The Administrative Centre of the Australian Province of the Divine Word Missionaries is located at Marsfield in Sydney and, apart from their administrative work, the confreres based there are involved in a range of ministries and activities. In addition, SVD missionaries have the pastoral care of the Macquarie Hills parish on Sydney’s southern outskirts, in the Wollongong Diocese.
The Marsfield community is home to both active and retired SVD missionaries and is also the location of the Provincial Administration and the Mission Office.
Those confreres engaged in active ministry work in areas including Vocations, Provincial Administration, Bible Apostolate, the Mission Office, as well as Parish Mass Supply and Chaplaincy to migrant communities.
The heart of the Marsfield property is the Arnold Janssen Chapel, where daily Mass is celebrated and the SVD community prays the Prayer of the Church each morning and evening. Local people join with the SVD community for daily Mass and a large worshipping community gathers for Sunday Eucharist. Weddings, baptisms and funerals are also frequent in the Arnold Janssen Chapel.
A strong and vibrant Chinese Catholic community as well as Indonesian groups also make the Chapel and the Chapel Hall their ‘home away from home’, gathering for regular Mass, Bible Sharing and socializing.
SVD ministry to these communities is an expression of our charism to reach out to people of different cultural backgrounds. They also offer prayerful and practical support to the SVD community, especially in times of illness.
A number of retired missionaries live at Marsfield. Some of these men have returned from the mission fields ageing and frail, requiring physical and health care in hostel style accommodation. Caring for our aged confreres with love and respect, in the spirit of Jesus Christ, is a priority of the community. Very few missionaries want to ‘retire’ and most seek to continue helping the Province in whatever way they might be able to, as well as continuing to live their religious life with prayer and reflection. Retirement is a time for them to receive special care and support.
From the beginning of 2012, the Marsfield community has taken on a new ministry of hospitality and is home to a group of young asylum seekers. The Society of the Divine Word AUS Province is working with Jesuit Refugee Services and CatholicCare to accommodate the young men and to meet their varied needs while they await the processing of their asylum claims.
Some years ago, the Divine Word Missionaries accepted an invitation from the Bishop of Wollongong to take up the administration of Mary Mother of the Church parish in Macquarie Fields.
The parish is a vibrant community made up of people from diverse multinational backgrounds, including: Mauritian, Polish, Samoan, New Zealand, German, Filipino, American, former Yugoslavian, Irish, Scottish, Fijian, Indonesian, Indian, Indigenous and Australian.
The current Parish Priest is Fr Linh Nguyen SVD and the parish is also home to the Vocations Director, Fr Elmer Ibarra SVD. Macquarie Fields parish is large, vibrant and growing because parishioners are encouraged to put into practice the faith that they believe in through becoming involved in and taking responsibility for the life of the Church.
They do this in a variety of ways, including by becoming altar servers, ministers of Communion, Reading Ministers, or being a part of the liturgy team, choir ministry, youth ministry, the St Vincent de Paul. Others go out to schools to share their faith as catechists, while some people help with church cleaning, flower arranging, or parish administration.
Every year in September, the parish celebrates its Feast Day by holding a Multicultural Festival on the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The Mass for the Feast Day begins with the Procession of Mother Mary’s statue and many of the flags of parishioners’ countries of origin. During the Mass the readings and prayers of the faithful are read in various languages. A community celebration follows Mass.
“This is our annual celebration to give thanks to God for the many gifts He has bestowed on us in building up community spirit and enhancing the appreciation of the unity of our diverse cultures,” says Fr Linh.