There were smiles aplenty at the Diocese of Parramatta’s second annual Parramatta Street Feast on Saturday.
“Beautiful weather, wonderful joy and laughter, a celebration of human connection; that’s what it’s all about,” Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, said.
“I think people were eager to participate in something like this after being restricted by the pandemic.”
On the day, volunteers from parishes across the diocese and from organisations that provide support and outreach to the marginalised – including St Merkorious Charity, St Vincent de Paul Society, Parramatta Mission, St Vincent de Paul Society, Catholic Care Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains, Jesuit Social Services Emerton, and the Diocese of Parramatta – served food and drinks and shared conversations with their clients in Prince Alfred Square.
The clients’ smiles belied the ongoing hardships that many of them face.
“Unfortunately, the need for these services is growing,” said StreetMed founder and president, Chris Cleary.
Since August 2014 StreetMed has been providing street-level medical support to people living on the streets of Western Sydney or at risk of homelessness. The charity also helps with crisis accommodation and mental health support.
And since COVID, StreetMed has also been supporting 40-60 patrons two nights a week with food services in Prince Alfred Square. This is in addition to providing street-level veterinarian services, grooming, food and care for our street friends’ best friends.
“People just cannot afford to live,” Ms Cleary said. “It’s ridiculous. It’s heartbreaking.”
On Saturday, many of her clients set aside their worries, laughing with friends over a delicious meal, tea and coffee prepared and served by volunteers from St Merkorious Charity, who make 4,000 nourishing meals a week for those in need in the Diocese of Parramatta and the Archdiocese of Sydney, and the Kick Start Café.
About Parramatta Street Feast
The Parramatta Street Feast is an initiative of the Diocese of Parramatta, organised in response to Pope Francis’s World Day of the Poor.
In 2017, Pope Francis called on all Catholics to acknowledge a World Day of the Poor on the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time each year.
“I hope we can pause and appreciate the human connections we have,” Bishop Vincent reminded during his welcome address on Saturday. He highlighted the importance of inclusivity, care and outreach before saying grace and inviting everyone to eat.
The crowd was entertained by the Sydney Street Choir and solo musicians Chris Solo and the Diocese of Parramatta Chancery Office’s singing security guard, Baki Pesaloma, who also led the Bishop in an impromptu sing-along, much to everyone’s surprise and delight.
Attendees included the Parramatta State MP Geoff Lee and the Parramatta Lord Mayor, Cr Donna Davis, who praised the remarkable bigheartedness of the “many organisations and individuals that give so generously to those in need”.
“The thing about the City of Parramatta, we’re an incredibly diverse community with a high percentage of renters,” Ms Davis said. “With that socioeconomic diversity, there really is a need for these responsive services on the ground.”
Parramatta Street Feast was co-organised and sponsored by the PAYCE Foundation and Paynter Dixon.
View images from the 2022 Parramatta Street Feast here or below: