A hundred people stand outside the main Sunday morning Mass at St Aidan’s Parish, Rooty Hill. It is also standing room only inside, crying room and side chapel are full.
The parish is bursting at the seams, showing the power of cultures that have been imbued with Christ and His Faith.
The parish has an Irish history, a Maltese maturity and a Filipino future. It’s a sign of the universality of the Roman Catholic Church and Her evangelising mission to connect all people to Christ.
“The parishioners are very generous, even when they don’t have much money,” Fr Alan Layt, parish priest, said.
The communities come together in a beautiful harmony, such as when a Maltese family in the parish raises money for Filipino orphans through an annual baking sale.
St Aidan himself was a great evangeliser, bridging cultures and changing lives. He made huge inroads with his monks in the evangelisation of the English, much more so than the original Benedictine mission to England under St Augustine of Canterbury.
“Aidan holds the first place in the evangelisation of our race. Augustine was the apostle of Kent, but Aidan was the apostle of England,” Dr Lightfoot, a 19th century ecclesiastical historian, wrote. Count Montalembert, another historian, wrote that “what the sons of St Benedict could only begin was completed by the sons of St Columba.”
St Aidan had Irish blood, was formed in a Scottish monastery and evangelised many of the English at the request of the devout Northumbrian King, St Oswald.
He was an appropriate saint for the old Irish farmers of Rooty Hill, when the first Church was dedicated in 1915. The Irish would have been quite proud that St Aidan played an important role in reforming the mostly godless Englishmen from their pagan ways.
St Aidan founded the monastery on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, taking inspiration from the monastery he entered as a youth on the island of Iona. Likewise, Rooty Hill is demographically something of a Catholic island, with almost 40% of locals identifying as Catholic.
It was first made its own parish in 1950, growing out of Penrith Parish and then St Marys Parish. The first parish priest, Fr John Morreau, was so popular that they named the local Morreau Oval and Reserve after him. The parish originally contained a number of present day parishes, including Mount Druitt and Plumpton.
The current Church was built in 1982, with doors large enough to fit statues carried for processions in the Maltese Catholic tradition.
“We need to extend the Church, just to cover the people who are standing outside,” Fr Alan said.
Fr Alan is very concerned to protect his parishioners from the elements, which can reach over 40 degrees in summer.
Most parishioners today have a Filipino background and Fr Alan describes the area as “part of the growing Filipino-belt.”
It’s a busy place, with Deacon Jesse Balorio, Deacon Jerome Emmanuel and retired clergy Fr Ed Kenny and Deacon Brian Myers there to assist.
Some important Catholic organisations in the area of the parish include Our Lady of Consolation Aged Care of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, St Agnes Catholic High School and St Aidan’s Primary School.
The Sisters of Charity, Sisters of St Joseph and Franciscan Sisters have run the primary school at different stages.
The parish contains the Rooty Hill RSL Club, the largest licensed club in NSW, which is a convenient venue for large events, such as Catholic Youth Parramatta’s LIFTED Live and Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta’s staff formation days with Dr Edward Sri in late July.