Parishioners pitch in talents to create new Parish Centre in Narre Warren

Friday 16 November 2018

Media and Communications
Our Lady Help of Christians in Narre Warren is a comparatively young parish, having been established only 38 years ago. Perhaps owing to its youth, the parish boasts a vibrant and active community; so much so that they have combined their talents to create a brand new and much-needed Parish centre tailor-made to fit the community’s many needs.
Parish priest Fr Brendan Hogan expressed great appreciation for the community spirit of the Our Lady Help of Christians Parish community which, he explains, has been active and vibrant since the time he arrived, taking over from his hands-on predecessor Fr John Allen.
‘From Fr John’s time here from 1998 until 2011, there was a great influx of migrants in the Narre Warren area,’ Fr Brendan says. ‘And Fr John had this amazing habit of talking to people and embracing the other.’ 
The Parish itself is made up of 22,000 people, according to the last census, with an average weekend attendance consisting of up to 2,800 people. ‘We’re relatively young, but because we’re a migrant population, they really have this sense of devotion and commitment to family and love of Parish,’ Fr Brendan explains.
The newly designed Parish centre has been many years in the making. Before Fr Brendan’s residency, parishioners found the presbytery was too small meet their diverse needs.
‘One morning there was a mother’s group using the parish centre. The group was made up of forty-five women,’ Fr Brendan says. ‘It just became unworkable. The space was too small and they had issues with white ants and asbestos. Fr John had renovated a few times to adjust to growing numbers of people, so when I arrived there was a separate Parish Centre in place that was separate from the church.’ 
It took a gathering of willing and talented parishioners to start their own time of listening and dialogue to assist in the floor plan that makes the brand new Parish Centre and church which stands today.
‘It’s fortunate that parishioners been able to step up and share their gifts without being frightened. The building committee involved included a wealth of talent, like architects, financial people, accountants, and designers.
‘The committee went around to the various groups in the Parish to ask what was needed. That work of listening was vital to them in creating a vision that worked for everyone. It’s really exciting, it’s great to see the faces alive and really excited about what’s been created.’
The newly designed centre is connected to the church itself, and includes the Parish Office, a new piety shop (proceeds go to St Vincent De Paul), Our Lady’s Chapel, Altar servers room, a kitchen and an award-winning plaster design feature with a storage space at the back.
Fr Brendan also notes it's not rare for him to receive comments from people who now feel a better sense of community and closeness.
‘We talk about listening with the Plenary council. We've been practicing listening and dialogue over here in the Parish for all those years that we’ve been here, listening to the spirit and responding.’
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