By Jordan Grantham, Catholic Outlook, February 2017
Good Shepherd Parish, Plumpton, is thriving on the vine. The parish is an epicentre of youth and multiculturalism, in one of the youngest and most diverse parts of the Diocese of Parramatta.
The parish bustles with a wide range of community and devotional groups, which were showcased in 2016 at the Spirit Alive Parish Expo.
The parish expo was on Pentecost to reveal the power of the Holy Spirit in the vigour and variety of the Catholic life in the parish. This year, the parish will host a mini expo around Pentecost.
The Mass incorporated cultural expressions from many of the ethnic groups in the parish, including Filipino, Samoan, Tongan, Vietnamese, Maltese, Spanish, Malaysian, Singaporean, Sri Lankan and Nigerian.
The Spirit Alive expo consists primarily of stalls sharing each culture’s food, and stalls for each of the parish groups.
Religious orders are present in the parish, including the Capuchin Franciscan Friars, the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth and the Marist Sisters.
Their stalls are joined by the Legion of Mary, Parish Rosary Group, Fatima Group, Couples for Christ, Knights of the Southern Cross and the St Vincent de Paul Society conference.
Young people attend Youth for Christ, Antioch and other youth groups.
Keeping with the theme of the Good Shepherd, the Little Lambs playgroup meets weekly and is well attended.
There are liturgical and educational groups, such as the nine choirs, catechists in state schools, the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, and pastoral planning.
The parish places great emphasis on adult faith formation and each year sends four parishioners to participate in the Institute for Mission courses, Beginning Theology or Formation for Reflective Ministry.
The Parish Priest, Fr Gerard O’Dempsey OFM Cap, said the courses helped to give the parish leaders confidence and a solid foundation in ministry.
Local schools are present: Good Shepherd Primary School, St Francis of Assisi Primary, Loyola Senior High and St Clare’s Catholic High School.
Sunday 15 January marked 27 years of the colourful and exotic feast of Santo Niño de Cebu in the parish. Santo Niño de Cebu is an important feast in the central Philippine city of Cebu, held in honour of the Infant Jesus. The celebrations in Cebu span nine days and contain processions with many forms of traditional dance.
Good Shepherd Parish hosts the Cofradia del Santo Niño de Cebu, which celebrates Santo Niño on the last day of the feast. Parents and children at Good Shepherd participate in sinulog, a striking ritual prayer-dance, where all participants carry a small statue of the Infant Jesus and dance in honour of Him.
At the conclusion of the sinulog, the group holds statues of the Infant Jesus above their heads and receives a blessing. This year the Papal Nuncio gave the blessing.
The parish also hosts the Chifley Amateur Radio Club, which started in 1983. This surprising addition had a place at the Spirit Alive Parish Expo.
The club has put on displays for the parish, demonstrating the technical equipment of radio communication. The club promotes obtaining ham radio licences to interested members of the public.
The parish amazes Ray Sparks, a former club president. “It’s incredible what they do for the community,” he said. Ray also assisted the parish with its computer network.
The local member for the State Division of Chifley, Ed Husic, represented the local community at last year’s Spirit Alive Expo. The division of Chifley is named after the 16th Prime Minister of Australia, Ben Chifley, who was a practising Catholic and represented much of the Blue Mountains and some of the Hawkesbury region, as member for the Federal Electorate of Macquarie.
Fr Gerard explains the meaning of the church building, which distils the essence of the community.
The striking church is influenced by post-conciliar theology to resemble an ancient tent of the people of Israel. Opened in 1988, the church’s outer surface is entirely steel sheeting because of the expense of bricks at the time.
A full immersion baptismal font can be opened before the altar. Fr Gerard shares an amusing anecdote: once a large man had a full immersion baptism, displacing the water and flooding the church carpet.
Four statues represent the different aspects of the Church’s heritage. St Padre Pio represents the Capuchin influence. Our Lady of La Vang represents Vietnamese culture. The Infant Jesus reminds all of the community’s devotion to Santo Niño.
Front and centre is a statue of Our Lord as the Good Shepherd. He holds a lamb over his shoulder, representing his tender care for each person.