Small but mighty: Heidelberg West parish

Monday 17 July 2017

Media and Communications Office

Heidelberg parish, with its St Pius X church and school, sits on Waterdale Road in the midst of busy traffic. Fr Wayne Edwards joined the parish on 4 July 2007, and has since celebrated his tenth anniversary as parish priest.
 Fr Wayne Edwards explaining the tabernacle. 

Many are familiar with Heidelberg West as the site of the 1956 Summer Olympics athletes' village.

The parish is surrounded by boom and change—adjoining suburbs are creeping their way towards sale prices of more than $800,000 for a conventional home. The commission housing and other older homes are being demolished and replaced with newer homes and dual occupancy townhouses.

The demographics of Heidelberg West have been long resistant to change, however the suburb has been a little pocket of comparatively low housing prices, with its close proximity to the CBD, public transport, as well as nearby schools and shopping centres. Families are beginning to discover the housing value and move here—and with them, the suburb will adjust and transform.
 Vegetable garden and chicken shed—both maintained by Heidelberg West students.

St Pius X primary school is a diverse hub of activity—under 100 students gather here during the school year with one group each for Prep, Year One/Two, Year Three/Four, and Year Five/Six. The staff and parish team provide hands-on experiences with initiatives such as a vegetable garden—teaching the students the art of horticulture, and a very large chicken shed with plenty of chickens. ‘Those chooks are prize winning!’. Fr Wayne emphasised the children’s efforts and hard work.
The atrium was created prior to Fr Wayne’s arrival at the parish, and he has continued to fund it further. Many parishioners and community members have built and crafted smaller replicas of liturgical items such as candle stick holders, as well as Jesus’ tomb. The atrium is based on Montessori principles, and uses the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd.   
 Various items within the atrium used by the students
The school has also had a breakfast club for the past ten years, a valuable initiative, as many children aren’t able to eat breakfast at home. Twice a week around 20 children eat breakfast at school, with the helpers being volunteers—community elders, primarily grandmothers and grandfathers. Toast, cereal, baked beans and much more is provided for the children to choose from.

The faith community fluctuates but is more recently on the smaller (and aging) side. Nevertheless the people are active, with a St Vincent de Paul group meeting several times a month, a Friday meditation group, and a Charismatic prayer group who meet regularly. Others in the wider community also use the parish facilities such as the kitchen to provide for those in need.

‘I am here to help those in the community live out their faith,’ says Fr Wayne.
 Inside St Pius X church, Heidelberg West.

The word 'dated' could perhaps be the first word that springs to mind on entering the St Pius X church, with a large St Pius X painting greeting you. Despite that, it boasts a beautifully high ceiling, and lots of natural lighting, the pews shine in the late morning light, and deep red soft carpet runs throughout. On closer look, you will see a gorgeously tiled tabernacle, lovely hand painted tapestry hanging in the sanctuary and candle stick holders from Turkey on either side of the tabernacle.
 St Pius X welcoming visitors to the church, sanctuary of the church, a statues of St Joseph and Jesus, and prayer space of the church.
The church is well maintained and, more importantly, cherished by Fr Wayne and the community.
 L-R: hand painted tapestry inside the sanctuary, inside the sacristry of the church, candles in the prayer space of the church, and Fr Wayne Edwards pointing out former parish priests.
Fr Wayne Edwards joined in 2004, after being an assistant priest in Hoppers Crossing under Fr Greg Bourke. Heidelberg West is his first parish as parish priest.

 Fr Wayne is also involved in the Seafarers (Stella Maris) for whom he says monthly Mass, as well as visiting Austin Health and nearby St John’s Heidelberg, both when rostered and needed. Previously he was also been involved in the Church's prison ministry, regularly saying Mass at Port Phillip prison throughout the year.
 L-R: a view of the sanctuary and tabernacle, the beautiful taberacle with its ornamental tiles, doors within the church, and a Welcome sign with native flowers and an indigenous painted crucifix.
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