By Jordan Grantham, Catholic Outlook, November 2016
Holy Family Parish, Mount Druitt, lives up to its name. Indigenous, Tongan, Samoan, Filipino and Caucasian families build up this harmonious and generous community. The people are passionate about the truth of the Catholic faith.
The beauty of the faith is expressed when the choirs praise the living God in their church. The annual re-enactment of the Good Friday Way of the Cross gathers more than 1000 parishioners, many of whom participate as characters.
Fr Gregory Jacobs SJ is the Parish Priest. A former pathology chemist, he recognises the elements that make Holy Family a rare concoction: “The people are incredibly generous with their time and energy.”
Part of the mix is a vibrant musical tradition: “There is a Tongan choir, a Samoan choir, a Filipino choir and also a mixed choir.”
The parish community works to help all in need. Ignite Food Store is the parish’s cooperative food pantry. It is almost a full-sized supermarket.
Friendly volunteers keep the operation well oiled. There is a café and clothing shop. Hospitality training occurs at the café, creating new professional skills, increased self-esteem and employment opportunities.
Fr Gregory jokes that it is also handy when you run out of milk.
Harris Farm, IGA and other suppliers generously donate many of the items, some of which are given away for free. Customers purchase (or are given) a voucher that entitles them to a number of items worth approximately double the price of the voucher.
Don Mulholland runs the Men’s Shed. He is a Gurindji man and dedicated to suicide prevention. The Men’s Shed is designed to welcome Indigenous men, who are more concentrated in the Mount Druitt area than anywhere else in urban NSW.
A 40ft didgeridoo stands near the entrance. Indigenous designs, plants and a boomerang-shaped path present a strong sense of identity.
Laid-back BBQs run up the side of the shed, facilitating the regular Wednesday lunch gatherings. Service providers visit the men at the Shed, where they are comfortable, to offer legal, medical and financial assistance.
The benefits are innumerable, Don said. The most common outcome is “saving them from prison and, most importantly, getting their health back,” he explained.
The Men’s Shed “offers an opportunity to provide assistance to men in need. There are a lot of men around that have health issues – such as mental health, suicide prevention … and everyday help with food vouchers, electricity, relationships, gambling, drug and alcohol,” Don said.
Holy Family Primary School is a key part of the community. It opened in 2004 and now caters for Kindergarten to Year 6. Holy Family emphasises events like Father’s Day and Mother’s Day to support and recognise the importance of family.
Loyola College is the local senior secondary school and forms part of the Jesuit network of schools, providing formation inspired by St Ignatius of Loyola.
The Jesuit connection is important to the parish, with a community of 10 Jesuits (three working in the parish and schools, a Spanish chaplain working in Fairfield, the Novice Master with four novices, and one retired Spanish chaplain). The Jesuit novices also serve in the parish during their first two years of formation.
Holy Family has become part of the Jesuit family, twinned with Our Lady of the Way Parish, North Sydney, also in the pastoral care of the Jesuits.
In the spirit of solidarity, students from St Ignatius’ College, Riverview, and Loreto Kirribilli volunteer in the parish community as part of their immersion experiences.
Whether they are reading or playing games in the pre-school and primary school, or helping in the Store or Op-Shop, or other parish activities, the idea is to give them their own experience of people living in Mt Druitt.
This has the effect of restoring a more balanced view of the struggles of poverty, and the normal lives that people live in both Eastern and Western Sydney.
Despite the hardships, against the odds, the Church perseveres to provide for her spiritual children, as one family, especially at Holy Family.
To read Jordan Grantham’s story Fr Greg Jacobs SJ: a servant to the queen of the sciences in the November 2016 issue of Catholic Outlook, click here.