Over 500 people gathered for a colourful celebration of the Solemnity of the Assumption with the Latin American Catholic community, hosted at Good Shepherd Parish, Plumpton on Sunday 13 August 2017.
His Grace, Mariano Parra, Archbishop of Coro, Venezuela celebrated the 10.30am Mass in the Good Shepherd Parish Hall, which was concelebrated by local clergy including Fr Luis Herrera – Chaplain to the Spanish Community in the Diocese of Parramatta.
After Mass, there was an impressive performance of music and dance, with typical Latino Americano foods for sale, including Empanadas, Plato de Asado, Pollo and Arepas.
Archbishop Parra preached about the strife in Venezuela, the consolations of the Faith and the demands of justice in the Spanish language Mass.
After this, close to 100 youth processed inside wearing light blue mozzettas over surplices, each waving a rose overhead while singing.
Archbishop Parra accepted each rose individually and passed them on to be placed before a large framed image of Our Lady of Guadalupe from Mexico next to the altar. Each youth received a blessing from Archbishop Parra.
Then a few of the youths threw white rose petals to Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Patroness of Latin America, while crying “Viva la Virgen Maria!” and the gathered crowd responded: “Viva!”
After Mass, Archbishop Parra told Catholic Outlook that he is visiting Australia specifically to support the Latin American Catholic community “to preach a retreat to some of them and also to visit each community in Sydney, also in Melbourne.”
Archbishop Parra visited approximately 14 Spanish communities in Sydney.
“Because even though they are in this country and they have very good welcome in this country, they need always the presence of one priest or bishop from our countries to talk with them about many things they want to hear about in our countries,” he said.
The Venezuelan Archbishop shared information about the current political problems in Venezuela.
“In Venezuela we have a very big problem because the government does not want to leave the government and they are against the people.”
“The people don’t like the government. And we have a very big situation of violence and also injustice, we you have many people in gaol, political persons.”
“It’s a dictatorship, the President now in Venezuela, so we are now in a very bad situation in this moment.”
Archbishop Parra said that Australian Catholicism and Latin American Catholicism benefit each other.
“I think both cultures give each another many things. For instance, in our countries most of the people are Catholic, in our countries we have very good, very big veneration to the Holy Virgin Mary.”
“I think these things are very good for Australian culture and also you have many things, many beautiful things in your culture that help us to be more Christian,” he said.
“The Catholic Australian people are Catholic indeed, okay, they really are Catholic. This is very good because maybe in our cultures, our Catholicism is a little bit traditional.”
“Here, when they come here and they have to share with you many things, they got many good things and to reinforce the faith and strengthen their faith,” he said.
The Spanish-speaking Archbishop also shared the joy Latin Americans feel at having a Latin American Holy Father, Pope Francis.
“We feel very happy and we feel that he’s one of us. When he speaks we feel that he is very near to us. He speaks with our language, with our culture. So, this is for us very good,” he said.
Luis Ortiz, one of the lay organisers of the Spanish community in Sydney also spoke to Catholic Outlook.
Luis was very proud to have the annual celebration hosted at his own parish, Good Shepherd Parish, Plumpton. This drew people from Maroubra, Mosman, Mascot, Liverpool, Surry Hills and Dee Why.
“We are very proud to be one of the biggest Catholic Dioceses in Parramatta,” he said.
Luis was overjoyed by the day’s celebration of the Assumption of the Mother of God.
“To us, the Virgin Mary is a part of everyone,” he said.
The grand image of Our Lady of Guadalupe next to the altar was imported from Mexico and Plumpton Parish has the only large outdoor statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Australia, Luis said.
Luis is originally Chilean and was moved by public displays of the faith on a recent holiday to Chile.
“You still see it’s a Catholic country. One of the things I miss is the bells. We can also go through the street in South America [for processions].”
“That is something the old people miss. We could go and scream our love in the streets.”