Raimie Caramancion attended the Diocese of Parramatta celebration of the 108th Vatican’s World Day of Migrants and Refugees, held at Mary Queen of the Family Parish Blacktown, and shares her experience.
Walking into Mass at Mary Queen of the Family Parish in Blacktown, I was met with vibrant and welcoming chatter amongst the community, different cultures, friendly faces and warm reunions. What better way than to celebrate in Blacktown – one of the most culturally diverse communities in Sydney?
On Sunday 25 September at 2pm, the Diocese of Parramatta marked the annual international day of prayer – the 108th Vatican’s World Day of Migrants and Refugees – with a Mass celebrated by Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta. Right from the start, the entrance hymn led by the South Sudanese community with African drums and maracas, lifted our spirits as everyone sang together, “Allelujah! Allelujah!”
In his homily, Bishop Vincent acknowledged the horror of the Indigenous Stolen Generation – refugees in our own country and “to make sure that the injustices of the past are not forgotten and that truth-telling is vital to Australia’s future going forward.”
Looking at the wider world, Bishop Vincent challenged us to listen and respond to the cry of the oppressed and vulnerable, “to place the social justice and the care of the vulnerable at the centre of our lives. It warns us against self-centred living, personal gain and indifference to the cry of the oppressed.”
Connecting this special day with the gospel, Bishop Vincent spoke about the rich man who continued “business as usual even though Lazarus was dying at the door… the poor were outside his gates”. All were encouraged to look truthfully within themselves and to be catalysts of Jesus’ peace. “The Gospel of Jesus Christ spurs us on to seek justice for those who suffer injustice, equality for those discriminated against, hospitality for the unwelcomed, shelter for the homeless, food for the hungry and the fullness of life for all,” he said.
Celebrations continued at the CatholicCare Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains (WSBM) All Saints of Africa Centre led by Peace, Justice and Ecology facilitator, James Atanasius.
Cultural music pumped and guests and locals met one another. Members from the Diocese of Parramatta’s refugee advocacy group “Walking with Refugees” including CatholicCare WSBM, the House of Welcome, Jesuit Refugee Services and Vinnies greeted all who came along.
Guests lined up for an incredible experience of South Sudanese food made from green produce grown in the CatholicCare WSBM All Saints of Africa garden. Centre workers Livia, Rafa Godo and Deacon John Cinya from the parish proudly shared homemade dishes such as black-eyed greens, Chinese broccoli, and porridge – a dish only prepared for special occasions.
When asked about her experience as a migrant coming to Australia, Rafa shared that it was “very challenging” and that “everything was different, especially education but even parenting.” She recounted the difference in her children’s schooling where they were faced with learning a new language. In the midst of this, her experience of community was life-changing, “I came to Blacktown and never left,” she says.
In Blacktown she found a connection with South Sudanese families and the organization Marist 180 who provided social support. The impact of close support empowered her to be the main CatholicCare Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains Family Support Worker running key programs for the All Saints of Africa Centre today.
Catholic Care WSBM’s Celia Vagg commented on the value the Centre provides the community. “They love it, they’re enjoying the space to come together, learn and share together,” she said.
The theme for this year’s World Day of Migrant and Refugees was, “Building the future with Migrants and Refugees”.
What an invitation to step outside our comfort zone and share goodness and faithfulness to our brothers and sisters on the peripheries of society – to connect together now and for the future to come!
Watch: Pope Francis’ video on the 2022 WDMR theme here or read more on the website migrants-refugees.va.
Email: James Atanasious from the Diocese of Parramatta Peace, Justice and Ecology office at firstname.lastname@example.org
Listen: James Atanasious shares his story on the Soul Food Podcast (Pastoral Formation). Hear about his experience in a refugee camp which shaped his character and passion for working with migrants and refugees in the local area. Spotify link available here.
See photos from the 2022 World Day of Migrants and Refugee celebrations in the Diocese of Parramatta here.
The Catholic Care WSBM All Saints of Africa Centre is located in Allawah St Blacktown. Twice a week it offers drop-ins for general and financial counselling. It also offers a homework club, as well as English and citizenship classes open to all. For more information contact Rafa Gado Rafa.Godo@ccss.org.au
Raimie Caramancion is a freelance writer in the Diocese of Parramatta.