Sacred Heart Parish is not considered a remote parish, though many of its parishioners have traveled from afar. “The parish is very multicultural and welcoming,” said Marisa Van Thillo. She can attest to that, having arrived from Belgium four years ago, she has been happy to plant her roots here. “Many parishioners are from other places and when they arrive in Canada they feel vulnerable and susceptible. This becomes their second home.”
It is not as hard as it might at first seem, to integrate so many cultures into one cohesive parish. “We are all about eating,” say Isme Liem, hospitality volunteer and Katherene Newton, secretary of the parish. “Jesus went about and ate with everyone. We are following in his footsteps!” Each year the parish would hold a cultural evening with costumes, dancing and food from all over the world.
Before COVID-19 hit there was always fellowship in the beautiful courtyard after the Masses and, bringing everyone together since the onset of the pandemic, Fr. Alfie has been hosting a cooking vlog where he turns meals into events. Check it out here.
The tranquil courtyard, Sacred Heart Victoria 2020
Prior to the recent suspension of Masses and gatherings due to Covid, the Saturday Mass was uploaded for everyone to watch, and the words of the hymns and prayers are added so that viewers could sing along in the safety of their own home. Rafael Oei, the music director, also records music by request and sends it to parishioners. “He records our favorite top forty,” Marissa giggles. Thanks to a number of different priests, Masses are offered in Korean, Vietnamese, Polish, Syro-Malabar and Filipino. Mass is celebrated in English by the Pastor, Fr. Alfredo Monacelli, who also serves St. Joseph the Worker Parish.
Katherene knows most of the parishioners, according to Isme and Marissa, so she knows who needs help and who can help. At the beginning of the pandemic they organised a calling ministry known as the telephone brigade. They can keep in touch, shop and go for walks if a parishioner needs help. “Many feel that this is our family, and they miss it,’ says Katherene, so much so that when Mass was available to small groups, one young man made name tags.
Although donations have dropped, the ladies of Sacred Heart happily explained that COVID-19 has given the parish the opportunity to spring clean. Volunteers have scrubbed and painted, Fr. Alfie has rearranged the church so that Our Lord’s Sacred Heart is now the focus of the Mass, people remember to turn out the lights, they use potted plants instead of flowers, to save dollars, and they are caring even more about each other.
On the horizon Katherene says there are new families are coming in, some are moving away, there are lots of changes. What message would these three ladies like to send out to the world? Unanimously they exclaimed, “Come and experience Sacred Heart. See the Holy Spirit at work.” (Once the churches are again open for public worship, of course!)