A NEW Church year heralded the amalgamation of four parishes to form Ipswich Catholic Community.
The First Sunday of Advent Mass marked the official amalgamation of St Joseph’s, North Ipswich; Immaculate Heart of Mary, Leichhardt; St Brigid’s, Rosewood; and St Mary’s, Ipswich, in “a diverse cultural celebration”, pastoral assistant Benjamin Leschke said.
Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge celebrated the Mass and members of the school community offered a Samoan custom called Enthronement of the Word before the Sunday readings were proclaimed.
The process and the amalgamation Mass were well supported.
“In April this year, in a follow-up to the South Country Deanery visit of the episcopal council, it was suggested that the parishes of the Ipswich Catholic Community start the canonical process of amalgamation,” Mr Leschke said.
“Face-to-face consultation sessions were held in all parish churches during August to allow parishioners to hear about the process and raise any questions or concerns. Approximately four-hundred parishioners participated and the overwhelming feedback was positive … (and) many felt this was a logical step so we could get on with our mission.”
The newly-formed animation committee, or parish pastoral council, supported amalgamation, Mr Leschke said.
“St Mary’s parish office had become the hub of administration when staff from each of the four parishes came together in one location about four years ago,” he said.
“The parish office staff and priests regularly offered pastoral and administrative support to the wider area since 2015 but, through co-operation, this support extends back to around 2005 when the declining number of priests started to be felt across the Ipswich region.
“The new parish consists of 11 churches, four primary schools and two secondary colleges.
“A freshened logo was also created to further illustrate community co-operation.”
Franciscan Father Stephen Bliss is pastor of Ipswich Catholic Community, and Fr John Hong and Fr Thomas Zaranski are associate pastors.
Timber from pews in each of the four parish churches has been used to create four new processional crosses with the San Damiano crucifix.
“The San Damiano Cross is the same type of crucifix Saint Francis of Assisi gazed upon when he was called by God to rebuild the Church,” Mr Leschke said.
“This is a very important symbol for our new parish community and each cross also has a stand made from an old railway sleeper, a strong symbol from Ipswich and for many families whose parents, grandparents and great-grandparents worked in the railway.”