Parish Profile: St Anthony of Padua Parish, Toongabbie – ‘on the Synodal path’

By Mary Brazell, 13 June 2024
(L-R) Angelin Prabaharan, Shanika Joseph, Bill Ryan, Fr Joby Kadambattu Ittira MS and Erick Opena at St Anthony of Padua Parish, Toongabbie. Image: Mary Brazell/Diocese of Parramatta


As the Diocese moves closer to the launch of its new Pastoral Plan, parishes are being invited to examine how they can continue travelling on the road to synodality and offer spaces for communion, participation and mission.

At St Anthony of Padua Parish, Toongabbie, this task has been well received.

“I think St Anthony’s has been synodal for many years – we discern together, we work together and having that support has made my ministry very easy,” Parish Priest Fr Joby Kadambattu Ittira MS said.

Young senior server Angelin Prabaharan said, “I always feel that everyone is in some way involved in the parish, whether they’re an active volunteer or a ‘silent supporter’. If one person doesn’t have enough knowledge, they’re able to consult with other people in the parish.”

Long-term parishioner Bill Ryan said, “whenever we’ve been asked to step up to the plate, we take it on and take it up. Fr Joby never forces people, he simply asks if anyone is interested in helping out, we get together and plan and go forward from there. “There’s no roadblocks in the way of what we want to do for the parish.”

Encouraging parishioners to serve God, others

The parish’s mission statement – ‘We, the church of St Anthony of Padua are called to a greater realisation of the Kingdom of God and to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ’ — serves as a strong foundation for the atmosphere enacted in the community.

Growing up wanting to serve on the altar and assist the priest, Angelin feels that serving the community in this way has strengthened and deepened her faith. “I really enjoy engaging in the presence of God, whether it be serving on the altar or listening to the various choirs lead worship,” she said.

For Parish Secretary Shanika Joseph, she feels that she belongs to the parish, even if she’s only been working for a year. “It’s not just a job and I think that’s because of the way people approach you and come out of their way to say ‘hi’ and they go out of their way to do things for the parish.”

Fr Joby Kadambattu Ittira MS speaks during the 2023 Feast Day Mass at St Anthony of Padua Parish, Toongabbie. Image: Supplied

Sacramental and Special Religious Education (SRE) Coordinator Erick Opena has been connected to parish life ever since he was a child in the Philippines. “When I moved to Toongabbie in 2003, it was important to me to be a part of the faith community, as it allows me to continue serving God and His People. It’s a big part of me and makes me who I am.” Erick also serves as Chair of the Parish Pastoral Council.

Bill said, “I feel we’re really called to take inspiration from our young people who are happy to discuss their faith in such an open way and not deny who we are as being part of this Catholic community and we should make very big noises about when we are able to.”

Junior Altar Serving Coordinator Jodie Rodrigues said, “St Anthony’s is a simple parish where parishioners are made rich by the way that the community, through its various ministries and cultural groups, gathers together, welcoming all people irrespective of their background.”

Building relationships with Fr Joby

Having such a supportive pastor and shepherd in Fr Joby allows the parishioners to work towards a common goal.

Angelin said, “He really fosters an environment where parishioners are valued and heard and ensures that everyone has the opportunity to interact and engage with one another. He’s all about building relationships in the parish, which is pretty inspiring.”

Bill said, “He lets people go and do what they are good at, guiding and offering suggestions as we go. He doesn’t sit at the head of the table in our councils and committees, he’s always willing to let other people lead in those rolls and when it is time, he makes the final decision.”

Parish rejuvenation in 2024

During their annual general meeting and parish planning day in February, the Parish Pastoral Council, using synodality and the Holy Spirit as a guide, came up with four areas where they saw God calling them in 2024 – youth engagement, inclusion, communication and connection.

The parish community hope that these key areas alongside the long-awaited renovation of the church building will strengthen the community.

Members of the St Anthony of Padua Parish Pastoral Council during their annual general meeting and parish planning day at St Antony of Padua Primary School, Girraween. Image: Supplied

“We are blessed with a lot of young families, young people and a lot of diverse cultures and ethnic communities and many of them participate in the Mass, but not necessarily in our other activities, so I feel that if we invite them to get involved, then we will see that they will grow and our community will grow as well,” Fr Joby said.

Angelin said, “I’d like to see the livestream Masses return, because I know there are senior members of the parish that can’t always get here to celebrate Mass.

“We also need to invest the time to give our parishioners more confidence because we’re very open as a parish for people to rise up and take up opportunities to lead or volunteer in the parish.”

Erick said, “Having recently completed training in this area, I’d love to serve in the ministry of visiting the sick and the elderly in the parish.”

Jodie said, “I am hopeful that the church renovations will refresh the community and that the same spirit of newness will draw more people into ministry in the parish and help to grow our community.”

This article was originally published in the 2024 Ordinary Time | Winter edition of the Catholic Outlook Magazine. You can read the digital version here or pick up a copy in your local parish.


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