The visitation team of Archbishop Philip Wilson, Vicar General Fr Philip Marshall, Chancellor Heather Carey and Director of Ministry and Leadership Teresa Lynch spent several days in the parish, accompanied by parish priests Father Maurice Shinnick and Father Long Hai Nguyen.
The visitation began on June 17 with a Vigil Mass and concluded with a Mass celebrated by the Archbishop at the Vietnamese Martyr’s Community at Mater Dei Church.
Throughout the week the team met with members of the St Margaret Mary’s, Mater Dei, St Patrick’s and Vietnamese Martyr’s communities, as well as visiting the three parish schools – St Patrick’s, Whitefriars and St Margaret Mary’s – and talking with staff and parents. At St Patrick’s they attended Mass and were able to tour and witness the wonderful work of a special unit for autistic students.
They met with the Religious and Special Ministers of the Eucharist, representatives from the local St Vincent de Paul Society, went to see the frail and elderly in their homes and visited the Bene Aged Care Facility at Woodville.
At a parish meeting on the evening of Wednesday June 21, Archbishop Wilson told the gathering he was there to learn from them and was pleased to hear the many positive stories from parishioners who had come from different countries.
Historically, Croydon Park has always been a multicultural parish – post World War II many Italians and Polish settled in the area and today the congregation includes large numbers from the Vietnamese, Indian, African and Albanian communities. Recent statistics show that 77 per cent of parishioners were born overseas and 86 per cent speak a language other than English at home.
As the visitation team learned, this acceptance of all cultures was a driving force behind the parish establishing a Mercy Care program last year.
Following contact by a psychologist from STTARS, an organisation supporting victims of torture and trauma, regarding a refugee couple in the parish who had lost their Centrelink payments due to a change in their visa status, Fr Maurice appealed to the parish for their help.
With no means of supporting themselves, Fr Maurice asked if 40 people would commit to making a $10 weekly contribution for six months in order to pay their rent. What followed was a community that banded together for the common cause – and Mercy Care was born.
“There was a wonderful response from parishioners – more than 40 people made the weekly commitment and at the same time more than 50 people made one-off donations amounting to more than $8000,” said Fr Maurice.
Since then the weekly contributions have continued – despite the original couple no longer needing assistance – and this has enabled the parish to support others who are in need.
One of those helped by Mercy Care is Kingsley Mendis, 65, an asylum seeker from Sri Lanka. He left his homeland in 2012, fearing for his life due to his involvement with the United National Party and his financial support for various humanitarian works. His affiliations saw him attacked by vigilantes and both his legs were broken. After recuperating in a Buddhist temple he fled to Australia, leaving behind his wife and two children who he believes are still in danger because of his actions.
Kingsley settled in McLaren Vale and about six months ago moved into the Croydon Park parish, where he felt a great sense of welcome.
With his refugee visa application denied, he had no way to support himself while his case went to appeal and through Mercy Care, the parish stepped in to pay his rent.
“I am so grateful for the support I’ve had from Sister Elaine (Treagus RSM) and Sister Catherine (Seward RSM) and Fr Maurice. It’s been the greatest thing and they are so very, very kind,” he said.
While his appeal has now been upheld, Kingsley is still waiting for his visa to be approved. As a way of thanking the parish he is now helping in Mercy Care and volunteering at the local Vinnies.
Fr Maurice said Kingsley’s story highlighted the care of his fellow parishioners and the sense of community within the parish.
“Mercy Care was introduced as a time-limited activity, with the simple goal of helping one family with some money, but it has developed beyond this,” he said.
“In addition to financial assistance, the committee has become aware of other needs – the most pressing being the difficulty in getting work.
“The committee also identified the need for support and connection, especially for newcomers to the parish. Committee members have visited the people, shared social occasions with them, met up with them at Mass and have given them ‘extras’ like sports gear for the children.
“So Mercy Care has developed beyond a merely financial activity to be truly a way of being community, of loving our neighbours, of being the body of Christ.”
The next parish visitation will be with the parish of Bordertown (Bordertown-Kingston-Keith) on August 6-13.Jump to next article