WHEN Fr Stephen Pilly arrived at Inala in 2014, he made it his personal mission to reach out to the marginalised individuals and families in the neighbourhood.
Fr Pilly, a Divine Word Missionary priest, opened his heart and church to the poor, particularly refugees who had fled their countries for a better life in Australia.
“As Inala is considered a low socio-economic area, there are lots of poor people, refugees and downtrodden here,” he said.
“When I first came here I wanted my focus to be on reaching out to the poor, the needy and refugees.”
Fr Pilly saw the fruits of his outreach when large numbers of refugees put their hand up to get involved in last week’s Multicultural Mass and parish festival to mark the community’s 60th anniversary.
The Inala parish priest said among the parishioners, the poor and downtrodden were welcomed with open arms.
“When I am with them and listen to the poor, I feel a lot of joy and happiness in my heart,” he said.
“Our focus is to make people experience the spirit of ‘belongingness’ in the parish.”
The parish showcased that same spirit during the Mass when celebrant Bishop Brian Heenan, who was an assistant priest at Inala for four years, invited the congregation of 2000 people to pray the Lord’s Prayer in their own native tongue.
“The spirit of unity was amazing,” Fr Pilly said.
He said the local Buddhists, Muslims and Christians from other denominations in Inala also received an open invitation to the anniversary celebrations as St Mark’s was as much their community.
“We are accepting of everyone as Jesus accepted everyone, especially the marginalised and downtrodden,” Fr Pilly said.
Bishop Heenan said it was “the best multicultural Mass” he had ever celebrated.
St Mark’s Inala opened in 1956 under the care of the Divine Word Missionaries.
In the early days the parish went by the name “Parish of the Divine Word” but took on St Mark’s when the present church was blessed and opened in 1958 by Archbishop James Duhig.
The parish school operated by the Sisters of Mercy living in Goodna opened its first classrooms on January 29, 1963, to a total 150 pupils.
When the Sisters of Mercy eventually left Inala, their convent became the building blocks for the parish office and presbytery.
The sisters were welcomed back in the parish for the 60th anniversary celebrations.
More than 2000 Catholics worship at St Mark’s Inala each weekend, including a high number of refugees from Vietnam, Sri Lanka and the Middle East.
By Emilie Ng