share facilities alongside the Legion of Mary, Tongan Sunday schools and a free podiatry clinic run by Western Sydney University.
“Holy Family’s doors are open to anyone in need,” Marissa says.
On the site itself sits the church, the Catholic primary school and childcare centre, the Baabayn Aboriginal Corporation, the Shed and the St Vincent de Paul Hub.
Jesuit Social Service’s Ignite Store provides food, clothes and furniture which can be purchased by members of the community at a very reasonable price. CatholicCare’s Aboriginal Catholic Services provides a safe space for one of the largest Indigenous communities in Australia.
Five choirs make heavenly music
Music is a great joy of the parish. They are blessed with five multicultural choirs who sing fortnightly or monthly at the two main Sunday Masses alongside musicians and cantors.
“We especially like it when our parishioners sing traditional music in their own language – you feel like you are in heaven,” Fr Greg says.
Fr Greg explained that it was hard to discourage parishioners from singing due to the pandemic restrictions, as music is “in the veins” of their culture, particularly those from the Pacific Islander communities.
During the peak of the pandemic, the primary school worked with food charity OzHarvest to produce over 100 food hampers that were delivered to families in the local community.
Malia described one such drop-off for an elderly couple who weren’t able to leave their home because of their health conditions, and their emotion when the food package was delivered, knowing that they were being looked out for.
Marissa adds, “Holy Family has always shown their care and concern, not only in the spiritual sense not only to their parishioners, but to anyone who comes to the parish for help.
“It’s difficult to describe Holy Family in only three words, however, the ones that come to mind are ‘welcoming’, ‘diversified’ and ‘enriching’.”
This article was originally featured in the Ordinary Time/Winter 2021 Edition of the Catholic Outlook Magazine.