Some schools, a few hospitals, an entire parish: All in a day’s work

Thursday 8 February 2018

Media and Communications Office

For this busy Heidelberg priest, running a parish involves a lot more than just daily Masses. He’s on call to no less than four hospitals and two schools, and his pager barely leaves him alone, day or night. Not surprising, given that the hospitals under his wing include the Austin, the Mercy and the Repat.

For Fr Mario Zammit, however, parish life is a great grace. ‘I live and work in a beautiful, supportive community,’ he smiles. ‘And I have this wonderful church in which to celebrate the liturgy.’

 He points towards the classic William Wardell-designed bluestone church, standing in St John’s immaculately maintained garden grounds. ‘Our parish is one of Melbourne’s oldest,’ boasts Fr Mario, ‘and our church dates right back to our beginnings in 1851. It’s a fabulous place for worship.’

Fr Zammit spent time with us this week, talking us through the tasks and the challenges that go to make up the life of a parish priest in the Melbourne suburb of Heidelberg, where most of his parishioners are either Australians or Italians, with a growing number of Indians coming to live in its leafy streets.

His own experience of teaching and unpacking the Catholic faith for newcomers to Catholicism has, he gratefully acknowledges, enhanced and grown his own! ‘As I find new ways and new words to express and explain core Catholic teachings,’ Fr Mario muses, ‘I find myself coming to a deeper understanding and appreciation too. It’s win-win!’

We particularly appreciated Fr Mario’s vision for the younger members of his church and school community, who have always occupied a prominent place in the parish. ‘I insist that the young children have their own very important space in our worshipping community,’ he says. ‘No matter what noise they make or what language they sing in, this, as Pope Francis said, is how they pray!’

St John’s Heidelberg is at 52 Yarra Street, Heidelberg. For Mass times, click here.
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