The Southern Cross The Southern Cross

Read the latest edition. Latest edition

Moving farewell to Capuchins at Newton


More than 300 people from the Newton Catholic community gathered to say goodbye to the Capuchin friars who, after more than 70 years, have left the parish of St Francis of Assisi.

Print article

The event in the parish hall on Sunday January 21 was festive but full of melancholy to say goodbye to Fr Eldridge and Fr John.

John Di Fede made a heartfelt and touching speech that retraced the 70 years of the Capuchins in the parish and what was achieved, memories that will be told in a book soon to be published. He paid special tribute to the last Capuchins at the parish, Fr John Spiteri and Fr Eldridge D’Souza.

“Fr Eldridge was not only our parish priest but also a politician and a builder,” Mr Di Fede said.

“It isn’t easy to summarise everything he brought to our community in a few words.

“He has carried out so many projects in these few years, as never before in the history of our parish. In recent years, he has worked tirelessly to make improvements: the statue of San Francesco in front of the church, the gate, the air conditioning in the parish hall, and the scene of continuous parties.

“He has cultivated relationships with local, state and federal authorities. We could say he recently went to Italy on a mission. In a few days he visited Milan, Venice, Florence, Assisi and the Basilica of San Francesco, Abruzzo, Marche, Puglia, Campania, Molise and Rome.

“No other priest from our parish has visited Montevergine, Padre Pio or San Francesco…in a few days, he has been to all these places. Then, returning to Adelaide in September, he organised the feast for the Madonna of Montevergine.

“He did not go on holiday in Italy; he was never tired of visiting the places most dear to his many migrant parishioners who in Australia continued the religious traditions of their native countries.

“He didn’t miss a town; he started his days at six in the morning. Everywhere, he phoned some parishioners here in Adelaide to tell them that he was in their homeland. Fr Eldridge proved himself to be a true missionary.”

Mr Di Fede said as soon as Fr Eldridge arrived in the parish “years ago”, the Indian priest was introduced to the Mass in Italian and immediately started to study this language with the “precious help” of Professor Luigi Stanziano.

“How can we thank him? We will never forget him,” Mr Di Fede said.

Fr Eldridge also demonstrated sensitivity and compassion in celebrating the numerous funerals of the older community members and brought dozens of young people, children and grandchildren of first-generation migrants back to church.

“You will always be our friend, and we will all be here waiting for you, always, with open arms,” Steve Maglieri said.

Ralph Ruggiero has worked closely with Fr Eldridge, forming a great team: “We had some wonderful moments together; I always knew that, for anything, I could count on Fr Eldridge. We are very sad about your departure, just as we are very sad that the Capuchin Order is also about to leave our parish after so many years.”

Fr John said that Newton was the first parish to which he was assigned many years ago when he was a young friar. He reiterated to those present that Fr Eldridge was a great, faithful and affectionate friend of all, during these years of apostolate in the parish of Saint Francis: “A tireless man, always dedicated to his work and to his parishioners, who overcame every most demanding expectation.”

Finally, Fr Eldridge spoke: “I thank each of you from the bottom of my heart. I haven’t done anything in these years, we did it together. For this, we must give each other a big round of applause. Special thanks go to Luigi Stanziano for teaching me Italian, all the religious festival committees for involving me, John Di Fede for accompanying me in these years and during my recent trip to Italy, Steve Maglieri for allowing me to say Mass in his hometown, Sepino, and to have supported our celebrations over the years. And a huge thank you to Ralph Ruggiero, his wife and the entire team of volunteers working in the kitchen for all the beautiful moments spent and organised together.”

“Thanks to all the parishioners of all nationalities and the many young people who have attended the parish recently and participated in the Masses,” he continued.

“You will all always be in my prayers. You will always be in my heart; Newton’s parish is where I spent most of my apostolate. Thank you again for your support, help and trust in me and the Capuchin Order.”

Fr Eldridge acknowledged the invaluable support from local politicians over the years including Steven Marshall, John Gardner and Vincent Tarzia who was present at the farewell, as well as Campbelltown City Council and many others.

A parishioner originally from Vietnam came forward and expressed his gratitude for the support that Fr Eldridge gave to his family and to new arrivals and offered him a poster made by his family.

With the help of many volunteers, Ralph Ruggiero organised a buffet meal, Serafino Maglieri donated his wines and the Campania Club provided delicious pizzas.

Story courtesy of Il Globo newspaper.

More Local stories

Loading next article