Archbishop Philip Wilson and Mrs Heather Carey met with some of the playgroup participants during their visit to the parish which comprises Our Lady of Victories and Our Lady of Grace churches.
Established about six years ago in response to an increasing number of young families coming into the area, the playgroup includes several families from overseas with no extended family support.
Parish pastoral associate Orla Wright said through the parish baptism program and outreach work with refugee families, she and parishioner Kate Pittolo had identified a need for the playgroup.
“There are refugees living in apartments with three or four children and no space to play,” she said.
“And there are a lot of young families from overseas who don’t have family support.”
About 29 children attend the twice weekly sessions in St Mary’s Hall and Orla said the word had spread without any advertising except through the parish newsletter.
“It’s been very successful,” she said. “I’ve seen parents making play dates with other parents.”
Another important initiative in the parish has been the introduction last year of the Alpha program which is aimed at people who have “broken away” from the Church or have never had any experience of the Catholic faith.
Alpha team member Phil Murdoch said he and six other parishioners had been trained to run the weekly two-hour sessions which follow a shared meal. Each week participants view a video on questions such as ‘is there more to life than this?’, ‘who is Jesus?’ and ‘why did Jesus die for us?’ and then break into group discussions.
The inaugural program attracted 11 participants, including three people who were not practising their faith and who are now participating in parish life.
The sessions were held in someone’s home so as to be “not too churchy” and were run by lay people to ensure participants were comfortable about “opening up”.
Mr Murdoch said the team members got as much out of the program as participants. “It really lifts our spirits and re-fires our own faith,” he said.
Archbishop Wilson, a proponent of the Alpha program, met with the Glenelg group during the visitation and was pleased to hear about its progress.
The visitation concluded with the Archbishop celebrating Sunday Mass and opening the recently refurbished St Mary’s Hall.
Before blessing the hall and unveiling a plaque, Archbishop Wilson said the parish hall had always been an important part of the social life of the parish and the place where many a Catholic had met their future spouse at a local dance.
“It’s equally important for our parishes today to have a really strong social dimension to their lives and this is a great space for doing that,” he said.
Parish priest Fr Anthony Kain said the timing of the visitation coincided with the conclusion of a five-year strategic planning process.
“It has been a great process of generating improvements to our parish space and ministries that will help us to be part of the mission of Christ in this time and place,” he said.
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