In Australia, we are a church of migrants. Apart from our Aboriginal brothers and sisters, all people in this country have a migrant history, either voluntary, forcibly, or to escape impossible conditions in their homeland. We are a country made up of people from all over the world. For us Catholics, we are enriched by these cultural gifts regarding overseas expressions of faith.
In the Diocese of Parramatta, we provide chaplains for many communities: African, Chinese, Croatian, Filipino, German, Hungarian, various Indian groups, Italian, Korean, Maltese, Polish, Samoan, Slovenian, Syro-Malabar, Polish, Tamil, Tongan, Vietnamese and Eastern Catholic Churches.
A statement from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops puts the benefit of migrants well: “Immigrant communities give ample witness to what it is to be Church in their desire to worship as a people, in their faith, in their solidarity with one another and with the weakest among them, in their devotion and their faithfulness to the Church of their ancestors.”
This list is not exhaustive, but I we get the idea of the enormity of our diversity as a gathering of people from many different cultures and lifestyles.
The aim of these Chaplaincies is not to establish National Churches, but to provide welcome into the local church. The chaplaincies also provide a familiar expression of faith, with liturgies carried out in native languages with familiar cultural practices.
Migrants face many challenges here, with different laws, customs and language. While trying to fit into here, they wish to maintain their own culture, language, mentality and their own expressions of faith. They also wish to share their traditions and culture with their children.
While it is not always possible for us to provide even weekly celebrations of Mass, it is important that we do all in our power to preserve the traditions and cultures of these newcomers to our country.
Here is a snapshot of some of the Chaplaincies –
- The Filipino Chaplaincy has celebrates weekly Mass rotating through different parts of the Diocese. They also have special Christmas Dawn Novena Masses at 4:30am and Fiesta celebrations.
- The Tamil Chaplaincy celebrates Mass on the last Sunday of the month at Westmead, large feast celebrations and special retreats and children’s Bible classes.
- The Vietnamese Chaplaincy celebrates Mass and has other activities in Granville and in Plumpton Parishes.
- The Korean chaplaincy operates out of Our Lady of Lourdes Church in South Baulkham Hills. There are weekly Masses and many other educational and religious activities there.
- The Chinese Chaplaincy, based in St Monica’s Parish, North Parramatta has Mass each Sunday and many other activities for adults and children.
- The Chaplaincy to the African Catholic Community:
There are many diverse African groups in the Diocese and the Chaplain acts as a point of contact for the various community leaders, especially from the Sudanese, Nigerian, Ghanaian and Zimbabwean communities. Their base is the All Saints of Africa Centre.
As Parish Priest of St Andrew the Apostle Parish, Marayong I see the very positive difference made by people from all over the world. You bring great love and enthusiasm for the faith. You enrich the parish with devotions from your cultures and are wonderful examples of the family, with many young people involved in the life of the Church.
Thank you to our Migrant Chaplains and leaders in your communities. You fulfil a very special ministry making people feel at home and welcome.
By Rev Msgr Ron McFarlane EV PP, Episcopal Vicar for Migrant Chaplaincies, Chancellor (Administration)
This article first appeared in the December 2017 print edition of Catholic Outlook.
At the request of Most Rev Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, Catholic Outlook was printed in December 2017 to connect the Diocese and showcase the good works across the Diocese’s many agencies and ministries.