By Elizabeth McFarlane
When visiting Christ the King Parish in North Rocks, the first thing that may strike your eye is the unique architectural design of the church. Designed by John King, the roof is said to echo the tent that housed the tabernacle of the Old Testament.
Christ the King Parish was formed on 3 February 1970, with the first Mass being offered on 8 February 1970 at the North Rocks Community Centre.
Fr Eric Burton was welcomed as their first Parish Priest and celebrated Mass in the Community Centre and what is now the church hall up until 1996, when the church that stands now was built.
Fr Burton, very recently retired, was Parish Priest of Christ the King for some 45 years. He recently celebrated his 90th birthday on 24 October 2015.
Deacon Tony Hoban, who has been based at the parish for six years, attended and assisted with Fr Burton’s 90th birthday celebration.
“It was a wonderful occasion. You could see the warmth and the love for Fr Burton. Some of the people present have known him since the early days when he established the parish. I was very proud that I could work with Fr Burton and assist him in the later years of his priestly life,” Deacon Tony said.
Over his six years with the parish, Deacon Tony has been a witness to many changes.
“I think it’s always a fundamental change when the initial priest of the parish steps down from his active ministry. Fr Eric Burton retiring has been a big change in the life of the parish as he was the founding Pastor,” he said.
“We’ve had a number of other priests come in since he left. I think in the past four years we might have had four different pastors at different times. It’s been a bit of a period of change and it takes time for the parishioners to get used to that but that’s just a part of life. There is always change and people have to adjust to it.”
Fr Burton has passed the baton to Fr Ian McGinnity, making the event a great opportunity for the parish community to come together and celebrate their past while also looking towards their future.
“It’s always a little difficult to follow a legacy. Fr Burton was the founding pastor and many of the people grew up with him. There’s a lot of respect, naturally, and a lot of esteem for Fr Burton. But there’s always the challenge, of course, to recognise that we have to look to the future,” Fr Ian said.
Fr Ian wears many hats within the Diocese, being elected Chairman of the National Council of Priests (NCP), Chair of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine Advisory Board Committee and Chair of the Board of Management for the Remuneration Retirement Plan of the Diocese.
Fr Burton has great faith in the future of the parish and the work of Fr Ian.
“Looking to the future, there will always be new challenges. There is always the hope that the work will carry on after the 40-odd years that have passed. Eyes on the present, people have met the challenges in all aspects of parish life,” Fr Burton said.
Fr Burton was thankful for the amount of time and effort that went into organising his 90th birthday celebration.
“I am thankful for the many people involved in the preparation and the celebration of the event. It was great to see a lot of the old people who had previously been involved in the community. It was a great night,” he said.
“There are good signs in the various people who are involved in the activity groups and apostolic groups in the parish, which is encouraging. They are inspiring and I could go on about them for a million years.”