Australia’s newest Catholic faith community, St Luke’s Parochial District at Marsden Park, has celebrated its first anniversary as a worshipping community.
On April 28, Divine Mercy Sunday, there was standing room only as community members celebrated Mass at 10am to commemorate its first year.
Pastoral Director Deacon Tony Hoban and his wife Annette moved to Marsden Park last year to launch the new community, having previously been a part of Christ the King Parish, North Rocks.
“We have been pleasantly surprised at how people have engaged so well to help grow and develop this new faith community,” Deacon Tony said.
“We feel so lucky to be working with such a wonderful group of people to build a faith community which is so welcoming and inclusive. There is a real sense of vitality and life at St Luke’s,” Annette added.
One of the first things Deacon Tony and Annette did when they arrived was to enlist a group of local people as an advisory group to work with them on planning how the community would launch and grow.
“Some of these people – Tessie James, John Missio and Mark Rupac – have been with us from day one. Along the way, Nina Nunez and Nars Lumba have been wonderful additions to this leadership group,” Deacon Tony said.
“Richard McMahon and Tanya Quinn from the [Diocese of Parramatta] Pastoral Planning Office have provided wonderful support to us and Lisa Bright [Pastoral Associate, Mary Queen of the Family Parish] from Blacktown parish has been very generous in sharing information and resources,” he said.
Deacon Tony and Annette are supported in their ministry by Fr Chris de Souza, Vicar General, Diocese of Parramatta, who is Supervising Priest for the faith community.
St Luke’s currently holds one Mass each Sunday at 10am at St Luke’s Catholic College in Marsden Park. However, the growth in numbers may soon require the addition of an extra Mass.
As Pastoral Director, Deacon Tony can do many things for the community like administration, baptisms and preaching most Sundays, but is unable to celebrate Mass. So, visiting priests say Mass each week for the community.
“We were very lucky last year that the priests of the Order of St Camillus, who serve as hospital chaplains, were able to be celebrants for about half of our Sundays. Other priests in the Central and Western Deaneries also supplied priests to us, as well as some retired and visiting overseas priests,” Deacon Tony said.
“We have had 25 different priests say Mass here in the past year.”
The community started with an average Mass attendance of about 150 in the early months but has grown to an average of between 250 and 300 people.
Each week, construction commences on an average of five new houses in Marsden Park, so it is predicted that population will continue to grow rapidly. St Luke’s hopes to encourage many of these new arrivals to be part of its Catholic community.
Mark Rupac, one of the advisory group members, said “I feel a sense of achievement that we’ve overcome the ‘start up’ anxieties. I feel a sense of momentum. We’ve gotten this far and it’s clear that there is a strong Catholic Community that we can build on.”
Highlights of the year have included many ‘firsts’ for the faith community – its first community BBQ and chat event, first Mass, first Baptism, first sacramental programs of Reconciliation and Confirmation, first youth group, first community night and first Christmas Carols and nativity event, in collaboration with St Luke’s Catholic College. Even though it had to be postponed for several days because of thunderstorms, the carols event was an outstanding success, attracting more than 600 people.
Children’s liturgy is an important part of the Sunday Mass, with more than 60 children attending some weeks. So is hospitality, with morning tea after every Mass and a special ‘International Food Fair’ once a month where people from a variety of cultural groups bring food to share from their culture of origin. Building a social media presence is another area of increasing focus for St Luke’s.
During the year, the community has also supported good causes such as Hawkesbury Helping Hands, Vinnies (St Vincent de Paul Society) and Kairos prison ministry.
Looking forward to the year ahead, plans include having the first public Alpha program in September and October as part of a focus to create an outward-looking, evangelising community.
Continuing to grow and develop ministry leadership capacities is another.
Developing funds for a future church building is another key goal for many people in the community.
“When we look back, it seems like a lot has happened in the past year, but we also know there is so much more to do. I’m sure that, with the continued support of the wonderful members of this community, we can continue to bring more people into a deeper relationship with Jesus here in Marsden Park,” Deacon Tony said.