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History repeats...


More than 150 years ago a small group of Irish settlers on Yorke Peninsula set about building a church for their growing community, culminating in the opening of St Francis of Assisi Church by Bishop Sheil on December 12 1869.

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Catholics in the area that was to become known as the Copper Coast would have been outnumbered by the predominantly Methodist Cornish population but their determination to practice their faith and pass it down to their children was unwavering.

Fast forward 150 years and a small group of southern Indian migrants have generously financed the establishment of their own Syro-Malabar Catholic Church in Elizabeth South, with the same aim of carrying on their faith tradition in a new land.

Interestingly, the new church has been constructed in an industrial area of Adelaide which would have employed Catholic immigrants from post-war Europe, many of whom have contributed greatly to our parishes and migrant chaplaincies. With the demise of the car manufacturing industry in SA, there is an abundance of empty factories and warehouses, one of which is now flourishing as a place of worship for migrants working predominately in the IT and health sectors.

Similarly, the influx of Vietnamese refugees four decades ago has seen the local Catholic community go from strength to strength, with the 1200-seat Our Lady of the Boat People Church at Pooraka dedicated on September 29.

The vibrancy and commitment of these multicultural faith communities makes for a welcome change to the prevailing negativity among many other Australian Catholics who feel let down by their leaders amidst the shocking revelations of the Royal Commission and are worried about the future of the Church they know and love.

Some believe the Church is out of step with contemporary society, others would like to see a much more rigid approach to doctrine and traditions. But many more are just plain worried about the dwindling attendances at Mass, the shortage of priests, and the lack of families and children engaged in their parishes.

Contrast this to the absolute joy and pride of the Syro-Malabar community as adults and children participated with gusto in the singing and chanting in a three-hour plus consecration and Holy Mass in their new church!

So when we start worrying about what’s wrong with our Church, we should also remember what makes it right for others, and how much energy and dedication has been put into sustaining the faith all over the world, including our own little patch here in Adelaide.

Who knows, in 150 years’ time the Syro-Malabar St Euphrasia parish may be celebrating the anniversary of their church and perhaps there will be a new group of Catholic migrants doing their utmost to create a community of believers somewhere in Adelaide. This should inspire us to stay positive and do all that we can to make sure they are not alone.


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