A new book on Sydney’s Slovak Catholic community tells not only the history of the community and their road towards acquiring their own church, but also stands as an encouragement for future generations, its author says.
The book, entitled ‘Memory of the faithful and believers’ also outlines the long and warm relationship between the Slovak community and the Divine Word Missionaries who have served as chaplains over several decades.
It was launched by SVD Provincial, Fr Henry Adler SVD, who, along with Fr Emil Kralik SVD, has been chaplain to the community in recent years.
The book’s author, Ivan Hupka, says his work looks both back into history and forward to the generations to come.
“It is a monograph mostly about the cultural and religious advance of the Sydney Slovaks and their road to acquire and own their own church,” he says.
“Their striving proved to be successful in the year 1982 (with the purchase of the Church of Sts Cyril and Methodius). Until then, from about the year 1950, they were forced to hire churches.”
Ivan, who arrived in Australia in 1968, says it is important to share the history of the community with newcomers and to encourage parents to attend Sunday Mass together with their children and to take part in the community’s social life with them. The children’s dance group, Stonozka, is an example of such community life.
“Books such as ours are not written for ourselves,” he says. “They are dedicated to our descendants. I am of the opinion that it is a duty for contemporaries to stand up on the hill of piled experiences and describe the values and achievements of our predecessors for present and future followers.”
Among its pages, the book outlines the relationship between the Slovak community and the Divine Word Missionaries, which dates back to the late 1960s and 1970s and continues today. SVD Slovak Chaplains to the community have included Fathers Jan Kraasnansky, Jan Kovac, Emil Cernaj, Victor Stevko, and Emil Kralik.
Ivan recalls that one of the first masses of Sydney’s Slovak community took place at the SVD’s Marsfield community where there was an atmosphere of “kindness, wellbeing, patience and understanding of a lost homeland”.
“That is why the Slovak Catholic Community think of the Divine Word Missionaries in Marsfield as their spiritual home,” he says.
In launching the book, Fr Henry said he had read it with a degree of pride, as on page after page he read of the Slovak Divine Word Missionaries who had served the community.
“But for me, the book shows clearly that the existence and prosperity of this community does not depend on the priest – it never does – but you, members of the community, together with the priest,” he said.
“I have no doubt that existence and continuity of the many blessings of this community, like Stonozka and other cultural activities, will depend on the commitment of the community to its original vision and mission, and that unity of faith and tradition.
“I would therefore like to ask you all to continue to write the history of this community by committing yourself to be part of it like the founders of this community did.”