By Emilie Ng
BEENLEIGH parishioners Therese Flynn-Clarke, Monica Boucek and Marleine Azar once considered themselves foreigners in their local Catholic community.
But on the cusp of the parish’s 60th anniversary, these three women now call St Patrick’s nothing but home.
Their first encounters and the stories of many Beenleigh Catholic parishioners will be published in a memorial book in time for release on March 17, the parish foundation date.
Mrs Flynn-Clarke moved from Cairns to Beenleigh with her husband David Clarke in 1996.
“I only knew my in-laws at Redland Bay and I was very lonely, I have to say,” Mrs Flynn-Clarke said.
With no knowledge of Beenleigh or even Brisbane, Mrs Flynn-Clarke hoped a Catholic community would lift her spirits.
A phone call to former parish priest Fr Dan Grundy directed the couple to St Patrick’s.
“I came to a 9am Mass, and I was very pregnant with my daughter Miriam, and I was sitting there and I had this sense that I’ve come home, I’m in the right place,” Mrs Flynn-Clarke said.
“And then we sang Here I Am Lord, and I just balled my eyes out.
“It was this overwhelming sense of this is where I’m meant to be.”
Mrs Boucek, originally a Lutheran from Sweden, said she “rediscoverd God” through the parish’s multicultural group when she joined in 1996.
“I had only been to the church for a couple of funerals really; I had nothing to do with the Catholic Church before that,” Mrs Boucek said.
Mrs Azar invited Mrs Boucek to a multicultural group meeting and around four years later, the Swedish-born woman became a Catholic.
“St Patrick’s is where I became a Catholic,” Mrs Boucek said.
“That’s really where I rediscovered God.”
Mrs Azar and her husband Tony Azar moved to Beenleigh from Spain in 1980, aged 21 and “not knowing a word of English”.
“I had no-one here,” Mrs Azar said.
“We had some sad times, because you need someone when you’ve got nobody.
“Coming from another world to Australia, to tell you the truth, I felt like I was in a spaceship.
“I looked at the TV and thought, what are they saying?
“And Beenleigh back then, it was quiet, had the farm look, I saw horses in the streets where I lived.
“It was a new world to me.”
Fortunately, the Maronite Catholic lived only a few blocks from St Patrick’s church, and would turn up regularly for Mass despite the language barrier.
“I felt welcomed,” Mrs Azar said.
“I felt at home.
“I have my Lebanese churches – my husband is Orthodox, and I’m Maronite – but I don’t feel at home.
“My home is here.”
Mrs Azar said she and her husband hope to live at the parish even after they die.
“I want to be buried here so I can still hear the same sound, the same music, the same singing,” Mrs Azar said.
St Patrick’s Beenleigh parish will celebrate its 60th anniversary at a Mass with Archbishop Mark Coleridge on Tuesday, March 17, St Patrick’s feast day.
Former and present parishioners are invited to share their stories with Therese Flynn-Clarke at firstname.lastname@example.org.