Parish stories: St Paul’s Sunshine West

Friday 15 November 2019

Media and Communications Office

The Parish of Sunshine West is entering into a new phase in its 66th year. Most parishioners come from the Maltese and Italian migrant communities, but like many other areas of Melbourne, Sunshine West is changing rapidly.
Parish Priest Fr Rene Manubag is just two months into his new commitment as Parish Priest at St Paul’s Catholic Church after months as Administrator. Having spent over a year in the Parish, he has identified challenges and has a vision for future growth in this culturally diverse community.
‘This is a multicultural community,’ he says. ‘We have Maltese, Italians, Vietnamese, Samoans, Indians, Africans and Australians. We have a Vietnamese Mass, Spanish Mass, Maltese Mass, which is monthly. Vietnamese and Spanish Mass is every week.’
The Parish currently celebrates six Masses each Sunday, and from Monday to Friday also attracts 100 Mass-goers each day.
Fr Rene stresses that this community is a particularly loyal one, with mature-age Maltese parishioners still serving the Parish while their sons and daughters have moved out of the area. Some have moved away from their faith, too.
‘Our key areas of focus are the marginalised community and also the youth,’ says Fr Rene. ‘Once young people finish their studies, they move out and often that’s it. Some become marginalised in the sense that many who were once practicing Catholics are not now.’
Another important focus for the Parish is taking care of the sick and the elderly.
 Catholic Women's League
St Paul’s is home to an active Catholic Women’s League group, who make time to visit the elderly members of the Parish. ‘They take care of the elderly people in the nursing homes and they take turns in preparing the sacraments and then visiting them at least once a week,’ says Fr Rene. Also spending time visiting the homes of the elderly is the Legion of Mary group.
Legion of Mary  
Fr Rene notes that while elderly men in the Parish congregate for activities such as bowling and the women congregate for prayer he is keen to find further ways to engage all those who are aged, particularly those living alone.
Fr Rene works closely with St Paul’s Primary School and Principal Damian Casamento. ‘We have school Masses where the Parish Priest Fr Rene celebrates with us,’ Damian says. One of the highlights of the school year is Mission Day where the grade five and grade six students raise money via a ‘mini fete’, discuss which missions they’d like to donate to.
In their most recent fete, students raised over $3,500 dollars and elected to donate the money to the St. Vincent de Paul Foundation.
St Paul's Primary School Mission Day 2019
‘As a unit of work, the year level talks about what might be the fundraising body we are donating to,’ Damian says. ‘In the past it’s been the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, the Brigidine Asylum Seekers Project and last year the Marist Fathers had a refuge in Cambodia which we donate to. The children talk about what they would like to donate and have been informed by it and it’s their inquiry level of work.’
Inspired by this, Fr Rene hopes to build on the youth activity of the Parish. The Parish offers a youth Mass at 6pm each Sunday, but encouraging other types of youth activity, including a youth choir, has been a challenge.
‘We are slowly organizing this now as we have assembled a liturgical committee as well as a youth ministry and child safety committee,’ Fr Rene says.
Fr Rene explains he has developed a five-year plan to breathe life into these aspects of the Parish. ‘In many ways, we are still in our infancy period, but we already have assembled a committee of Parishioners who are committed to meeting these challenges.’
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