A parish in the spirit of St John XXIII

By Jordan Grantham, 11 October 2017
Pope John XXIII was canonised in 2014 and is the patron of Glenwood-Stanhope Gardens Parish. Images: Diocese of Parramatta & Wikimedia Commons

St John XXIII Catholic Parish, Glenwood-Stanhope Gardens is rapidly growing and overflowing with parish teams and activities. It’s “almost like a mini-diocese,” Fr John McSweeney, Parish Priest, joked to Catholic Outlook.

The parish has many teams and committees, almost letting the parish run itself, with committees covering administration, liturgy, pastoral care, evangelisation, community building, youth and faith formation.

“I encourage and expect people to take up the role and take up the mantle. It’s their parish, it’s their community and they need to take leadership,” Fr John said.

The parish has a new suburb, church and community; until 1973 the area was the Stanhope Park Dairy. The suburbs of Stanhope Gardens and Glenwood were created in 1995 and 1996, respectively.

The church is very modern and contains the beautiful baptismal font from St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta, over which the saving grace of Christ has been imparted for almost 70 years.

Architecture Insights commented on the modern church’s notable architecture.

“The structural core of the building is a massive off form concrete portal structure and related columns and substructure, recalling ancient ruins…The Cross at the apex of the central roof which projects down to the font at the entrance to the church represents the light of God entering our space,” Architecture Insights reported.

The modern design and active lay participation match the parish’s dedication to St John XXIII, the Pope who opened the Second Vatican Council in 1962, the most recent of the Church’s 21 Ecumenical Councils. His feast day is celebrated on October 11.

RELATED: Bishop Vincent Homily from St John XXIII Catholic Parish

This Council sought to advance the Church’s mission in the contemporary era.

“[S]he must ever look to the present, to the new conditions and new forms of life introduced into the modern world which have opened new avenues to the Catholic apostolate” so that “the sacred deposit of Christian doctrine should be guarded and taught more efficaciously”, St John XXIII said in the opening speech of the Second Vatican Council.

The parish’s devotion to St John XXIII expresses itself in a small photographic display about St John XXIII’s life.

“Several parishioners travelled to Rome for his canonisation in 2014,” Fr John said.

The parish has a large secondary school named, St Mark’s College, named so because St John XXIII was the Patriarch of Venice, based in St Mark’s Basilica before becoming Holy Father.

St Mark’s College forms part of the Catholic Learning Community of St John XXIII, along with Holy Cross Primary School, Glenwood and John XXIII Primary School.

“There are 2200 school kids. I say to the teachers ‘You’re the evangelisers in the school’,” Fr John said.

The large Filipino, Indian, Sri Lankan, South African, Chinese and emerging African communities form part of the growing area and make vital contributions with their faith and work.

A Mass and Novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Help is held every Tuesday night and to the Sacred Heart of Jesus on first Fridays of the month.

Migrant and Refugee Sunday is one of the parish’s large annual celebrations, which features Mass, a food fiesta, national costumes and foreign languages for each migrant group.

The parish has a preponderance of youth groups catering to the growing population.

Blaze is for young people in Years 7 – 10, following the LifeTeen program. Ignite is the Young Adults group that invites speakers who present and lead discussion, as well as offering fellowship and prayer. A Youth for Christ youth group meets monthly and there are also several youth groups provided by the Community of the Risen Lord, a Catholic lay charismatic community based in the parish.

The energetic community is planning its next steps with an entire parish assembly this month.

“The parish organised a Parish Assembly on the 27th of August which looked at a two year pastoral plan for the parish, utilising the seven main pillars of the ministries,” Fr John said.

The spirit of St John XXIII is stirring Glenwood-Stanhope Gardens to convene another summit and venture confidently into the next phase of her mission.

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