Catholic Outlook Magazine | Advent | Summer 2022 Issue

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Christmas traditions in the Diocese of Parramatta I A family Advent calendar to make

A local guide to Christmas shopping I Unexpected sources of wisdom and strength

Marriage as a celebration at Christmas I A community of friends at Our Lady of the Nativity, Lawson

Advent | Summer 2022

Imprimatur and Publisher:

Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv

Bishop of Parramatta

(02) 8838 3400

PO Box 3066,

North Parramatta, NSW, 1750



Editor & Vicar for Communication:

Br Mark O’Connor FMS

(02) 8838 3400

PO Box 3066,

North Parramatta, NSW, 1750


Senior Communications Manager:

Christina Gretton

Communications Officer:

Mary Brazell

Nihil Obstat:

Fr Wim Hoekstra


Alfie Ramirez

(02) 8838 3437



IVE Group Australia Pty Ltd

All material in this publication is copyright and

may not be reproduced without permission

of the publisher. 8,500 copies are printed and

distributed to 47 parishes, after school care

centres and early learning centres in Western

Sydney and the Blue Mountains.

Catholic Outlook is a member of the

Australasian Catholic Press Association.

© Diocese of Parramatta 2022

Christmas artwork by Miriam Rose Ungunmerr Baumann

The Church in Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains sits on the

land of the Darug and Gundungurra people. We pay our respects to

the Aboriginal elders past, present, emerging and future.

The Miriam Rose Foundation is a charity dedicated to improving lives and

creating opportunities for a brighter future for Indigenous children and

youth. You can support the Foundation’s work at


The Diocese of Parramatta reaffirms the

wise axiom attributed to Saint Augustine of

Hippo, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials,

freedom; in all things, charity.” In this spirit,

Catholic Outlook publishes a variety of

Catholic viewpoints. They are not necessarily

the official views of the Diocese of Parramatta.

Cover Image: The children of Ambrose School Age Care

Harris Park helped us get ready to celebrate Christmas

this year. Back from left: Melaia-Grace, Elijah, Amara and

Anthony. Front: Xavier and Savannah.

Image: Diocese of Parramatta.

From Bishop Vincent

Dear friends,

Welcome to our Advent edition of Catholic Outlook,

the magazine of the Diocese of Parramatta. As

members of our faith community in Western Sydney

and the Blue Mountains, this is a magazine for you.

Here we share the inspiring stories of the people in

our community, as well as reflections that can bring

us closer to each other and to God.

For me, Christmas is a time of thinking about the

peace that Jesus of Nazareth proclaimed while He

was here on Earth.

He became one of us as one of the most vulnerable

beings – a newborn homeless baby. In this edition,

we reflect on that concept – what can we learn

from Jesus’ example of being vulnerable? At the

same time, as we further reflect on the Christmas

story and the visit of the Wise Men at Epiphany, our

understanding of wisdom grows. The story of the

Magi putting their faith in following the stars to the

infant Jesus, then falling to their knees in front of

Him, demonstrates how our wisdom and faith comes

not from control or selfishness, but being open

to the Spirit.

We explain the Australian Church’s social justice

message on domestic violence. My own Christmas

message on page 10 outlines the urgent need of our

world to embrace peace and love for our brothers

and sisters who share this world with us.

The wonderful saint, and great witness to peace, St

Francis of Assisi, was the first person to celebrate

Christmas by setting up a nativity scene. He wanted

people to better understand the extraordinary story

that Christmas is of a vulnerable baby in the poorest

of circumstances, who was sent to bring us into

union with God, one another and indeed all creation.

As you look on your own nativity scene at home or

at your parish, I invite you to reflect on its message

of peace.

I wish you and your family a joyous Christmas!

Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv

Bishop of Parramatta

We also look at how the people of our Church are

responding to the vulnerable: from homeless elderly

people, to those who need our help putting food on

the table, even those whose advocacy has helped

ensure our church buildings are accessible to those

in wheelchairs.




Your local Catholic

school is enrolling

now for 2024

Visit www.parra.catholic.edu.au today to find your local Catholic school and join one of our

caring, faith-filled communities.

From the beginning of 2023, Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta will be known as Catholic Schools Parramatta Diocese Ltd.

We’ve created this Advent calendar to help you and your family prepare for Christmas.


Advent Calendar

36 14

Step 1 – Cut out both pages from the magazine.

Step 2 – With a blade and ruler cut around the 3 dotted lines of each door leaving it attached on the left side.

Step 3 – Put glue on the blue and glue Page B to the back of Page A.

Step 4 – Open a door a day and complete the action to help you prepare for Christmas.

Merry Christmas


From the Diocese of Parramatta, the Church in Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains


On the Inside

Advent | Summer 2022

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04 OutlookLooks

08 Short & Sweet

09 Prayer

10 Bishop Vincent’s

Christmas message

12 What’s your Christmas


14 Celebrating Parish Milestones

16 Celebrating our local servants

of the People of God

18 A family Advent

calendar to make

20 Christmas is a time to

celebrate your marriage

22 An open pantry door

24 ‘Class of 2022

share life lessons

26 Digital pilgrims take the

virtual road to encounter

28 When Christmas is

a time of fear

30 Community hero

honoured with new

accessible playspace

32 Looking Deeper

34 Falling downward

36 Epiphany

38 Jesus: the vunerable

face of God

40 A cuppa with the priest: Fr Paul

Slyney, Parish Priest, Our Lady

of the Nativity Parish, Lawson

42 Parish Profile: Our Lady of the

Nativity Parish, Lawson

44 Breaking the cycle of

homeless in our community

46 Closing the early years learning

gap one traineeship at a time

48 Christmas gift ideas

50 Watch and Listen

51 Christmas word search

52 Kid’s corner

54 What’s on in the Diocese

55 Directory of services

56 Pope’s prayer intentions

57 Latest appointments

57 Voice of the People


Christmas Mass and Reconciliation Times

Can’t decide which Mass to go to this Christmas? Check out the list of Masses and Reconciliation times in

local parishes, listed on the Diocese of Parramatta website.


Try to slow the pace and have family

time during Advent.

Get in the zone this Advent

Did you know that Advent means “the coming

of something important”? Often we find that the

24 days of Advent are the busiest all year. This

year, take the time to slow the pace of your family

and prepare your family to appreciate the special

season of Christmas.

You’ll find a stack of ideas for slowing the pace

and growing closer as a family over Advent

at this link on the Cath Family website


Members of the new Catholic Schools Parramatta Diocese Ltd board with Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of

Parramatta (centre) and clergy after their commissioning Mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral. Image: Diocese of Parramatta.

New name, same great local Catholic schools

With 80 great local schools, Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta is dedicated to providing families with

meaningful opportunities to grow in faith and learning across Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains. From

the beginning of 2023, the organisation will be known as Catholic Schools Parramatta Diocese Ltd and have

a new governance framework. In the spirit of leading together, there will also be a new Board of Directors for

Catholic Schools Parramatta Diocese Ltd, led by Chair Elizabeth Crouch AM, and a new Executive Director of

Schools, Jack de Groot.

Find out more catholicoutlook.info/Schoolsboard


Take action against

modern slavery


50 million people, 71% of them women and girls,

live in slavery globally. The Diocese of Parramatta

is committed to supporting whatever actions will

lead to the eradication of modern slavery.

Georgie Crabb, Catholic Care Case Manager (left) and

Denise* (*name changed) who now has a safe home

thanks to Catholic Care Western Sydney and the Blue

Mountains. Image: Diocese of Parramatta.

Help the homeless to find a home

Right now, all types of people, including

grandparents, families and young people

can’t find a safe secure space to call home.

Catholic Care Western Sydney and the Blue

Mountains provides help to those in need who

have nowhere safe to live. This Christmas,

Bishop Vincent invites you

to give a compassionate

Christmas donation to help

the homeless.

Read its Modern Slavery Statement at


You can support the eradication of modern

slavery buy purchasing the ACRATH 2023

Calendar. The calendar features stories and

information on forced marriage, ethical shopping

(do you know how your clothes are made?) and

those working to stop this insidious practice.

Order it at acrath.org.au

Make your donation here.

Share the good vibes of

coming to church

Did you know that regular church

attendees are much more likely than

others to report they are satisfied with

their relationships, spiritual wellbeing

and sense of contentment? With all

the good that going to church offers

everyone, reach out to others this

Christmas and New Year season and

invite someone you know to Mass.

According to recent research* 68%

of people are likely to attend if they

were personally invited.

*The Changing Faith Landscape of

Australia by McCrindle Research 2022.

Bishop Vincent with parishioners at Our

Lady of Lourdes Parish, Seven Hills

Image: Diocese of Parramatta.



January Epiphany Pilgrimage

Enjoy the beauty of the Blue Mountains while you celebrate, pray and reflect during the Epiphany Pilgrimage

and Fiesta from 2 to 8 January 2023. Beginning at Our Lady of the Way Parish, Emu Plains, you will spend

the next seven days walking bush tracks and trails to reach the top of the Blue Mountains. Along the way,

experience the overwhelming hospitality of the six Blue Mountains parish communities who host the group for

a festive meal each night. The event is open to all fitness levels: walk the entire 100kms, join for a day walk or

maybe just drop in for the evening festivities.

Find out more about this unique event at epiphanypilgrimage.org

Pilgrims in the beautiful Blue Mountains. Image: Supplied.

Congratulations to our parishes

and faithful servants of the

people of God

This year, the Diocese of Parramatta welcomed

our first new priest since 2018 and nine new

deacons. Many parishes, priests and others in

religious life also celebrated big milestones. Read

about them on pages 14 and 16.

Fr Andrew Rooney, who was ordained a priest in

August 2022. Image: Diocese of Parramatta

St Finbar’s Parish at Glenbrook recently celebrated

their first church’s 110 year anniversary. They will also

host the family fiesta on 2 January 2023.

Image: Diocese of Parramatta.

Family Day at Finnies!

Families are invited to the first day of the

Epiphany Pilgrimage for a day of fun including

jumping castles and a fiesta at St Finbar's Parish,

Glenbrook on 2 January 2023.

Details at epiphanypilgrimage.org


Talking to other people of faith


A new group of people will be looking at how to engage with people of other faiths as part of the new Diocese

of Parramatta Interfaith Commission. The members, who were commissioned in September 2022, are tasked

with strengthening the social fabric of Western Sydney through interfaith engagement.

Watch this space for more interfaith news to come!

The inaugural Diocese of Parramatta Interfaith Commission at their Commissioning Mass in September 2022.

Image: Diocese of Parramatta.

Short & Sweet

Catholic schools find their authenticity in the Gospel priorities of respect for

human dignity, outreach, inclusion and special concern for young people at risk

of being left behind. Ours are not schools that provide education for Catholics

only but Catholic education for all.

Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv

at the Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta Symposium in November 2022. Find his

full address at catholicoutlook.info/Symposium2022

We see what is happening and the worst thing is that we are becoming used to it.

“Oh yes, today another boat capsized, so many lives were lost.” This “becoming

used to” is a terrible illness.

His Holiness Pope Francis

in The Letter his new movie on Climate change released in October and viewable on YouTube

The Catholic NSW Aboriginal Education Strategy aims to see increases

in a number of important indicators...But importantly, it also aims to see

improvements in wellbeing outcomes and better understanding of the histories,

cultures and experiences of Aboriginal people.

Minister for Indigenous Australians, the Hon Linda Burney MP

at the Catholic Schools NSW Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Conference,

co-hosted by Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta in Leura in October 2022

One could summarise diaconal spirituality in a few words, that is, a spirituality of

service – willingness on the inside and openness on the outside.

Archbishop Charles Balvo

the Apostolic Nuncio to Australia at the National Deacons Conference hosted by the

Diocese of Parramatta in Baulkham Hills in October 2022

Scholastica of Subiaco, Hilda of Whitby, Hildegard of Bingen, Catherine of Sienna,

Teresa of Ávila and Mary MacKillop all in their own time and their own way either

led or challenged their brothers to see certain matters from a different perspective.

Sr Antonia Curtis OSB, Benedictine Sisters, Jamberoo Abbey

in her introduction to a series examining female saints which appeared on Catholic

Outlook in October and November 2022 catholicoutlook.info/AntoniaCurtis

I told Pope Francis that the Church in Australia, notwithstanding the many

challenges it faces, is alive and vibrant. Pope Francis was particularly

pleased to hear of this vitality.

Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB

President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference following his meeting with Pope

Francis in Rome in October 2022


In this way, like the Magi, we will have the daily certainty

that even in the darkest nights a star continues to shine.

It is the star of the Lord, who comes to care for our frail humanity.

Let us set out on the path towards him.

Let us not give apathy and resignation the power to

drive us into a cheerless and banal existence.

Let our restless hearts embrace the restlessness of the Spirit.

The world expects from believers a new burst

of enthusiasm for the things of heaven.

Like the Magi, let us lift up our eyes, listen to the desire lodged in

our hearts, and follow the star that God makes shine above us.

As restless seekers, let us remain open to God’s surprises.

Brothers and sisters, let us dream, let us seek and let us adore.

From Pope Francis’ homily for the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord, St Peter’s Basilica, 6 January 2022.


If you want peace, work for justice!

Bishop Vincent’s Christmas Message


Dear Sisters and Brothers,

We live in an increasingly dangerous world where

a spiral of violence seems to be out of control.

Violence and selfishness dominate our daily news,

as the ‘answer’ the world offers to us. The horrors

unfolding in Ukraine and the scandal of the arms

race, and even more the danger of nuclear war

frightens us all. Our planet continues to be exploited

and the beauty of God’s creation plundered for profit.

And the ongoing tragedy of refugees continues with

many people closing their hearts to compassion.

Instead of sharing, many are choosing exclusion as

the solution. Only the other day Pope Francis issued

a new, scathing warning against the exclusion of

migrants. For him, “The exclusion of emigrants is

scandalous. Actually, the exclusion of emigrants is

criminal. They are dying right in front of us, as the

Mediterranean is the largest cemetery in the world…”

Not opening doors to them “is revolting, sinful and

criminal,” he added, off the cuff. Even worse: “We

do not exclude them, we send them away to camps,

where they are exploited and sold like slaves.”

This Christmas then, let’s all pledge to become

committed peacemakers - as we remember the

birth of the Prince of Peace amongst us. Jesus of

Nazareth built his entire Gospel message on peace,

and nowhere in His words or deeds did He even hint

that war was actually the way of achieving it.

Indeed, peace is the stuff of

the four Gospels; a constant

theme of the New Testament

and the ultimate goal of two

thousand years of Christian

vision and witness.

This Christmas, where violence and war seems so

close to us on our television screens, let’s remember

one of the great witnesses to peace in our Catholic

tradition – St Francis of Assisi. While many people

associate St Francis with nature, not as many know

the story of his voyage and witness to the Muslim

world as a peacemaker. It was the time of the Fifth

Crusade, shortly after a Crusader victory at the port

city of Damietta – modern Dumyat – on the Nile Delta.

Francis, who opposed all killing no matter what the

cause, sought the blessing of the cardinal who was

chaplain to the Crusader forces to go and preach the

Gospel to the sultan. The cardinal told him that the

Muslims understood only weapons and that the one

useful thing a Christian could do was to kill them. At

last, the cardinal stood aside, certain that Francis

and Illuminato, the brother traveling with him, were

being led to die as martyrs.

The two left the Crusader encampment singing the

psalm, The Lord is my shepherd.

For a month Francis and the sultan met daily. Though

neither converted the other, the sultan had such

warmth for his guests that he not only spared their

lives but gave them a passport allowing them to

visit Christian holy places under Muslim control, and

presented Francis with a beautifully carved ivory horn

which is now among the relics of the saint kept in the

Basilica of Assisi.

The two (Francis and

Malik-al- Kamil, the Sultan)

parted as brothers.

During this holy season of Christmas, we too are

especially called to be witnesses to peace like St

Francis of Assisi, in our daily lives. For in many ways,

we too are living in ‘war’. Often, we can be at ‘war’

with ourselves, at ‘war’ with others, especially when

we ‘crusade’ against people and see them as rivals

and enemies.


A life of peace however, means

daily trying to make peace with

ourselves and to cultivate a

daily practice of ‘nonviolence’.

For in the prophetic words of St Paul VI:

If you want peace,

work for justice!

Let’s make that peace a reality in the lives of all those

we encounter.

This Christmas, as we contemplate the Christ child in

the manger, who was born, died and rose from the

dead to give us Peace - let’s commit ourselves here

in Parramatta to pray and work for justice and peace

so that the Kingdom will come!

Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv

Bishop of Parramatta

Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, in the Mary

MacKillop Chapel in the Bethany Centre,

Parramatta. Image: Diocese of Parramatta.

Adults and children from Holy Family Parish: St Ignatius Tongan

Catholic Community, got into the spirit demonstrating the

Tongan tradition of toli-akau. Image: Diocese of Parramatta.

What’s your Christmas tradition?



With Christmas and the New Year coming up

quickly, we asked a few of our friends across the

Diocese of Parramatta about some of the cultural

celebrations and devotions they follow. One of the

most welcoming aspects of the Australian church

is how we embrace the many beautiful cultures

around us as a gift!

Filipino tradition - Simbang Gabe

A tradition in the Philippines that is specifically

Catholic, is Simbang Gabe or Dawn Mass. For nine

days straight leading up to Christmas Day, this

devotion involves attending Mass together before

the sun rises around 5:30am to 6am (depending on

where you are in the world). Mass is followed by a

shared breakfast outside the church.

You are welcome to attend Simbang Gabe from the

16 to 24 December 2022 at St Aidan's Parish, Rooty

Hill, Mary, Queen of the Family Parish, Blacktown,

Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Seven Hills, Mary

Immaculate Parish, Quakers Hill-Schofields, and

many more!

Polish tradition - Sylwester

Some say that the first day of the New Year will

determine the rest of the year, similar to the saying

“conquer the morning, conquer the day!”. For our

Polish friends, New Year gatherings known as

Sylwester (St Sylvester’s Day) involve a menu of

scrumptious sausages, hearty bigos (meat stew)

and celebratory wódka for adults. Additionally, the

tradition of keeping the scales of the Christmas Day

Carp (fish) is kept in people’s wallets as a fun gesture

of hope for abundance and prosperity in the new year.

Tongan tradition - Toli-Akau

Malia Lolesio from Holy Family Parish, Mt Druitt,

tells us a beautiful tradition from the Tongan culture

is ‘toli-akau’ or ‘Christmas tree picking’. Families

decorate one or more Christmas trees at the church

or nearby hall where celebrations involving dancing,

singing, eating and opening of presents occur as a

community. What’s special about the Christmas trees

is that they are decorated with not only ornaments,

but chips, lollies, balloons and even money bags.

The children have all the fun in picking and keeping

what they like!

Vietnamese tradition - the cave of Bethlehem

Most commonly practised in parishes but expressed

in many ways, is the tradition of the cave of

Bethlehem. In Vietnamese culture, explains Karen

Dinh of St Patrick's Cathedral Parish, Parramatta, a

papier-mâché depiction of the scene of Jesus’ birth

is displayed for families, particularly those with young

children, to visit and reflect on.

In these nativity scenes, you will find a stable, farm

animals, Mary, Joseph, the crib (traditionally left

empty until Christmas Day), the three Wise Men, and

the Star of Bethlehem. Baby Jesus is placed in the

crib on Christmas Day.

Vietnamese families bring this beautiful tradition into

their homes, much like how we take the message of

God’s love into the home and to all we meet.

As your family gets into the Christmas

spirit, why not visit a few parishes around

the Diocese and see the many beautiful

and different nativity scenes on display.

Indian tradition - Midnight Mass

We all enjoy homemade sweets in Australia, but

for most of us it’s not an everyday experience. If

you were in India, following local traditions, says

Katelyn Almeida of The Parish of Baulkham Hills,

you would no doubt find yourself visiting people's

homes and enjoying the sweets they have made

especially for you!

If you have a sweet tooth and are feeling

adventurous, try some Goan Christmas-season

sweets. Look for kulkuls, neuris, dodols, or gons. For

Catholics from Goa, Midnight Mass is a traditional

practice on Christmas Day.

Celebrating on Christmas Eve is common to many

people, and on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day,

the heartfelt caroling and Christmas greetings will be

heard across the Diocese of Parramatta. I know I get

goosebumps from awe and wonder when “O Holy

Night” is sung in church on Jesus’ birthday!

Find Christmas Mass and Reconciliation times for

parishes and chaplaincies on catholicoutlook.org

and parracatholic.org. Be sure to also check your

local parish’s social media, website or bulletin for

more information about Christmas and New Year

celebrations to bring family and friends in 2022-23.

Raimie Caramancion is freelance writer and is a parishioner

in the Diocese of Parramatta.


Celebrating Parish Milestones


A lot happened in 2022 in our parish communities, especially for those parishes

making up for celebrations postponed over the last few years

120 years

Sacred Heart Parish, Blackheath – 120th anniversary of Sacred Heart Church opening and blessing.

110 years

St Finbar’s Parish, Glenbrook – 110th anniversary of the first parish church

100 years

Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish, Wentworthville – 100th anniversary of the parish primary school.


We congratulate and our parish communities which marked significant milestones. We pray that they will

continue to be places of faith and community for all people across the Diocese for many years to come.

30 years

Corpus Christi Parish, Cranebrook – 30th anniversary of the establishment of the parish

20 years

St John XXIII Parish, Glenwood-Stanhope Gardens – 20th anniversary of the establishment of the parish

50 years

We also congratulate Christ the King Parish, North Rocks, who after years of postponement, have celebrated

their 50th anniversary.


Five Missionary Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Queen of the World-Australia celebrated their Golden

Jubilee of their Religious Profession at Holy Cross

Parish, Granville in October 2022. Image: Supplied.

Celebrating our local servants of the

People of God


Throughout 2022, the Diocese of Parramatta celebrated the

milestones of some of our incredible servants of Christ.

We thank them for their dedicated service to our

parish community, and pray that God continues to

bless them on their vocational journey in living out

the call of the Gospel.

Fr Andrew Rooney

Ordination to the Priesthood

On 26 August 2022, watched by his family, friends,

supporters and fellow clergy, Deacon Andrew

Rooney was ordained to the priesthood at St

Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta. The Diocese of

Parramatta welcomes and

congratulates Fr Andrew

Rooney, our first priest to

be ordained in the Diocese

since 2018.

Watch the video from

Fr Andrew’s ordination

here via the QR Code.


Special anniversaries

25th anniversary of

priestly ordination

25th anniversary

of profession

50th anniversary

of profession

60th anniversary

of profession

Fr Oliver Aro MSP

40th anniversary of

priestly ordination

Fr Joseph Thomas

Fr Anthony Fox OFM


50th anniversary of

priestly ordination

Fr Zvonimir Gavranovic

60th anniversary of

priestly ordination

Fr John O’Neill

Fr Carl Ashton

Fr John McCall OCarm

Fr Manuel Carracedo SJ

Sr Helen Stannard RSM

Sr Mary-Rebecca

Sampang ISSM

Fr Zvonimir Gavranovic

Sr Mary Justina Pham

Thi Tran CMR

Sr Mary Chanel Dinh Thi

Hoai CMR

Sr Therese Michaela

Pham Thi Thu CMR

Sr Mary Gemma Pham

Thi Huyen CMR

Sr Therese Miriam Vu

Lanh Hai CMR

Sr Catherine Slattery


Sr Rosanne Smith RGS

Sr Rosanne Maree

Sinclair CSFN

Sr Joanna Zarzyczna


Sr Mary Noonan RSJ

By the end of 2022,

the Diocese will have

welcomed the following


Ordinations to the

Transitional Diaconate

Adam Carlow, Matthew

Dimian, Jack Elkazzi and

Tom Green

Ordinations to the

Permanent Diaconate

Charles Abela, David

Dowling, Jerome

D’Rozario, Batsirai

Maringehosi and

Alan Skofic

Bringing Christ into

homes and hearts

Little Drops of Water began in the

mind of a little girl named Anna

in 2014. Naturally inquisitive, she

asked her parents many questions

about the Catholic faith and wanted

to understand each saint and their

story. Anna’s parents wanted a way

to help make the faith educational

and engaging. With her father’s

help the first saint drawings were

brought to life and the Little Drops

of Water figurines were born.

The Little Drops of Water range

brings Jesus, Mary, and the Saints

into the hearts and hands of

children from an early age building

a real connection with the heroes

of Christianity. There are also




them all


ourselves feel

that what we are

doing is just a drop

in the ocean. But the

ocean would be less

because of that

missing drop.”

Mother Teresa of


Scan the code to download the catalogue, view the full range and purchase, or visit www.thatcatholicshop.com/littledrops

The proceeds of every purchase at That Catholic Shop support the work and mission of Aid to the Church in Need.


Advent Calendar

We’ve created this Advent calendar to help you and your family prepare for Christmas.

Step 1 – Cut out both pages from the magazine.

Step 2 – With a blade and ruler cut around the 3 dotted lines of each door leaving it attached on the left side.

Step 3 – Put glue on the blue and glue Page B to the back of Page A.

Step 4 – Open a door a day and complete the action to help you prepare for Christmas.

Merry Christmas

From the Diocese of Parramatta, the Church in Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains



The CCD Team and the SRE Catechists from across the Diocese of Parramatta, invite you to

consider joining the SRE Ministry in 2023, to share faith and the Good News to the many

Catholic children who attend public schools.

With thanks we wish you a joyful and restful Christmas and New Year!

Glue area

Thank God for

the people who

love you!

Share a smile!

Do something

kind for


Pray for

someone who

has died.

Be happy today!

Pray the

Rosary today.

Ask the prayer

‘Jesus help me

to listen to your


Pray for PEACE


how candy

cane colours

represent Jesus.

Thank God for

the people you


Glue area

Pray for a sick


Donate a gift

for a local

charit y.

Take time to

listen to a


Pray ‘Jesus help

me to be kind’.

Find out which

saints have

feast days in

De cember.

Glue area

Thank God for

all the good

things you


Listen to what

God is saying to

you today.

Say sorry to

someone you

have upset.

Share an


word to


Learn a new



Pray for

someone who

is feeling sad


Forgive someone

who has hurt


Reach out

to someone




Read the







Glue area

Rowena (centre) and Angel (right) with

their three children. Image: Supplied.

Christmas is a time to

celebrate your marriage


Married couples can celebrate what makes their

marriage special and share that joy with others.

Pre-marriage educators in the Diocese of Parramatta

remind couples to celebrate and remember the

foundation of their marriage.

“The grace of the Holy Spirit makes our marriage

so special,” says Sharon Rogers from Our Lady of

the Angels Parish, Rouse Hill. She and her husband

Edwin accompany engaged couples in the premarriage

courses held in the Diocese of Parramatta.

“In 25 years, there’s a lot that you go through. All

marriages have ups and downs, but for both of us,

the fact that we said ‘yes’ and promised in front of

God, has kept us together and helped us through the

tough times,” says Edwin.

“With God as the centre of our marriage, we are able

to lean on each other when we go through challenges

at work or at home. We pray for each other, support

each other and set a good example for our kids.”

Fellow educators Angel and Rowena Penano from

Our Lady, Queen of Peace Parish, Greystanes,

hope couples continue to let God be a part of their

marriage, not just on their wedding day.

“After 20 years, we continue to grow in discovering

this joy of marriage as God intended it,” Angel says.

“We got married in our mid-20s, and we were full

of love and knew we wanted to commit to each

other for life, but it wasn’t until 10 years ago that

we discovered more about what a true sacramental

marriage was.

“At this time, our differences in personalities were

pulling us apart and we were in crisis. Thanks

be to God, He knew our marriage and knew we

needed help.

“At our lowest point, I felt this grace that even

at the worst times, I still loved Rowena. I knew it

wasn’t from my rational thinking, but I was hearing

something beyond my own perspective.”

Rowena adds, “When you are in a difficult situation,

you have to look for hope. You have God who will

help you and you don’t have to rely solely on your

own, you have people on your journey to help you.

Keep hope, keep on loving

and rely on God.


As we move into the Advent and Christmas season,

the marriage educators encourage couples to take

this time to prepare and celebrate the new year for

their marriage.

Advent is a good time for us to go back and begin

again, to look at the promises that you made to each

other. Maybe you got side-tracked along the way

with kids and the busyness of life, but to go back and

make time for each other,” Sharon says.

Our Lord has all these graces in

store for us, He just wants us to

ask for them. Advent is a time

to connect with Him again, in

His humanity, in His gift of the

Eucharist, journeying with him

from Eden to Bethlehem.

• Start an Advent Calendar or celebrate the

12 Days of Christmas with married-themed

prompts to celebrate the other person.

• Give each other the gifts of yourselves,

your patience, time or small tokens of

appreciation, such as filling up the car with

petrol for the week.

• Explore a ‘theme’ for the new year – look

at what are your hopes and aspirations

in 2023.

• Prepare your hearts, souls and spirits to

see things in a different light.

• Decide to be married every day, especially

on the days when you need it.

The Marriage - Mission Enhancement Team is

looking for generous and passionate married

couples to accompany engaged couples on their

journey to the Sacrament of Matrimony. If you can

volunteer a few hours a month, please contact


Will you stretch out your

hand to the poor and

help end homelessness?

“ For too many disadvantaged people,

‘home’ is a damp, mouldy garage.

A mattress on the floor. Or a piece of

cardboard on the street.

“ Please help Catholic Care provide safe,

secure shelter, and end homelessness

in our community.”

Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv

Bishop of Parramatta

Please give generously to the Bishop’s Christmas Appeal


An open pantry door


As we get closer to Christmas, more families

are needing assistance and the parishioners at

Mary, Queen of the Family Parish, Blacktown

have responded.

Devised at a meeting of the Mary, Queen of the

Family Parish social justice group in 2021, Mary’s

Pantry provides basic household goods for those

doing it tough, with support from Blacktown Ponds

Lions Club and St Patrick's Primary School Blacktown.

“We are seeing a 20 per cent increase in the need for

our services,” says Jude Besterwitch, president of

the social justice group.

Mary’s Pantry averages about 40 clients a month and

has distributed over 750 hampers to over 240 families.

With statistics showing 18 per cent of Blacktown

mortgage holders are paying 30 per cent of their

income on mortgage repayments, people are feeling

the effects of rising interest rates, rent hikes, and

job losses due to COVID. Women fleeing domestic

violence and other vulnerable groups including

people with disabilities and people sleeping rough

on our streets are also reflected in who needs help

through the pantry.

“We are a little worried because we are finding that

the volume of groceries we receive on our food

drives is coming down,” Jude explains.

He described how the service came to be. “As a

group we felt we needed to seek Christ in each other.

“With Fr Regie's [Fr Reginaldo Lavilla MSP, Parish

Priest of Mary, Queen of the Family Parish] help, we

contacted Blacktown Ponds Lions Club who started

conducting food drives for us.

“All the groceries and toiletries we have distributed

since we started have been donated.”

The packages are tailored to peoples’ cultures and

cater for any food intolerances. Extra groceries are

given to larger families.

The smiles of Mary's Pantry volunteers Terri

Sebastian (right) and Patricia 'Pat' Regan

greet people who are doing it tough.

Image: Diocese of Parramatta.

Terri and Pat pack

grocery bags with

the basics in Mary’s

Pantry. Image: Diocese

of Parramatta.

No questions asked

Unlike some other agencies that require detailed

paperwork from its clients, Mary’s Pantry only asks

for some form of identification for auditing purposes.

“We are aware there is a big power imbalance

between our volunteers and patrons, so we take

steps to mitigate it,” Jude says.

“We smile, welcome. We offer to help carry and

pack their car. All of this helps start conversations. If

they are comfortable, they tell us what’s happening

in their lives.”

People can drop off or pick up groceries

anonymously as well.

Meet the volunteers

Mary’s Pantry is run by Terri Sebastian, who ran

the free weekly Blacktown One Meal service

before COVID hit.

“It has always been my dream to help people,”

she says, smiling.

She is one of about 20 dedicated volunteers at

Mary’s Pantry, many of them retirees.

At 89, Patricia Regan, a parishioner since 1958, is the

oldest volunteer. “It’s lovely to meet the people,” she

says. Despite having a heart attack two years ago,

followed closely by cataract surgery, the sprightly

and talkative octogenarian volunteers twice a month

at Mary’s Pantry.

Both ladies also volunteer at Mary’s Café where,

on Wednesdays, locals can come together for

homemade morning tea at the parish.

Isabell Petrinic is a freelance writer.

Lend a hand

Volunteers and donations are always welcome.

In the lead up to Christmas, Christmas puddings,

fruit and mince pies, juice and cola, tinned meat,

chocolates, Christmas lollies and $25 Coles and

Woolworths gift cards will be gratefully accepted.

Drop donations into

Mary, Queen of the Family Parish, Blacktown.

Mary’s Pantry

Mondays to Fridays from 10am to 1pm.

Mary’s Café

Wednesdays from 9.30am until people leave.

St Patrick’s Church,

51-59 Allawah Street, Blacktown.


Emmaus Catholic College Kemps Creek student Alisha Santos (centre) with her mother (second left) and father (left), and School

Principal Robert Nastasi (right) after being presented with the Bishop's Award for Excellence this year. Image: CEDP.

‘Class of 2022’ share life lessons


As the 2022 school year comes to an end and

the newest batch of graduates celebrate the

wonderful milestone of completing 13 years of

schooling, some Year 12 students from across

Western Sydney reflect on their experience -

how they feel, what they have learned, what

they will take away with them and what they

hope to achieve.

St Patrick’s Marist College, Dundas student Amy

Jahja had a big year. In addition to undertaking her

final year of school, Amy also served as the Year 12

College Captain. When reflecting on her experience,

she spoke about how her schooling has shaped who

she is today.

“I believe one of my greatest achievements at school

has been the ability to build my resilience when things

have not gone my way. I’ve learnt to work harder and

come back stronger when I haven’t gotten the result

that I wanted,” Amy said. “I have great teachers to

thank for that. Their encouragement and support have

been a constant source of support.”

Amy also acknowledged the support of her friends

and classmates, recognising the laughter, love and

support she felt throughout her time at school.

Servant leadership opportunities were highlights of

her learning and faith journey.

“St Patrick’s has helped me to grow in my faith,

to place my trust in Jesus and follow in his

footsteps,” she said. “This has been reflected

through my servant leadership role - I was the

Junior Environmental Captain, a Year 10 Peer

Support Leader and a member of the Social Justice

Group. Helping out at events and working with

Marist Connect and Ekklesia Food Bank have been

amazing highlights of my journey.”

Year 12 student Alisha Santos from Emmaus

Catholic College Kemps Creek was the recipient

of the Bishop’s Excellence Award earlier this year.

She completed her schooling journey having been

an active member of the student leadership team,

school music ministry and various Social Justice

initiatives. Her proud mum reflected on the passage

of time at the awards in September.

“When I saw her getting her award, it brought back

memories from when she was in Kindy and I started

to get teary,” said her mother, April.

For Alisha, the culmination of her schooling has filled

her with confidence to undertake the next stage of


her life. She is planning to study for a Bachelor of

Architecture in Fremantle next year and says she

will take what she has learned from school into

everything she does.

I’ve learned that I’m capable,

that I am independent

and have really developed

problem-solving skills.


“The teachers were so supportive, especially around

helping us with our mental health and wellbeing, they

were always there to bring comfort and support and

to help figure out solutions.” she said.

Alisha also noted that through her social justice work

in community outreach, she was able to connect with

lots of different types of people through things she

was passionate about and good at, opportunities she

credits to her Catholic schooling.

Louise Armstrong from Caroline Chisholm College

Glenmore Park fondly reflects on her time at

school and encourages her younger peers to relish

every moment.

for all of their support,” Sophia said. “Being able

to reflect on the whole 13 years of school and my

experience this year has given me the opportunity to

realise who I am, what I am good at and what I need

to work on as I finish school and step out into the

adult world.”

With plans to study a Bachelor of Arts and Education

(Secondary) at Macquarie University next year,

Sophia hopes she can have the same positive impact

on the next generation that she received throughout

her years at school.

“I would love to teach in Catholic education and

provide the same amazing opportunities for students

that I received from my teachers,” she said. “I’d love

to be able to give that to others.”

For further information about your local

Catholic school including enrolment

and career opportunities, please visit


From the beginning of 2023, Catholic Education Diocese of

Parramatta will be known as Catholic Schools Parramatta

Diocese Ltd.

“Enjoy every moment, make the most of the time

with friends and enjoy the support systems around

you because it is really unbelievable and you won’t

get that afterwards,” she said.

Sophia Trotnar from St John XXIII Catholic College Stanhope

Gardens with Bishop Vincent and School Principal Dr Peter

Webster at the presentation of her Bishop’s Excellence

Award. Image: CEDP.

Sophia Trotnar from St John XXIII Catholic College

Stanhope Gardens echoes this sentiment. She said

even though some days could feel like they were

‘dragging on’ she would go back in a heartbeat to

relive the time again.

“I would cherish the moments more and I would

make sure to tell my teachers just how grateful I am


Digital pilgrims take the

virtual road to encounter


It was not suddenly and unannounced that Jesus came

into the world. He came into a world that had been

prepared for Him. The whole Old Testament is the story

of a special preparation... Only when all was ready,

only in the fullness of His time, did Jesus come.

Phillip Brooks

Advent calls us to spiritually prepare for Jesus

to be born anew in the cradle of our hearts. The

Mission Team at Catholic Education Diocese

of Parramatta set out to design a fortnightly

formation program to answer this call.

As a result, an Advent-focused formation program

titled Encounter: Virtual Progressive Pilgrimage was

developed for school leaders and CEDP leaders. This

virtual pilgrimage leads digital pilgrims along the road

to Bethlehem through an immersion into key Adventrelated

Scripture passages and locations.

This Encounter program draws on the discernment

processes of listening to the Holy Spirit as we

respond to Bishop Vincent’s call to lead and discern

together as a synodal church.

How does a virtual pilgrimage work?

This particular virtual pilgrimage is led by facilitators

Amanda Bentley - CEDP Mission Partner, and Tim

Hardy - CEDP Head, Leading and Learning. Each

of the five sessions focus on one key passage

and a key location in the Holy Land that reveals

core moments in the Advent narrative that leads

to the Nativity.

During each session, pilgrims are guided by the

following process. The facilitator offers a brief

contextual overview behind the passage and the

significance of the particular location. Then the

scripture process begins:

1. Listen to the scripture passage

2. Silently reflect on the passage

3. Listen to the scripture passage

once again

4. Silently reflect on the passage

5. Discuss in small groups ‘What have I

heard from the Spirit speaking to me

through the scripture passage?’

6. Share as a large group ‘What have

I heard the spirit speaking to me

through the voice of others?’

At the conclusion of the five sessions, digital pilgrims

are invited to gather face-to-face for a dinner of

celebration and reflection on the pilgrimage that has

led to table. Such a conclusion is reflective of the

Road to Emmaus where Christ was made present

through the breaking of bread together in a meal.

This formula of journeying together in Word and

Spirit was first brought to life when the first Virtual

Pilgrimage was offered in Term 2 this year. After

its first popular uptake, it was repeated in Term 3

with an even wider audience. The focus on Advent

now provides a platform for a new direction in the

footsteps of the Magi.


Being deeply open and listening with the ear of the

heart to the Spirit provides pilgrims with moments

of intimate connection and many have described it

as a powerful experience in which to start the day

with their God.

The scripture below acts as islands in time upon

which the hour each fortnight is dedicated to explore

and wander with the Spirit as we prepare to make a

way for the Lord.

• Isaiah 11:1-10 - Prophecy of Jesus foretold,


• Luke 1:68-79 - Canticle of Zechariah, Temple,


• Luke 1:26-38 - Annunciation, Nazareth

• Luke 1:39-56 - The Visitation, Ein Karem

• Matthew 2:1-12 - The Magi, Bethlehem

As we continue our journey of preparation, the

Mission Team at CEDP would like to offer you our

deepest blessings and prayers as we draw ever

nearer to Bethlehem.

Virtual Pilgrim Reflections

Pilgrim 1:

“This experience has helped me create space

within myself at a time when I would normally

be so busy. As I have walked through the

shopping centres and seen the Christmas

decorations hanging, I would normally feel

that time was ticking and I had to create my

shopping plan to be ready. This year seeing

the decorations, I find myself reflecting on

the scripture we explored at our last Virtual

Pilgrimage session. I really feel like I am

making room for Jesus in my life.”

Pilgrim 2:

“The Virtual Pilgrimage has made a difference

to my daily work life. After our time of

stillness and reflection in the morning, I find

I have a sense of inner peace that I carry

with me throughout my day. I find I am more

present to my staff. It is a journey that I

highly recommend.”

Daniel Petrie is a member of the Mission Team at Catholic

Education Diocese of Parramatta. From the beginning of

2023, Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta will be

known as Catholic Schools Parramatta Diocese Ltd.

Amanda Bentley, CEDP Mission Partner, and Tim Hardy, CEDP Head, Leading and Learning lead the virtual pilgrimage. Image: CEDP.

When Christmas is a time of fear


Christmas is one of the most joyful times

of the year for Christians, but for a growing

number of mostly women and children living

in fear of domestic violence, it can also be a

dangerous flashpoint.

Tracy McLeod-Howe, Head of Safeguarding in the

Diocese of Parramatta, who has previously worked

as CEO of Domestic Violence NSW and run women’s

refuges, says Christmas is a time when underlying

tensions can often spill over into violence.

“In the women’s refuge setting, Christmas is sadly

the busiest time,” she says.

“Alcohol will unleash existing behaviours, as well as

the pressures of family members being together and

the high expectations that come with the narrative

that everything should be perfect at Christmas.”

While Christmas can be a particularly dangerous

time, the 2022 Australian Catholic Bishops’ Social

Justice Statement entitled Respect: Confronting

Violence and Abuse, calls on the faith community to

be alert to the issue of domestic violence at all times,

and to listen and act, where necessary.

“The teaching of Christ urges us to promote

relationships marked by respect and freedom rather

than coercion and control,” says ACBC President,

Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB.

“The virtue of solidarity challenges us to support

those who are seeking justice in the face of such

widespread violence.

“The message of the Gospel is not a message

of domination of one person over another but a

message of mutual esteem and kindness.”

Ms McLeod-Howe says the bishops’ statement,

issued for Social Justice Sunday, was strong and

timely, given the prevalence of domestic and family

violence in the community.


“I thought it was important that they named the

different cohorts of people in the community,

especially women, who are impacted by domestic

violence, particularly indigenous communities, and

that the document included the voices of so many

women,” she says.

“The statement is prefaced from actual policy

positions and research, so the bishops are not trying

to deviate from the huge amount of work that experts

in this field have done, but to build on it and that

gives the statement a lot of credibility.

“It also reflects the wonderful work being done in this

space on the ground by faith-based organisations.”

Tracy says the Diocese of Parramatta Office for

Safeguarding is working on a number of fronts to

address domestic violence, including supporting

clergy in their role of speaking out against violence

and supporting those who may be affected.

“We are running a domestic violence training

program online and have previously worked with the

NSW Police Multicultural Office to support women

in those communities who might be living with

domestic violence,” she says.

“In addition to that, we are using the Iris app, which

is a journalling tool for Christian women to observe

when things don’t feel right in a relationship and note

any red flags that come up.”

The bishops’ statement also alerts people to the

perpetration of spiritual violence and abuse.

“Denigrating a person’s religious beliefs, spiritual

practices, or culture, preventing them from practising

their faith or culture, forcing them to participate in

religious or cultural activities, or ‘manipulating religious

teachings or cultural traditions to excuse violence’ or

to exert control over them, are all examples of spiritual

violence and abuse,” the statement says.

The bishops say that the Bible cannot be legitimately

interpreted to justify male power and control over

women and children.

“The Catechism of the Catholic Church does not

support the idea that men are superior to women

and entitled to dominate them. Canon law does not

encourage, much less require, women to remain in

violent or abusive marriages. Church teaching on the

family affirms that in cases of violence and abuse

separation can be ‘morally necessary’ for the safety

of victims.”

Tracy says the best thing that women can do

when experiencing abuse or violence is to “talk to

someone you trust”.

“Seeking professional advice is best, but if that

seems too big a step, then just open up to a friend or

family member you can trust because just letting the

secret out to somebody can bring freedom and the

possibility of taking further steps to safety,” she says.

“If someone you know is in immediate danger, you

must call the police. It can be a difficult thing to do,

but you could save a life.

“And, as the bishops say in their statement, one of

the biggest things we can do to support women

facing domestic violence and abuse is to listen to

them and believe them and never judge them.”

Debra Vermeer is a freelance writer.

• Keep a journal and write down any behaviours

that might be a red flag for possible abuse.

• Listen to any family members, friends or

members of the church community who share

stories of abuse or violence. Believe them.

• If you have concerns about your own situation

or somebody else’s call 1800RESPECT to get

advice from trauma-informed counsellors.

• Call the police 000 if you believe anybody to

be in immediate danger.

Iris app. Image: safeguarding.org.au


Community hero honoured with

new accessible playspace


One man’s advocacy means that those with a

disability can now easily access the Holy Spirit

Parish church. Now the whole local community

benefits through a playspace named in his honour.

The legacy of Western Sydney parishioner

and community advocate David Currie will be

remembered for decades to come after a local

inclusive playspace was dedicated in his honour.

At the same time, his own parish, Holy Spirit Parish,

St Clair-Erskine Park, can welcome people with a

wide variety of needs thanks to David’s advocacy

for accessibility.

On Monday 19 September 2022, a large group of

Holy Spirit parishioners joined Penrith City Council

Mayor Tricia Hitchen, NSW Member for Mulgoa

Tanya Davies, Holy Spirit assistant parish priest

Fr Peter Tangey OSA, David’s wife, Margaret,

their children, grandchildren and friends for the

official dedication ceremony of the David Currie

Playspace in St Clair.

David, a long-term parishioner, was a passionate and

tireless advocate for people with a disability, ensuring

that all members of his community could engage in a

fulfilling community life. He was an active member of

the Penrith City Council’s Access committee for over

12 years and was named the Penrith Citizen of the

Year in 2015. David passed away in January 2019.

Parish Moderator Fr Michael Belonio OSA is

delighted that David has been honoured and

remembered in this way. The church now

experiences the benefits of David’s advocacy for

ensuring all places are accessible to all people.

David was a man of compassion

and kindness, he was a welcomer

and a long-time parishioner

until his passing.

Fr Michael

“He took pride in the layout of the church when it

was being renovated, ensuring that from the carpark

to the altar there were no steps. We’re a parish that

is ‘elderly friendly’, we can welcome parishioners in

wheelchairs and lots of young parents with prams

attend our church too. It’s part of being a welcoming

and inclusive community for all generations and all


“David ensured there was no hindrance for anyone

going into the church. He saw his disability as not

being a limitation.

David Currie (third left) with NSW Member for Mulgoa Tanya Davies (third right) and members of the parish (L-R) Parish Moderator

Fr Michael Belonio OSA, then-Assistant Priest Fr Sumesh Joseph, then-Assistant Priest Fr Kim Phu Tran, Margaret Currie, and PPC

Chairperson Fleur Mathias after receiving a grant from the NSW government for their pergola outside the church. Image: Supplied

David Currie's son Ian pushes his children in a swing during

the dedication ceremony of the David Currie Playspace in

St Clair. Image: Diocese of Parramatta

“Our Augustinian charism is community-focussed,

being one mind, one heart, and I really feel that

David, and all of our parishioners, embody that vision

in their day-to-day lives.”

Speaking on behalf of the family, Elizabeth

Heggart, David’s daughter, said that the playspace,

affectionately called by her daughter as “Poppo’s

Park” will be a special place for the family to

remember and celebrate their father and grandfather.

“I know Dad would be so proud of this inclusive

playspace and what it means for those children in

the community who need different and adapted play

equipment so they can enjoy playgrounds just like

able-bodied kids can.

It makes us all so happy that Dad’s

legacy of empathy, compassion

and advocacy has been cemented

in this playspace.



Looking Deeper

The following articles encourage deeper reflection,

prayer and personal learning.

The city of Bethlehem

Looking Deeper

Falling downwards


He came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was

incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man.

The Newborn Child by Georges de La Tour

Looking Deeper

Jesus ‘came down’. Those simple words of the

Nicene Creed, say so much to us, as we enter

once again into the mystery of Christmas.

Jesus left His glory behind, the glory that He had with

His Father. He ‘emptied himself’—we call this the

kenosis or ‘emptying of himself’—to assume the form

of a servant, taking on our human condition.

Let’s remember that our God never forces Himself on

us. Jesus of Nazareth, the Word made flesh, never

makes us listen. He leaves us free. He comes to us,

as one of us. He ‘came down from heaven’.

Jesus came down from heaven to become one of us.

Like any immigrant, He brought with Him the culture,

language and lifestyle of His home in heaven. And

what is at the core of the language and culture of the

‘immigrant’ Son of God, who comes from the very

heart of the mystery of the Trinity?

Quite simply, that God is a lover who gives Himself

to us totally with boundless self-sacrifice. That to be

divine, is to become a servant of others.

As the great Anglican New Testament scholar and

bishop, N.T. Wright, has noted: God became flesh

not to stop being divine. It was a decision about what

it means to be divine!

This decision has enormous implications for our

discipleship. As Pope Francis has eloquently shown,

in his pastoral ministry, washing the feet of those

who are in need is an imperative and a test of our

being authentic and true to our faith. It is our way

of imitating the Son of God, who ‘came down

from heaven’.

For Jesus to come as one of the working poor, living

in an occupied territory, surrounded by scandal

and accusation, living in relative obscurity in the

middle of nowhere.

The child in the manger is therefore, calling us to a

spirituality of emptiness and service. Jesus emptied

Himself to serve humanity and, as Paul says in his

letter to the Philippians, we, therefore, have to empty

ourselves of all rivalry and conceit and all thinking of

ourselves as better than others.

Such a spirituality of emptiness prompts us to think

this Christmas, of what is inside us that we need to

empty out. Is it being judgemental? Is it a tendency

to sidestep the call of the Gospel to share generously

with others? Could it be an arrogance which looks

down and refuses to accept others in all their

difference? Might it be a subtle racism?

Whatever it is for each of us

personally, this spirituality

of emptiness demands our

inner conversion.

For living the Gospel today is not about being

promoted, taking the ‘higher’ place and ‘succeeding’.

When any disciple become ‘pedestalised’ – when

others exalt or adulate them beyond who they really

are – the Holy Spirit has a way of teaching us in the

Church, usually through humiliation and pain, that we

are all merely servants, not masters.

Not to name names, but even the history of our

wounded but graced Catholic Church, over the last

2000 plus years, has many very salutary examples

of this!

Let’s never forget that real development and growth,

the mystical tradition of our history tells us, comes

from ‘falling downwards’; from failing and yes, from

painful reversals.

And Christian ‘perfection’ is echoed best in the

person who can forgive and include imperfection,

not the one who thinks he or she is totally above all

the necessary messiness of being a ‘graced sinner’.

Being close to God is not about going up the

‘escalator’ of life. Rather, it is all about following a

God who is always ‘descending’ and constantly

bending down to serve.

That is how we live our way into the mystery of God.

In the words of Karl Rahner SJ, "We no longer have

to seek the beloved God beyond the stars in that

inaccessible light where He dwells and where no one

can see Him. Because it is Christmas, because the

Word was made flesh, God is near, and the faintest

word in the quiet chamber of our heart, the word of

love, reaches his ear and his heart."

Br Mark O'Connor FMS is Vicar for Communications in the

Diocese of Parramatta.


Following A Higher Power by Jen Norton. © Jen Norton.

Looking Deeper



Epiphany comes from the Greek epipháneia

meaning an appearance or manifestation, and

in Matthew’s infancy narrative, it refers to the

manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles who are

represented by the Magi. A tradition in early

Christianity maintained that the Magi arrived in

Bethlehem 12 days after the birth of Jesus and

so Epiphany Eve (Twelfth Night) gives way to the

feast of the Epiphany, occurring on January 6.

Matthew presents the Magi (Greek magoi) as Wise

Men from the East and quite likely saw them as

Zoroastrian priests who were practised in astrology,

the art of reading signs in the stars and heavenly

bodies. The irony here is that Jewish scholars would

have regarded astrologers as fools because of

their assumed ability to foretell future events and

discover hidden knowledge from reading the position

and movements of stars and planets. Matthew

deliberately challenges this prejudice against

Gentiles by highlighting the Magi as men of wisdom.

Throughout his gospel, Matthew will show various

non-Jewish characters coming to faith in Jesus

ahead of Jewish religious authorities who should

know better, but whose pathway to faith is blocked

by self-interest and distorted values.

When the Wise Men arrive at the house of Joseph

and Mary, they go down on their knees in worship.

What an extraordinary gesture of faith and homage

driven by intuition and a mystical openness to an

otherworldly revelation! They have come prepared

with gifts that symbolise royalty and destiny.

Adept at seeing Scripture fulfilled in the person

and life of Jesus, Matthew points to passages that

describe gifts of homage and deep respect for royalty.

An oracle of Second Isaiah (60:6) speaks of people

from foreign nations coming to Israel on camels

bringing gifts of gold and frankincense. The poet of

Psalm 72 sings of kings coming from Tarshish, Sheba

and Seba bringing gold and precious things to Israel’s

king Solomon. The Queen of Sheba (1 Kings 10:2)

also brings Solomon rich spices, gold and precious

things – all of these are gifts fit for a king. Matthew is

depicting Jesus as worthy of universal homage from

people in every corner of the earth.

What can we learn from this epiphany to such Wise

Men? Their whole adventure raises the question

that occurs in the book of Job (28:12), ‘Where shall

wisdom be found?’ and Matthew is offering some

insights in his story of the Wise Men. Wisdom is

beyond learning and the gaining of information.

The Wisdom books of the Bible and Jesus Himself

emphasise the fact that wisdom does not lie in

control, selfism or specialness, but in being open to

the Spirit in moments of mindfulness.

Wisdom joins those women and men who are on the

journey to wholeness, and wholeness has no place

for selfism or specialness. The wisdom of authentic

contentment in life depends on the quality of our

relationships with the Divine Presence, the others we

encounter in life, a healthy relationship with self and a

broad connection with our natural environment. This

wisdom of connection is the key to life in its fullness.

It is our way of partaking in the life Jesus came to

bring us: ‘I came that they may have life, and have it

to the full’ (John 10:10).

How am I open to that life in the Spirit? Jesus spoke

of the Spirit moving unpredictably here and there like

the wind (John 3:8) and that we do well to be open to

be inspired at any time, in any place. I can be moved

by the Spirit through something I read, or heard; by

a piece of music that gave me a lift or something

I caught on YouTube, like a TED talk. Such little

moments can be our way of growing in wisdom and

experiencing the Divine Presence in nature and the

world around us.

What about a resolution for the

new year to be like the Wise Men –

mindful and open to being

touched by the Spirit?

Dr Laurie Woods is a retired senior lecturer in Biblical

Studies from the Australian Catholic University and currently

conducts teacher inservice sessions and parish reflection

days. He lives in the Diocese of Parramatta and is a member

of Our Lady of the Nativity Parish, Lawson.


Jesus: the vulnerable

face of God


The Gift of God by Graham Braddock. Image: graham.braddock.co.nz

Looking Deeper

How is vulnerability a strength? Alison Ryan

looks at the lessons we can learn about

vulnerability at Christmas.

I wonder…What is the first thought that comes to

your mind when think about being vulnerable or

vulnerability? Maybe it surprises you to think of God

and vulnerability? I’m sure for some, the first thought

that comes mind regarding the word ‘vulnerability’

is ‘weakness’.

We are so conditioned to equate the two, to say that

being ‘vulnerable’, being open about who we are

and where we’re at in our lives, is the same as being

weak. But I want to suggest that this idea is not true.

That in a strange way, vulnerability is strength.

Not long ago, I was giving a talk to a young adults

group. I shared a part of my story with them, a

part of my story that was deeply painful for me.

It still stirs up feelings of hurt and worthlessness

and shame. After I shared my story, I asked the

group if they thought that I was weak for sharing

it with them. They all shook their heads. I asked

how they would describe what I had done. A few of

them said it was “powerful”, it showed “strength”,

it was “courageous”.

Now frankly, I didn’t feel strong. Instead, I felt

vulnerable. But that’s not what they saw. Maybe

when you have heard a friend share their story,

you’ve had that same reaction.

How often do we see vulnerability as courage in

someone else, but weakness in ourselves?

We need to change our thinking on this, because

being vulnerable is central to our lives as Christians.

Being vulnerable is how Jesus lived.

There are many examples in the gospels of how Jesus

lived his life with great vulnerability, but the beginning

and end of his earthly life stand out really strongly.

God could have come into the world as a mighty

military leader. There were plenty of them around at

the time. Or maybe, as a King like Herod or Caesar.

God could have entered our world in any way. He

didn’t. Instead, God became just like us. God chose

to enter human history as a tiny baby, about as

vulnerable as you can get.

And then we look to the cross. As Christians, the

Crucifixion is the greatest and most powerful thing

that has ever happened. Our God willingly gave up

His life, for the sake of the whole world. How did this

amazing act of strength happen?

Jesus…hanging, naked, on a cross…dying.

If you struggle with the concept of vulnerability as

strength, you are not alone. This is a big, upsidedown

idea and even sounds contradictory to so

much of what we think we know about the world.

In the Second Letter to the Corinthians, St Paul

tells us something about his prayer life. He’d been

struggling with a particular affliction and tells us what

God revealed to him:

…but God said to me,

‘My grace is sufficient for you,

for strength is made perfect

in weakness’.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (NRSV)

Then St Paul goes on to say: “So, I will boast all the

more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power

of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content

with weaknesses, for whenever I am weak, then I am


Living your life vulnerably isn’t smooth sailing.

Vulnerability is at the core of some very difficult

emotions that we all experience: fear, anxiety,

shame. But vulnerability is also the birthplace of joy,

love, creativity, belonging, and faith. You have to

be vulnerable to have faith, to be able to step into

something that there is no proof for. To be willing to

risk that people won’t get it when you tell them what

you believe - that’s true vulnerability.

Alison Ryan is a parishioner at St Anthony of Padua Parish,

Toongabbie, and is a member of the Mission Enhancement

Team in the Diocese of Parramatta.


Fr Paul Slyney (centre) with Bishop Vincent (right) and

parishioners at the Chrism Mass 2018 at St Patrick’s

Cathedral, Parramatta. Image: Diocese of Parramatta.

A cuppa with the priest

Fr Paul Slyney, Parish Priest of

Our Lady of the Nativity Parish, Lawson


A six-month ‘trial’ of seminary life has turned

into a lifetime of joy and contentment for Fr Paul

Slyney, Parish Priest of Our Lady of the Nativity

Parish, Lawson.

As he reflects on his priestly life, Fr Paul Slyney says

it began with a feeling about a vocation “he couldn’t

shake”. The priesthood wasn’t necessarily his first

choice, he admits, but his internal compass was

pointing him in that direction. To honour that feeling,

he started at St Columba’s Seminary in Springwood

(now since become St Columba’s Catholic College

Springwood), intending to stay for six months.

As the six-month mark in the seminary went by,

he hardly noticed. After a few years at St Patrick’s

Seminary at Manly, he was ordained a priest in 1981.

Today, his gratitude and love for his vocation is obvious.

I’ve met extraordinary people.

In particular, the diversity he has found in Catholicism

delights him. “Diversity is truly Catholic” he says,

commenting on the different approaches to worship

he has seen through encounters with Catholics of

the many cultures and traditions that make up the

Diocese of Parramatta community. “The one thing

that unites us is the gathering around the table of the

Lord at the Eucharist,” he explains. “We become a

holy people. The Eucharist makes us aware of the

goodness of God.”

It is the part of Mass which gives him a distinct joy.

“When I say ‘Behold the Lamb of God who takes

away the sins of the world’, I smile,” he says. “I feel

the sense of liberation that Christ gives us, that sense

of belonging in those words, that sense of being

embraced by the love of God. No one can take that

away from us.”


Looking Deeper

The Catholic concept of community continues to

drive and delight him, and he draws on Matthew 18:

19-20 to explain. ‘For where there are two or more

gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them.’

The song of the Church is one

of a love of God that constantly

brings people together, so He

may share His love, His life

and His grace with us.

He remembers his discussions with Bishop

Bede Heather, the first Bishop of the Diocese of

Parramatta, and his focus on community. “Bishop

Bede would always say we don’t just create a holy

place, we are here to form a holy people,” he says.

In talking with him, Fr Paul’s enthusiasm for finding

joy in faith is evident, and we discuss how he even

cheers parishioners with the odd joke.

“As Thomas Aquinas said, ‘Happiness is one of

God’s names’,” he says. “Laughter and joy is an

integral part of what it means to be Catholic. If we

don’t see joy, we are not doing it right.”

Fr Paul talks about how the Lawson parish came

together to rebuild, after the church was destroyed

by a fire lit by arsonists. The parishioners made

all the decisions. “It is a church built by, for, with

community. It is a true expression of a living faith.”

One word in particular stands out for him about

Our Lady of the Nativity Parish at Lawson. “If there

was one word to say about Lawson, it would be it

is an incredibly ‘welcoming’ community,” he says.

“Everyone is welcomed, and no one is judged. I’m

here, you’re here, we’ve journeyed on different paths

to get here, but God has brought us together.”

Have you been considering

broadening your faith


Wondering where to next in your pastoral activities?

What paths study may lead to?

• Many tertiary theological degrees to choose from

• Small class sizes and quality of lecturers ensure a personalised learning experience

• Classes can be audited (attended without completing assessment)

• Government assistance for tuition fees is available to eligible students

For more information contact us on:

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or visit our website: www.cis.catholic.edu.au

CIS is a Partner Institution of the University of Notre Dame, Australia

99 Albert Road, Strathfield NSW 2135

Parish Profile

Our Lady of the Nativity Parish, Lawson

A gathering of friends in faith


Our Lady of the Nativity Parish, Lawson, has

a close-knit faith community who, despite

overcoming obstacles themselves, reach out in

generosity to others. In doing so, they have shown

commitment to each other and to the parish.

The parishioners of Our Lady of the Nativity Parish,

Lawson, one of the smallest parishes in the Diocese,

see their size as being an advantage. The resulting

closeness and the influence of their patron feeds into

the community’s friendship, love and generosity.

“Being a small community makes it easier for us to

know each other. We may not know each other’s

names always, but we recognise the face, and I think

that’s conducive to a happy community,” acolyte and

reader Terry O’Donnell says.

“We have a tradition where the commentator, who

welcomes people to the parish each weekend, says,

‘please turn around and acknowledge people in

the church and say ‘hello’, give them a wave’,” he

explains. “There’s always a welcoming aspect.”

Parish accountant Kevin Medlin adds, “it’s not an

audience or a congregation, it’s a group of friends.”

The result, says parishioner Carol Teodori, is lots of

energy. “We’re not a very quiet church,” she says,

“we’re vibrant and energetic. I feel more at home

here than at any other parish I’ve belonged to.”

Parish secretary Richard Kemmis agrees. “Mass

feels like a coming together with friends,” he says.

“The welcoming feel of this community gets people

to want to come to Church every week. It has a

connection with people.”

Parishioner Rosana Taylor was welcomed with open

arms when she joined the parish ‘by accident’ 10

years ago. “It’s a friendly, understanding and helpful

parish,” she describes. “When I was sick, parishioners

would call and visit to find out how I was doing.”

Priests a gift to the parish

The parishioners credit their welcoming nature to

their priests with hearts of gold – Fr Paul Slyney and

Fr Shinto Francis.

“Fr Paul is a very welcoming, open and fair person

and a great listener. He likes to include people and

their ideas in what happens in the parish,” Terry says.

Fr Shinto describes the two years working in the

parish as “amazing” and says Fr Paul considers him

a “brother in ministry”.

“His compassionate heart for the community is a

great example for me. He is very generous in his

encouragement and support,” he says.

Parishioner Kate Powell praised Fr Shinto for his

contribution to the parish in such a short period of

time. “He makes his sermons relevant to everyday

life,” she said. “He puts so much work into his

homilies each week.”

Christmas traditions

As the parish patron, Our Lady of the Nativity’s

nurturing, loving and caring nature is embodied in the

parish, parishioners say.

In solidarity with Our Lady, each year the parish

generously donates Christmas gifts to mothers and

children from Catholic Care’s Houses to Homes

program. Parishioners take a name tag off an ‘Angel’

tree of a mother or a child and then purchase a

relevant gift.

“There aren’t enough people in Houses to Homes to

satisfy the number of people who want to donate,”

Carol explains, as each year, parishioners quickly

take the tags outlining the suggested gifts to buy for

the disadvantaged families.


Parishioners (back row

L-R) Terry O’Donnell,

Kevin Medlin and Rita

Verhoeven and (front

row L-R) Rosana Taylor,

Kate Powell, Carol

Teodori-Blahut and

Richard Kemmis. Not

pictured is Maureen

Ryan. Image: Diocese

of Parramatta

Looking Deeper

Other Advent and Christmas traditions include

parishioners delivering reflections on the week’s

readings during Mass in Advent and working with the

primary school to celebrate their Children’s Mass in

the school grounds.

Determination despite difficulties

Despite the positive and joyful nature of the parish,

the parish has had a few setbacks. During the 1980s

and 1990s, the parish was without a resident priest,

and there were discussions of it being amalgamated

with Upper Blue Mountains Parish. More recently, the

church and its buildings have been damaged by two

fires lit by arsonists.

I ask the parishioners how they remain joyful and

hopeful despite all these difficulties.

Rita Verhoeven, a lifelong parishioner and member

of the Finance Committee says, “when we lost the

priest and they were going to close the parish, the

parish took it upon themselves to form committees

to keep going, and I think our inclusivity stems

from that.”

Sacramental Coordinator Maureen Ryan adds,

“there’s a commitment, peace and community here

that has been built up over time. We’ll get through

this through thick and thin.”


Breaking the cycle of homelessness

in our community


As we draw closer to Christmas, when Christians

celebrate the birth of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, in

a stable, Catholic Care is seeking support to help

many in our own community who are longing for

the comfort of home.

In launching Parramatta Catholic Foundation’s

Bishop’s Christmas Appeal supporting Catholic

Care’s Assistance with Care and Housing service,

Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of

Parramatta said that for too many of our vulnerable

brothers and sisters, ‘home’ is a damp and mouldy

garage; a mattress on the floor; or a piece of

cardboard on the street.

“Many of our marginalised brothers and sisters don’t

meet the criteria that would make them eligible for

government assistance,” he said. “So, when they

suffer housing stress or are evicted from their homes,

their need is acute.

“Earlier this year, Catholic Care committed to reach

the people who are being overlooked. So, we

launched our Assistance with Care and Housing

service, which offers practical and emotional support

to these vulnerable people, and those who are

socially excluded.”

Georgie Crabb, Catholic Care

Case Manager and Denise*

Image: Diocese of Parramatta.

Looking Deeper

Bishop Vincent said the program started in February

and already, 120 clients have received support. In

the last seven months, the demand for this service

has soared.

Georgie Crabb, a Catholic Care Case Manager, said

that as the cost-of-living soars and the housing

market tightens, more and more people are facing

hard times.

“This is a really desperate time,” she said. “Our

job is becoming more and more difficult. We walk

alongside older people who’ve applied for 30-odd

properties, and they’ve been knocked back from

all of them. Their eviction date is looming. Calls are

coming in every day.”

Georgie said that a few years ago, 56-year-old

Denise* had to leave her partner because of repeated

acts of domestic violence.

She moved in with one of her daughters and for

a while everything was going well, but eventually

the rental where they were living went up for sale.

They had to find a new home, urgently. Denise was

determined not to be a burden to her children, so she

went searching for an affordable place where she

could stay.

But no matter how hard she tried, Denise kept

missing out on the rentals she applied for. Things

became so desperate that Denise agreed to rent a

small house, but it was practically falling apart.

“When it rained heavily, the rain came in through

the bathroom roof, and every time I turned the light

switch on, I’d get a shock,” Denise said.

“There was so much mould, and the house was

infested with cockroaches.”

On top of this, Denise, who had spent most of her

working life shearing sheep, now lives with the

physical toll of that crippling employment and can no

longer work.

Denise didn’t know what to do, or who to turn to

for help. Thankfully, Services NSW referred her to

Catholic Care and our Assistance with Care and

Housing service.

Finally, she no longer had to bear her burden alone.

Case Manager Georgie arrived at her door to offer

emotional and practical support so Denise could

find a safe and secure place to call home.

Catholic Care helped me to

do my application for housing,

so I’m finally on the housing

list. They’ve helped me out with

food parcels, and they’re just

so lovely. They treat you like a

human being, and you can tell

they really care, she said.

Denise is now living comfortably in a clean, dry, and

safe home.

“I wouldn’t be where I am today without Catholic

Care,” she said.

Bishop Vincent invites our faith community to give

a compassionate Christmas donation to ensure

Catholic Care can help more people like Denise find

a safe and secure place to call home.

“Pope Francis repeatedly calls us to care for those

who find themselves excluded, without work, and

without any means of escape,” he said.

“So, as we contemplate Advent and Christmas,

please remember the poor grandmother who only

has mould decorating the damp walls of her rental.

And the unemployed homeless young man lying

painfully on a bit of tattered cardboard for a bed.

They are our sisters and brothers. And just as Jesus

loves them, so must we.”

Your kind Christmas gift will help Catholic Care

provide shelter and help end homelessness in

our community.

No one should be without a place to call home.

*Denise’s name has been changed to protect her privacy

To donate, please call

(02) 8838 3482 or visit




Closing the early years learning gap

one traineeship at a time


Amelia’s path to her dream career in Children’s

Services began with a 20-week work placement

in the Ambrose early learning centre co-located

with her school. Now, thanks to a program offered

to students in the Diocese of Parramatta, she is

completing a Diploma in Early Learning Education

free of charge at the centre while being paid a

full-time salary.

With school exams now well and truly over, many

young people may be considering their next move.

An emerging program offered in the Diocese of

Parramatta is helping to bridge the skills gap in the

Early Childhood Education & Care sector, as well

as giving students and trainees an opportunity to

become qualified supported by paid work.

According to the National Skills Commission - which

tracks job demand via online ads - early childhood

educators are currently the fifth most in demand

profession in Australia, averaging 4,549 job ads a

month from June to August 2022.

Ambrose, which operates six early learning centres

and 49 out of school hours care centres in the

Diocese of Parramatta, is offering students with

a genuine passion for child development the

opportunity to work in the sector while still in school.

The Ambrose Pathways Program also includes

access to fee-free qualifications for Certificate III,

Certificate IV, and Diploma qualifications.

“Completing a Certificate III or a Diploma in early

childhood education at no cost to the student is an

incredible opportunity,” said Jessie-Leah Khazzouh,

the Professional Development Coordinator at CDPSL

(Catholic Diocese of Parramatta Services Limited),

the Diocesan organisation behind Ambrose.

“Work placement is a great opportunity for them to

dip their toes in the water. That can happen at one of

our extended hours centres, which are open during

the school holidays.”

Amelia, one of five trainees currently following an

Ambrose pathway, said:

It’s definitely something

I’d recommend to others.

The number of trainees is expected to quadruple

by 2023.

The Ambrose Pathways Program

The Program offers three pathways: work

placements, school-based traineeships, and workbased


High school students can get work experience in

one of the Ambrose Early Learning services within

the Diocese. If they are in Year 11 or 12, they can

undertake a school-based traineeship, studying a

Certificate III in Early Childhood Education & Care

whilst completing their HSC.

As part of the traineeship, the student also works

part-time at an Ambrose service which provides

practical experience, the support of mentors and

an income.

“Definitely the aim is to retain the trainee,” says

Vickie Parkes, Director of the Ambrose Early Learning

Centre Stanhope Gardens, where Amelia is based.

This can also be a stepping

stone to primary teaching.


Amelia’s path to early learning began with

a work placement when she was just 16 –

thanks to the Ambrose Pathway Program

in the Diocese of Parramatta. Here

she is pictured with Addie and Connor

at Ambrose Early Learning Stanhope

Gardens. Image: Diocese of Parramatta.

Amelia’s path to a dream career

Amelia got her first taste of the early learning

profession in Year 10.

“While I was at St Mark’s [now known as St John

XXIII Catholic College] I did work experience one day

a week for 20 weeks. I really liked it,” she said.

In Year 11, Amelia enrolled in CathWest Innovation

College Mt Druitt and came back to the service to

complete a school-based traineeship, along with a

Certificate III in Early Childhood Education. Being

paid was a welcome bonus.

Now, Amelia is completing a Diploma in Early

Childhood, through a work-based traineeship at

the centre.

“I love my team and the job itself - being able to help

the children and to watch them grow,” said Amelia

who can now pass on her knowledge to the latest

school-based trainee, Sophie.

“The year group when I had my work placement is

in Year 2 now. I see them walking past the gate. They

don’t remember me,” she laughed.

Isabell Petrinic is a freelance writer.

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A social enterprise of Catholic Diocese of Parramatta Services Limited (CDPSL)


Government subsidies available to eligible families.

Visit ambrose.org.au or scan the QR Code

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An ever-green tree is always green. It does not become

dormant in winter as other trees do. The colour green

represents new life and the needles of the evergreen

point up – heavenward. It symbolises our everlasting

life with Jesus Christ.

Symbols of Christmas

Mini Book

Words by Felicity Mollohan

With thanks to Ministry-To-Children.com

The star is a heavenly sign of prophecy fulfilled ages

ago, the shining hope of all mankind. The star led the

wise men to find the baby Jesus. These wise men

travelled many miles following a star in the sky. The star

was their "guiding light" to the Saviour. God was the

wise men's travel agent, in sorts, leading them to the

greatest destination known to man - the Saviour. We

now have His Word as our "guiding light" to lead us to

be with Him in heaven. Are you going to follow Him?

Many people spend hours wrapping all of their

presents during Christmas time. They use ribbons,

garlands and bows to make sure that their presents are

as beautiful as possible. What they don’t realize is that

the items that they use to complete the outside of the

gift have more meaning than the actual gift inside. The

bow ties our present with a beautiful ribbon, just as

Jesus ties us as Christians together in His love. We may

not be in the same family, but we are all in the family of

God. Jesus is the ribbon that binds us together.

When a room is full of darkness, it is dark. But, if you

light a single match in a dark room, the room is light.

There may be more darkness, but the light overpowers

it. We are that light. We can be the single light in a

world of darkness. We must share our light with the

world so that the light increases.

The Candy Cane symbolizes multiple things. If you

hold it upright...it looks like a shepherd’s crook. The

shepherds were one of the few people who were able

to see the baby Jesus in Bethlehem. If you turn the

candy cane upside down it looks like a J for Jesus.

The colours of the candy cane are also symbolic. The

red represents the blood that Jesus shed for us on the

cross and the white represents the purity of Jesus.

Ornaments are used to decorate Christmas trees each

and every year. They can symbolize the blessings

in our lives. Everything that we have is due to God

loving us so much that He wants to shower us with His

blessings. Just as ornaments are all different shapes

and sizes, blessings are all different as well. God picks

and chooses each blessing for us so that it will be just

right. When you put each ornament on your Christmas

tree, think of a blessing that God has given you. You

might find you run out of ornaments before you run

out of blessings!

The bell rings out to guide lost sheep back to the fold,

signifying that all are precious in the eyes of the Lord.

Jesus is our shepherd and He laid down His life for us

so that we may spend eternity with Him in heaven. He

is calling us to follow Him through His Word. Are you

going to listen?



On the opposite page you’ll find a mini colouring book about

the symbols of Christmas. You can colour it in and maybe give

it as a gift this Christmas. Find out how to fold the mini-book at


Do you know the story of the three wise men? Do you know what

guided them to the baby Jesus and what they brought for him?

Three Kings – Magi. Image: https://www.thecatholickid.com/three-kings-magi-wise-men-coloring-page/

What’s On in the Diocese?

10 DECEMBER 2022

St Patrick’s Cathedral Advent Festival –

a night of carols and festivity

St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta

17 DECEMBER 2022

Happy Birthday Pope Francis!

20 DECEMBER 2022

Catholic schools break for Christmas and the

summer holidays

20-25 DECEMBER 2022

Christmas Masses and events in

parishes throughout the Diocese

See parracatholic.org for your nearest Mass centre

2-8 JANUARY 2023

Epiphany Pilgrimage through the Blue Mountains

Details at epiphanypilgrimage.org

27 JANUARY 2023

Official start of the school year in the

Diocese of Parramatta

27 AND 29 JANUARY 2023

Pre-marriage weekend course, Blacktown *


Annual Legal Red Mass

7.30pm, St Patrick’s Cathedral Parramatta


Sr Nathalie Becquart XMCJ Public Lecture

St Patrick’s Cathedral Parramatta *


World Day of Prayer, Reflection and Action Against

Human Trafficking

11 FEBRUARY 2023

World Day of the Sick Mass

Mary Queen of the Family Church, Blacktown

17 AND 19 FEBRUARY 2023

Pre-marriage weekend course, Blacktown *

19 FEBRUARY 2023

St Bakhita Mass St Patrick’s Church, Blacktown

20 FEBRUARY 2023

Liturgical Ministry Course commences, Blacktown *

23 FEBRUARY 2023

Liturgical Ministry Course commences, Penrith *

23 FEBRUARY 2023

LIFTED Live, West HQ *

26 FEBRUARY 2023

Rite of Election at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta *

10 MARCH 2023

Penitential Service RCIA at St Patrick’s Cathedral,

Parramatta *

10 AND 12 MARCH 2023

Pre-marriage weekend course, Blacktown *

17 MARCH 2023

St Patrick’s Day Business Breakfast.

St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta

18 MARCH 2023

St Patrick’s Day Festival.

St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta

24 MARCH 2023

Masterclass for Married Sponsor Couples *


*contact MET@parracatholic.org for details.

The team at Catholic Outlook thank our

advertisers and contributors for your

support in 2022. We look forward to

continuing to working with you to share

the Good News in 2023.



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Reach families throughout Western Sydney

and the Blue Mountains.

Catholic Outlook is the official magazine of

the Diocese of Parramatta.

Contact Christina Gretton on 0439 594 726

to place your ad.

Directory of services

(02) 8843 2500 or visit catholiccarewsbm.org.au

Chancery Office


(02) 8838 3400


Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv

(02) 8838 3400


Catholic Education

Diocese of Parramatta


(02) 9840 5600


Catholic Diocese of Parramatta

Services Limited

(02) 9407 7044



Ambrose Early Years Education

and School Age Care

(02) 9407 7044



Catholic Care Western Sydney

and the Blue Mountains

(02) 8843 2500


Mission Enhancement Team

(MET Parramatta)

Catholic Youth Parramatta

Marriage, Family and Natural Fertility

Pastoral Formation

Peace, Justice and Ecology




Confraternity of Christian Doctrine

(02) 8838 3486


Tribunal Office

(02) 8838 3480



(02) 8838 3460


Parramatta Catholic Foundation

(02) 8838 3482


Diocesan Development Fund

(02) 8839 4500


Holy Spirit Seminary

(02) 9296 6300

Office for Safeguarding

(02) 8838 3419


Ageing Well

Whatever your age, you will never be invisible to the people at Catholic Care. Our range of

supports aim to keep you living independently in your own home for as long as possible,

while staying connected with your friends and community.

Our Commonwealth Home Support Program support elderly people to stay living

independently at home, while our Community Visitor’s Scheme aims to reduce loneliness

and enrich people’s lives through fortnightly visits to residents at aged-care facilities.

Bringing a baby into the world

There are few things more important than caring for a newborn child. Our programs have helped

many young women who are feeling lost or have been excluded from their community and are

at risk of homelessness, to get the support they need. Our parenting support program supports

new parents finding the challenges of a newborn overwhelming.


Our chaplains provide spiritual and emotional support for patients and inmates, their

families and staff in the seven hospitals and three correctional centres throughout the

Diocese of Parramatta. An inclusive ministry available to all faiths, our 15 chaplains work

alongside others involved in the care of patients and inmates.


Catholic Care offers a range of support services to ensure children are taken care of in any

situation. It starts with early years learning and childcare — our home-based early learning and

parenting program for families with young children helps them and their parents develop skills,

and our family day care helps kids get a good start with their education. Our creche is a thriving

early learning centre, providing care for children of Sudanese refugee women enrolled in English

classes offered on the grounds of Catholic Care.

Connecting with my Community

Our drop-in centres provide a safe place for people to belong and connect with others.

They are a place to be, a place to get information, join a group, and be accepted.

In Emerton, Aboriginal Catholic Services is a drop-in centre led by Aboriginal people for

Aboriginal people. In Blacktown, culturally and linguistically diverse families are accessing

support to settle into life in Australia by the team at All Saints of Africa. And at our Springwood

Drop-in Centre, established to support the community after the 2014 bushfires, clients stop by

for a chat, join a reading group or seek support with their mental health.

Living well with Disability

We all need a support network to live our lives to the fullest. Our disability support team, can

help you with living, learning and overcoming obstacles on your journey, whatever they may

look like. We can help you set goals, and achieve them, and help you build a brighter future.

As a registered National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) provider, we support clients

at home and in the community, whether you want to learn how to cook, need support with

personal care, or want to play sport.

Support for my Family

When life gets tough for our families, the people we care about most can suffer. Our range

of family support services can support you to better relate to your spouse and understand

their behaviour, to deal with dependence or gambling problems, single parenting, or just

connecting with your kids.

We support families who are going through the most difficult of times to cope through

separation, and with grief and loss. We help parents deal with all the stresses that can

impact your family, from anxiety and depression to money worries, gambling—we have the

people, the resources and the support to help you make it through.


Pope’s Prayer Intentions

This Summer, Pope Francis asks us to pray together

as a worldwide community:

DECEMBER 2022 | For volunteer not-for-profit


We pray for volunteer non-profit organisations

committed to human development; may they find

people dedicated to the common good and

ceaselessly seek out new paths to international


Catholic Care WSBM and Aboriginal Catholic Services

Staff at the NAIDOC Week celebrations 2022. Image:

Diocese of Parramatta.

JANUARY 2023 | For educators

We pray that educators may be credible

witnesses, teaching fraternity rather than

competition and helping the youngest and most

vulnerable above all.

An educator and student at Ambrose School Age Care

Emu Plains. Image: Diocese of Parramatta.

FEBRUARY 2023 | For parishes

We pray that parishes, placing communion at the

centre, may increasingly become communities of

faith, fraternity and welcome towards those most

in need.

A welcome at Our Lady of the Angels Parish, Rouse

Hill. Image: Diocese of Parramatta


Latest appointments

Most Rev Vincent

Long OFM Conv,

Bishop of Parramatta,

has confirmed these

appointments in the

Diocese of Parramatta:

Rev Chukwunonyerem


Assistant Priest at

St Nicholas of Myra

Parish, Penrith, from

18 October 2022.

Rev Evergisto

Bernaldez MSP

Assistant Priest at Mary,

Queen of the Family

Parish, Blacktown, from

18 October 2022.

Rev Christopher


Parish Priest at Corpus

Christi, Cranebrook

returned from long

service leave.

See you at Christmas Mass

Check the times at catholicoutlook.org

or parracatholic.org

Voice of the people

How can we welcome newcomers to our faith communities at Christmas?

“We should be

patient with

those new and

returning to our

Parishes, as

they may be

unfamiliar with

our worship spaces. By expressing

the joy of Christmas through our

hospitality, we may even encourage

newcomers to return in the New Year.”

Judith-Grace Vella

Youth leader at Our Lady of the Rosary

Parish, Kellyville.

Images: Supplied


is a good

opportunity for

us to welcome

those we might

not have seen

for a while

back into our Christian communities

as though it were Joseph and Mary

searching for an open door, an

open heart.”

Deacon Tom Green

Deacon Assisting at Mary, Queen of the

Family Parish, Blacktown.


“The best way to

welcome people

is with a personal

invitation. When

asked about

your plans for


mention your parish community and

invite them to a parish Christmas

event like carols. Remember their

name/s and something about them

that you can ask about next time.”

Rebecca Reynolds

Parishioner of St John XXIII Parish,

Glenwood-Stanhope Gardens.

Grow your money in the Diocesan

Development Fund and invest in our

Church and its people

The idea behind any investment is to put your money to work. That’s all very good, but have you ever

thought about what it could do in its spare time?

At the Diocesan Development Fund (DDF), we have.

When you invest with us, you have a chance to give a little back to the pastoral work of the Church.

Whilst your money is earning a financial return very close to the market rate, a small fraction of your

return helps the Bishop to run programs in parishes and throughout the Diocese.

Like any managed fund, the DDF is able to increase earnings by pooling the resources of its investors.

But there is one important difference; the DDF directs surplus earnings to the Bishop of Parramatta

to be used for the works of the Diocese, such as counselling programs, adult education, youth

development, pastoral or liturgical activities.

To find out more contact our friendly staff on (02) 8839 4500

or visit our website at www.parracatholic.org.au/ddf.

The DDF’s services are only available to Catholic organisations. Individual investors wishing to

support the works of the Church can find out more at cdfcommunityfund.org.au

Disclosure Statement

The Diocesan Development Fund Catholic Diocese of Parramatta (DDF) (the Fund) is required by law to make the following disclosure. The Fund is not prudentially supervised by the Australian Prudential

Regulation Authority nor has it been examined or approved by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission. An investor in the Fund will not receive the benefit of the financial claims scheme or the

depositor protection provisions in the Banking Act 1959(Cth). Investments in the Fund are intended to be a means for investors to support the charitable, religious and educational works of the Catholic Diocese

of Parramatta and for whom the consideration of profit are not of primary relevance in the investment decision. The investments that the Fund offers are not subject to the usual protections for investors under

the Corporations Act (Cth) or regulation by Australian Securities and Investments Commission. Investors may be unable to get some or all of their money back when the investor expects or at all and any

investment of the Fund are not comparable to investments with banks, finance companies or fund managers. The Fund’s identification statement may be viewed at https://parracatholic.org or by contacting the

Fund. The Fund does not hold an Australian Financial Services Licence.

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