New Aboriginal Catholic Services Centre opens



New Aboriginal Catholic Services Centre News Story
With Aunty Janice Kennedy (from left): Uncle Ray Leslie, Bishop Anthony, Uncle Ben Taylor-Cuiermara, and CatholicCare’s Chaplain, Fr Phil Medlin CSsR. Photography by Alphonsus Fok & Grace Lu

The scent of eucalyptus filled the air as Uncle Brian Boney performed a smoking ceremony on the lawn in front of the new Aboriginal Catholic Services Centre at Emerton on Friday 30 September 2011.

Most Rev Anthony Fisher OP, Catholic Bishop of Parramatta, blessed and opened the centre, which is located in the grounds of Holy Family Parish.

Bishop Anthony announced that commencing in July 2012, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sunday would be celebrated “in a big way” in the Diocese.

The centre will be the new base for Aboriginal Catholic Services (ACS), which has operated from Penrith for more than 10 years. ACS is a service of CatholicCare Social Services in the Diocese of Parramatta.

At the opening ceremony the MC, Uncle Ray Leslie, gave an acknowledgement of country and ACS Team Leader Aunty Janice Kennedy welcomed the gathering.

“The centre will be a great asset to the Mt Druitt community. I am pleased that we have finally been able to return ACS to Mt Druitt where it started more than 20 years ago,” she said.

To read Bishop Anthony's Homily for the day click here.

Christian discipleship, leadership and service

Aboriginal Catholic Services Centre Blessing & Opening News Story

Aboriginal Catholic Services Team Leader Aunty Janice Kennedy (right) and Aunty Gloria Matthews cut the ceremonial ribbon.
Photo: Alphonsus Fok & Grace Lu

Aunty Janice and Aunty Gloria Matthews cut the ceremonial ribbon and welcomed everyone into the centre for the liturgy and blessing.

A congratulatory message from the Australian Government was delivered by the Member for Chifley, Ed Husic MP, representing The Hon Kate Ellis MP, Minister for Employment Participation & Childcare and the Status of Women.

In his introduction, Uncle Ray said he well remembered Parramatta’s retired Bishops Bede Heather and Kevin Manning and thanked them for their ministry of care and support for Aboriginal people totalling more than 30 years.

CatholicCare’s Chaplain, Fr Phil Medlin CSsR, read the reading from St Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians 2:19-22. The Redemptorist congregation is involved in ministry with Aboriginal people in many areas across Australia. The order’s Provincial, Fr Paul Bird CSsR, and a number of its priests were present at the opening.

Since the time of Mary MacKillop, the Sisters of St Joseph have worked with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Sr Naomi Smith RSJ and Sr Frances Flemming RSJ have been walking with the Aboriginal people of Mt Druitt.

Through its annual Project Compassion Lenten Appeal, Caritas Australia has provided funding to assist ACS to offer vocational training, employment skills and activities that the nurture spiritual and cultural well-being of Aboriginal people.

In his homily, Bishop Anthony said the opening of the centre was an historic occasion and a cause for great celebration.

“Indigenous people are a very significant group within the Catholic Diocese of Parramatta, the largest urban population of Aboriginal Catholic people,” he said.

“While the community is centred in Mt Druitt and Blacktown they are also spread throughout our Diocese: from Rydalmere in the east to Mt Victoria in the west, from Kurrajong in the north to Greendale in the south.”

Bishop Anthony said the opening of the centre was a marker event.

“This new home has long been a dream of the Aboriginal Catholic community and its friends – and I think this centre is one they can be proud of.

“It is a centre conceived by Aboriginal people for Aboriginal people. It will be a base for Aboriginal people as they continue to be active agents of Christian discipleship, leadership and service in Western Sydney.”

ACS team members Allison Nicholls and Sharon Mumbler read the prayer of intercession. Bishop Anthony walked throughout the centre, blessing the structure and those gathered. Aunty Janice and Bishop Anthony unveiled a commemorative plaque.

Nygungar elder Uncle Ben Taylor-Cuiermara brought a message from the Aboriginal community in Perth, and the program finished with a performance by children from an Aboriginal dance group.

The centre was built with the assistance of substantial grants from the Federal and State governments. Funding for its operations is provided by the Catholic Diocese of Parramatta as its ongoing commitment to the Indigenous people of Western Sydney.

The centre will continue to offer the programs it has been delivering from Penrith as well as inviting community and government groups to deliver services and programs from the centre.

ACS programs and services include: domestic violence groups, young mothers’ groups, youth groups, art groups, depression groups, children’s homework groups, access to mobile health clinics, working with people in prisons, mentor early release ex-prisoners and people on probation and parole, and hospitality.

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