We visited one of our 2020 ‘golden jubilee’ parishes, Christ the King Parish, North Rocks. We found a mix of original and newer parishioners, happy and grateful to be part of a parish where they feel ‘like family.’
One cannot talk about the history of Christ the King Parish, North Rocks without mentioning its founder Fr Eric Burton.
Although Fr Eric passed away in September 2018, his legacy of dedication and passion for his community implanted itself into the very soul of the parish which celebrates its golden 50th anniversary in 2020.
Located just five kilometres north of Parramatta, the story of Christ the King Parish began in 1967 when a retired couple wrote to Cardinal Gilroy, the then-Archbishop of Sydney, requesting that a parish be established in the developing area of North Rocks.
The Parish was formally instituted on 3 February 1970 with the appointment of Fr Eric and the first Mass celebrated at the North Rocks Community Centre soon after. The church, with a design reminiscent of the tent housing the Old Testament tabernacle, was opened 26 years later.
Most of the families were young and worked hard to establish a parish community.
Today, many of those parishioners are still friends, and the sense of community is as strong as ever.
Fr Ian McGinnity, Parish Priest, talks about the Parish’s strong tradition of volunteering to care for the sick and elderly. They have also been big contributors to the Jesuit Refugee Service.
“People have a compassionate heart in this community, and I think that’s been historical, building on that tradition of helping the underdog, the migrant, the refugee” Fr Ian says.
Parish secretary Claudine Nallétamby explains the impact of Fr Ian’s approach. “Fr Ian believes in inclusion and recognises people’s talents,” she says. “He strongly encourages parishioner participation. This allows connection, pride and ownership for what takes place at Christ the King Parish.”
The proof is in the dedication shown by parishioners, including young people. “There was a night last year when we had youth group, and the weather forecast was for a very large thunderstorm,” says Youth Coordinator Adam Chioatto. “Despite this, the high winds, the downpour, thunder and lightning, the young people still came.”
“Fr Ian’s willingness to help, listen, clarify and support has allowed me and the youth ministry to continue during these times.”
Principal of Christ the King Primary School and parishioner of 14 years, Tony Hughes is also committed to the Parish.
“Fr Ian and I have worked together for the duration of my principalship at the school, ensuring there is a strong link between the school and parish,” he said.
Like many other parishes, the ever-changing nature of the pandemic brought unique challenges to Christ the King in 2020. Livestreamed Masses kept parishioners connected.
“Parishioners could still participate in the Eucharist, but in a different form,” says Claudine.
“Hopefully we can realise that this pandemic has been a difficult period but also an opportunity to appreciate who and what is important in our Parish and our lives,” she said.
The parishioners remain hopeful that their 50 years of hard work and dedication will be celebrated in the new year.
“I am reminded of the saying ‘this too shall pass,’ and even in these uncertain times, the Parish will pull through and grow from here,” Adam explains.
“The bonds of community have strengthened, and the relationships that have been affirmed will carry us through. The pandemic has also given us the means to reach out to returning members of the parish and to visitors and newcomers”
Parishioner Graham Lum adds, “There is no one best thing about the Parish. I cannot speak for others, but I have a great sense of belonging and feel part of the parish family.
“I continue to value my place in this community. I feel loved, supported and valued. I hope I never have to leave.”
This article was originally featured in the Summer 2020/2021 Edition of the Catholic Outlook Magazine.