By Jordan Grantham, Catholic Outlook, March 2017
Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish at Wentworthville is a thriving part of the Diocese of Parramatta.
The church building is now in its 60th year and the community has a unique legacy, having shared the Carmelite order’s spirituality with tens of thousands of people.
In 2002, the relic of St Therese of Lisieux toured Australia and was hosted by the parish. Tens of thousands flocked to see and pray before ‘The Little Flower’.
Lyn Bryant has been the Parish Secretary for almost 30 years. The visit of St Therese has been a highlight of her time in the parish.
“In excess of 30,000 people came through our church,” she said. “It was really well organised and worked like clockwork,” with police, traffic controllers and volunteers present.
Many had an opportunity to express devotion to St Therese and pray for those in need. Some people have claimed miraculous healing following the visit.
There were “things that tug at your heart strings,” Lyn said. A waist height basket was provided for people to place notes with special prayer intentions and it was filled. “Some people brought pictures of children, obviously in terrible distress, with messages attached,” she said.
When they shut the church at midnight, there was a moment of great stillness and peace when only Lyn, her friend Diane and the clergy were present with St Therese.
World Youth Day 2008 was another highlight when many Americans stayed in the parish. Lyn recalls giving pilgrims brown scapulars, a popular devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
A parish appeal is underway to provide new furnishings for the altar when the planned refurbishment of the church is completed later this year.
The church has a beautiful organ, purchased more than 40 years ago from an old church in the UK. On display in the parish centre under a cross carved by a local artist is a stone from Stella Maris Monastery on Mount Carmel in Israel.
The monastery dates from the 12th Century and contains the cave of the Prophet Elijah, patron and founder of the Carmelite order.
Lyn has seen the demographic of the parish community grow and change over the years.
A parishioner, whose family has a landscape gardening business, created a Memorial Garden on the Garfield Street side of the church. Granite slabs have been mounted on the wall, where parishioners are able to place memorial plaques in remembrance of loved ones.
“You don’t realise just how much it means to people,” Lyn said. It provides closure for some and for others, a place to come to and spend quiet time with their memories.
On the eastern side of the church is the Carmelite Priory, the home of the Carmelite priests who care for the parish, as well housing the administration centre of the parish.
In residence are the Parish Priest, Fr Denis Andrew OCarm, Assistant Priests Fr John Powell OCarm and Fr Martinho Da Costa OCarm, and Fr Anthony Scerri OCarm, who is priest in residence.
Fr Martinho is from the East Timor Province of the Carmelite Fathers and has been at the parish for about nine months.
“I enjoy the parish, it’s very vibrant,” he said. “You get to know a lot of the parents whose children attend Our Lady of Mount Carmel Primary School next door.”
In East Timor, “the Faith is simpler, it’s a less developed country,” he said. Fr Martinho said East Timor has huge rosary pilgrimages on the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima on 13 October. The month of May is also devoted to Mary.
Our Lady of Mount Carmel Primary School was founded by the Sisters of Mercy in 1920. With the retirement of Sr Margaret Harrison RSM in 2004, a lay principal was appointed for the first time. Prior to this, the principal had always been a Mercy sister.
To read about Fr Denis Andrew OCarm: marathons and fatherhood, click here.
Posted on 28 March 2017.