St Albans South parish: a multicultural, nourishing community

Tuesday 12 September 2017

Media and Communications Office 
Recently, Melbourne Catholic visited the Holy Eucharist parish, a vibrant and pulsating environment where multiculturalism is warmly embraced and community comes first.

The parish, located in St Albans South, was initiated in 1970 and soon after saw Father Anthony Guelen appointed as parish priest, serving until 1983.

Fr Guelen oversaw the fundraising for the Holy Eucharist church and keenly fostered a sense of community spirit that remains effervescent today, illustrated by the parish’s burgeoning foodbank. The project is also keenly supported by the current parish priest, Fr Tuan Anh Do.
Parishioners, Antonia Barecca and Mary Giuffrida say the Holy Eucharist parish was once a very different place.

‘St Albans was empty,’ says Antonia, ‘when they first started to build the houses there was no church. They would have the Mass in the (community) hall. They would put the altar on the stage and then take it off when they’d have other things (on). At the weekend, they’d make it a church (again).’

‘It was a lot of work but nobody complained. Everybody put in as much as they could, (both in) time and money and we built a good community.'

The parish is highly diverse, highlighted by the church’s various Masses that are held in English, Filipino, Samoan, Sudanese and Vietnamese.

‘In ’86, I started to come to church every week and I always felt very welcome, straight away. They’d ask you where you’re from and everybody was really good,’ reveals Mary.
Xuan Duong, a parishioner who emigrated from Vietnam, says that the multiculturalism within the parish serves an educational purpose and attracts more people to attend church and contribute to the St Albans South community.

‘We celebrate a Multicultural Day every year and everyone brings different food from their culture. It’s a great way to try new things and learn about other people.

‘It’s wonderful having a Vietnamese Mass. It means more people are coming and there is a bigger contribution to the church. Everyone can play a role.
‘I am a part of a very strong Vietnamese community here but recently I’ve been trying to help out in the wider community. I can see how the parish is growing and there is growing numbers at the foodbank so I’m meeting more people,’ Xuan says.
 Co-founder, Charlie Desira (right) with the foodbank's delivery driver Vincent Buhagiar, (left). 
The foodbank, run by co-founder Charlie Desira, caters for 240 people a week and is made possible by a dedicated team of 20 volunteers.

Charlie says the project, now in its twentieth year, assists a variety of people in need and has had considerable support from the parish as well as local schools, who encourage students to lend a helping hand.

‘The foodbank was for refugees at first but we soon realised more people needed help. There are a lot of people in need and once you get talking to them you see that they need help. They’re ordinary people from all walks of life and 700 people are registered with the foodbank,’ he says.
‘It’s great when school kids come and help. Students from Catholic Regional College Melton and St Augustine's Primary School in Keilor have come down recently.

‘It gives children an idea of what life can be like if things don’t go to plan,’ adds Charlie.

 Crates of food ready for distribution (top left). Foodbank volunteers organising fruit and vegetables (top right). A volunteer displays a completed crate (bottom left). The weeks disgarded boxes pile up ready for recycling (bottom right).  
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