OCEANIA/AUSTRALIA - Melbourne’s oldest Catholic Church St Francis marks 160th anniversary: busy parish, centre of propulsion for evangelisation and vocations

Monday, 24 October 2005

Melbourne (Fides Service) - On 23 October Melbourne’s oldest Catholic Church, St Francis, busy parish, centre of propulsion for mission and seedbed of vocations, celebrated its 160th anniversary. The anniversary coincided with World Mission Sunday and the end of the Year of the Eucharist marked with a Mass in St Peter’s in Rome presided by Pope Benedict XVI.
The two recurrences were recalled during the Mass which was a sung mass composed for the church in 1851 by its then organise George Rutter a Protestant from Van Diemen’s Land.
St Francis’ church is dwarfed by city blocks but it has always had a significant presence in Melbourne. The ‘people’s church’, the busiest in Australia with 12,000 worshippers every week at its 46 Masses is known for its choir which traditionally welcomes protestants and other non Catholics. Parish priest Fr Peter Collins said the church was simple and hospitable and conveyed a spirit of warmth and acceptance. “It has drawn people of all faiths through its doors, in good times and bad” he said. It is also a point of reference for culture, schools and universities.
The archdiocese of Melbourne is blessed with growing numbers of vocations, said Fr Paul Stuart, director of vocations among university students.
This tendency is promising for the future. Local Church sources say increasing vocations are fruits of youth pastoral a priority for the Church in Australia.
(PA) (Agenzia Fides 24/10/2005 righe 24 parole 235)