The parishioners of Mary Immaculate Parish, Quakers Hill-Schofields, celebrated 100 years in 2020. Post pandemic, they are looking forward to rebuilding their parish community.
When Mercee Malig migrated to Australia in 1988, one of her first priorities was to find a Catholic church.
She was looking for familiar, welcoming, warm faces for herself and her children.
She was able to find that amongst the community of Mary Immaculate Parish, Quakers Hill-Schofields, a parish of people from at least 19 nationalities. She’s now secretary of the parish finance committee.
“Each nationality is welcomed to celebrate their national days, like the Feast of Our Lady of Lanka in February,” Mercee explains.
Parish secretary Aylyn Yu adds, “The people as a community are warm and welcoming. You feel it every time you walk in to the church, people always greet you and ask how you are. There’s a strong relationship amongst the community.”
Parish Priest Fr Oliver Aro MSP, who arrived in 2019, wants to make sure parishioners feel the parish belongs to them.
“My vision for the parish is that parishioners are involved in the process of decision-making, and that they take ownership of the church,” he says.
“Priests come and go, but the people have the experience of belonging to parish, and it is them working with their priest to prepare for the future. I want them to know their opinions will be respected and acknowledged.”
Parish administration assistant Marthese Sultana explains, “Fr Oliver visits as many people as he possibly can, and he is always there for us.”
More renovations are expected in the parish but were put on hold due to the pandemic. They will be revisited once people are back and more fully connected to the parish. At the same time, Aylyn sees the level of volunteering as heart-warming.
“You are inspired that some people have very little, but give wholly of themselves, which inspires you to do more as well,” she says.
Like many parishes, Mary Immaculate dealt with the ever-changing restrictions surrounding the pandemic, with livestreamed Masses and outdoor celebrations.
With Easter approaching, they hope people will come back. “Easter is a significant moment for people to experience the joy of the presence of God. There is always beauty in the Easter celebration,” Fr Oliver says.
Ryan Hutton, president of the pastoral council says, “Coming out of COVID, we need to re-engage and reevangelise people. We need to reach out to those people in the community and bring them back.
“The church shouldn’t just be a place of worship; it should be a genuine community.”
100 Years of Parish Life
In 2020, Mary Immaculate Parish celebrated 100 years since the area’s first Mass in 1920.
In those days, a group of Catholic families gathered for “the meeting on the log”, on a block of land they went on to purchase to build a hall that could be used as a church.
The building stood as the parish centre for Quakers Hill for decades. In 1973, Schofields separated from Riverstone and combined with Quakers Hill.
The current “church on the hill,” described as a “castle” by the young primary school students, was built alongside the primary school and was blessed in December 1993. The only problem was it had no pews. Recently, the request went out and 90 families applied to donate a pew.
The new pews and the overflow rooms were filled (within COVID-Safe guidelines) as Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, celebrated the Centenary Mass in December 2020.
“This church is built on a hill and is an oasis of hope and solidarity,” he reflected.
This article was originally featured in the Lent and Easter/Autumn 2021 Edition of the Catholic Outlook Magazine.