After years of hope, prayers, and even a letter to the Pope, Kenthurst parish’s dream of a new church have finally come true.
“God is truly present here.”
These words from Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, rung true as the community of St Madeline Sophie Barat Parish, Kenthurst, celebrated the opening of their new church.
Parishioners young and old gathered on Sunday 24 November for an emotional ceremony to celebrate a parish dream 33 years in the making.
“It’s terrific [to have a church], it’s what we’ve always dreamed about. From the very beginning, we dreamed about having a proper church, and it’s now complete,” former parish priest Fr Chris Dixon told Catholic Outlook.
Such was the significance of this celebration, not all attendees could fit into the brand new building, with dozens of people participating in the liturgy in the church courtyard.
“Let us go rejoicing into the house of the Lord, even if not all of us can fit into this beautiful new church. What a sight to behold,” Bishop Vincent joked at the beginning of his homily.
Bishop Vincent was the principal celebrant during the dedication of the church, with a beaming parish priest Fr Vincent (Vince) Savarimuthu by his side and Fr Chris among those concelebrating Mass.
“Today’s celebration is ultimately a celebration of a community. In other words, it is not just a physical building, but the kind of church that we desire to be,” Bishop Vincent said.
The ceremony began in the old church, which is the school hall of St Madeline’s Primary School. Parishioners then processed from the old church to the new church, where Patrick Tuttle, Chair of the Parish Council, presented Bishop Vincent with the keys to the church, which were then passed to Fr Vince.
View images from the St Madeleine Sophie Barat Parish, Kenthurst church blessing here.
The new baptismal font was blessed by Bishop Vincent before he sprinkled holy water throughout the church.
A relic of St Thérèse of Lisieux was placed and sealed into the altar before Bishop Vincent anointed the altar with the Oil of Chrism as Fr Vincent blessed the corners of the church.
During his thank you speech following the Eucharistic celebration, an emotional Fr Vince hoped that the new church will strengthen the community in its mission.
“It has been a great journey for all of us, and God has made it possible to witness this historic event in the faith journey of St Madeline’s parish community,” Fr Vince said.
“We have prayed for more than a year that our church should be a home where all are welcomed, nourished and empowered to be the face of Jesus.
“Let us all build up our community to this effect by our witness to faith and God’s love.
“We look forward to many years of the goodness of the Lord in our lives, and those who will come after us. United, we shall serve the Lord and the community,” Fr Vince said.
In his speech, Fr Vince also made special mention of parishioner Maria Aiossa, who was one of the driving forces passionately striving for a church. Maria, unfortunately, passed away in August 2018, a few weeks after the first sod for the new building was turned.
Joe Aiossa, Maria’s husband, dedicated the marble altar to his wife, and explained after the ceremony her passion and dedication for a new church.
“She went to the bishop, and she even wrote to the Pope in Rome, she fought for thirty years, and now it’s a reality.
“I don’t think there would be any other person more happy than her. She’d be the happiest woman in Australia,” Joe explained.
At the conclusion of Mass, Bishop Vincent announced that Fr Vince would be appointed parish priest for another six-year term, to the delight and raucous applause of the congregation.
A community celebratory lunch was held following Mass.
Sandra Tabone, a parishioner of twenty years, said she hopes the opening of the new church will bring more people into the community and into the parish.
“We had a church before in our school hall, but I think [the new church] is going to bring a lot more people into our parish.
“Everything was just beautiful today. It brought a lot of emotional tears just to see everyone there and seeing all the priests there on the altar for support,” she said.
Fr Chris said, “We started off this parish trying to dream of a place where people really feel they belong, at home, where they receive a lot of support and they’re able to pray, pray together and for one another with God.
“I hope that the parish continues to grow and be the sort of parish we always dreamed it would be.
“I hardly congratulate Fr Vince, he’s done a great job doing what he’s done so far, and we’ll see what the next six years brings,” Fr Chris said.
The Federal Member for Berowra, Julian Leeser, who was in attendance at the ceremony, gave congratulatory comments in Parliament House, Canberra, the following day.
“The opening of a new church building is a sign of confidence in, and hope for, the future. The church is the culmination of 20 years of work by the community, who wanted to create a more permanent sanctuary.
“The new church is not only functional, but beautiful, and I hope it provides years of worship and inspiration for our local Catholic community. Congratulations to the community of St Madeline Sophie Barat,” he said.
View images from the St Madeleine Sophie Barat Parish, Kenthurst church blessing here or click below.