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Book captures church’s role in multicultural SA


The launch of a commemorative book to celebrate the 70th anniversary of St Francis of Assisi Church in Newton parish attracted a crowd of dignitaries to Parliament House on April 10.

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Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Zoe Bettison MP and Premier Peter Malinauskas were among the guest speakers at the event. Fr Eldridge D’Souza OFM Cap, former Capuchin friar at the parish (now based in New South Wales) also addressed the gathering.

“This is a really important occasion,” the Premier said.

“Our migrant history here in South Australia is exceptional. It’s one we should be proud of and it’s really important, especially at this junction in time, that we start to recall our history because young people aren’t automatically aware of it.”

The Premier went on to acknowledge the role migrants played in creating the multicultural South Australia of today and the sacrifices they made when they arrived, often with nothing to their name.

“The launch of the 70th Anniversary of the St Francis of Assisi is particularly important because it’s not just the history of a singular church, it’s the history of a story that led to the creation of a community. A powerful community that lives with great health and great strength to this day,” he said.

The book is the culmination of more than five years of research and writing by Emma Luxardo and graphic design by Victoria Placentino.

As history goes, it is an enlightening read.

The Premier outlined how in 1949 the then Archbishop of Adelaide asked the Capuchins to assist with the pastoral care for the increasing number of Italian migrants who had started arriving in SA, particularly since World War II.

“The community started to grow at a rapid pace and in September 1953, the Catholic newspaper The Southern Cross, called upon all South Australians to join the Capuchin Fathers and the Italian community in celebrating their new church,” he explained.

“Then in October 1953, the Franciscan Capuchin Order had its first Mass at the newly built church which simultaneously served as the first Italian Migrant Centre.”

More than 3000 people attended that Mass.

“Given the size of the population of Adelaide at the time, that is an extraordinary number which demonstrates the power of the church more broadly but particularly this parish to be a source of community,” the Premier said.

“The story of its evolution has been captured beautifully within the book. What I think is central to the recording of the 70th anniversary, is an appreciation of the role of the parish as it has evolved over the course of the last 70 years.

“Today, it is more than just a location for festas, congregations and significant and special events for the community. It remains a place of worship and allows people to contemplate their future and their culture and tradition.”

The Premier spoke of the regret with which he has observed faith play a diminishing role in so many people’s modern-day lives.

“That is not to say it can’t play a role in the future and provide people with a sense of purpose, particularly in the difficult moments we all endure throughout the course of our lives.

“I hope this book and the history contained within it serves as a practical example to future generations of why valuing cultural tradition, faith and language is as important to them as it has been to their generations of forebearers.”

John Di Fede, president of the Festa Committee at the Newton parish, presented all dignitaries attending the event with a copy of the book.

The 70th Anniversary of the St Francis of Assisi is available at the Newton parish office. More details are available at

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