Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Seven Hills has a thriving community across all age groups. Support for each other is at the core of what they do, inspired both by the humility of their parish priest and by their patron saint, Our Lady of Lourdes.
Laura Bellissimo has attended Our Lady of Lourdes Parish (OLOL), Seven Hills, since she was a child. She attended the local primary school and was an altar server at her Year 6 Graduation Mass.
Then, as a young adult, she moved out of the local area with her family but returns each week to the parish.
What makes her drive down the highway to Seven Hills each week?
“It’s my home and they’re my second family,” she says.
“Our parish has this feeling that you belong. It’s lovely that parishioners will recognise if you weren’t at Mass. They’ll ask if you’re doing ok. There’s genuine concern and consideration for one another.”
‘Still a wonderful place to pray and stay’
The Lourdes Over-50’s group celebrated its 24th year in August 2021 but were unable to meet in person during lockdown. Long-term parishioners John and Mary Jordan helped to form the group as an opportunity for older parishioners to get together.
“It was a way to gather our friends in the one spot, because if you went from house to house, you’d never be at home,” they explain.
They kept in touch, ready to meet again when restrictions eased because, “it’s important to be able to get together again,” says John.
He was also involved with introducing the ministry of welcomers to the parish, which he says has made a huge difference as he gets to know new people.
The Lourdes Young Adult group, which meets every second Friday of the month, gathers young people from the local area and beyond. After sharing a meal together, the group will then delve into topics ranging from mental health, climate change and interfaith dialogue from a faith-based perspective.
The young adults in the community have a passion for social justice, which is showcased in their involvement in the St Vincent de Paul Society’s Community Sleepout, as well as hosting a food drive with their Islamic neighbours during Ramadan.
“The whole parish is united in social justice activities,” youth team member Ian Epondulan explains. “It’s a witness to their faith that a lot of our parish is very passionate about social justice.”
Parish Secretary Alison Lette describes the strong teamwork in the parish. “Everyone is willing to help out one another at any time,” she says.
“During lockdown, it was quite lovely to still keep in touch with parishioners through emails and phone calls. It’s such a nice feeling to belong to the community.”
Fr Henry ‘makes us better humans’
The parishioners feel lucky to have had Fr Henry Huu Duc Tran as their parish priest for 16 years.
“Fr Henry is very giving with his time and energy,” Youth Coordinator Sarah Lenthall says. “You can tell he loves his parishioners and this community.”
Laura says, “Like Jesus, Fr Henry likes to be among the community, among the people. He has a great connection with everybody in the community, from the school to the young adults and the older parishioners. He’s very humble and very authentic.”
Ian adds, “Fr Henry is an inspiration on how to live our lives through his lived experiences and his story as a refugee coming to Australia. He has inspired and supported the faith journeys of so many of our young people.”
Marian presence ‘omnipresent’ in parish community
The parishioners have a strong sense of Mary being present in their parish, both with organised Marian-themed liturgy and prayer groups, but also through the active and purposeful involvement of the parishioners.
Says Laura, “I feel that seeing so many women volunteering in our church, as well as those who work for the church, somehow reflects her presence. Like Mary, they too have said ‘yes’ to this calling of ministry.
“Mother Mary and Our Lady of Lourdes has definitely worked wonders in the women and the young girls in our community.”
CatholicOutlook Magazine congratulates Our Lady of Lourdes Parish for celebrating their 60th Diamond Jubilee on 13 February 2022. We pray that Our Lady of Lourdes continues to fill the parish with grace.
This article was originally published in the 2022 Lent and Easter/Autumn 2022 edition of the Catholic Outlook Magazine. You can read the magazine here.