06 May 2024

Building strong sense of community


The Southern Cross | May 2024

After almost five years ministering in Adelaide, Fr Lancy D’Silva CSC says he feels “really blessed” to be part of the Archdiocese and the Catholic community here.

Taking over as the new Dean of St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral and Administrator of the Cathedral parish in February, Fr Lancy is making great efforts to get to know parishioners and strengthen that sense of community. He has already visited Kangaroo Island, Thebarton and Dulwich to celebrate Masses and was at the Cathedral throughout the busy Easter period.

“I was really impressed seeing the crowds in the Cathedral, especially on Good Friday and Easter Sunday when the sacristan told me we had nearly 1400 people for the 11am Mass,” Fr Lancy told The Southern Cross in early April.

“The church was full – there were people standing on the sides, when I went to sprinkle holy water in the foyer it was jam-packed, and there were also people standing out on the street and in the plaza.

“It makes me so happy seeing people participating in the Mass, in their faith. In spite of the high number of people ticking the ‘no religion’ box in the census, it showed there is definitely faith…and it wasn’t only in the Cathedral as other priests also said they had a good turnout over Easter.”

As the Dean of the Cathedral, Fr Lancy said he was aware that it is considered the ‘flagship’ for Catholics in the State and because of this, attracts many visitors. However, he admitted that also presents challenges for building a community.

“There are always different people here, but it is important in the Cathedral to create that welcoming environment, whether you are a visitor, you are a parishioner, or just coming for Mass. It’s about creating that sacred space for people,” he said.

“When I started my role, I came with a blind faith…my mission would be to become part of the community for all the parish. My second plan is to move around to the other churches in the parish, celebrating Mass in a different one each weekend.”

Fr Lancy has also attended a couple of CLC (Christian Life Community) meetings to “get to know them and have a connection to other Church communities”.

Along with the other 13 priests from India in the Archdiocese, he is closely involved with the strong Indian Catholic community and his gift for speaking several Indian dialects has resulted in him celebrating Masses for the Konkani and Marathi communities on several occasions.

While he is enjoying being part of a new parish, Fr Lancy said he was sad to leave the Sacred Heart parish (Hindmarsh/Findon) where he served as parish priest from the start of 2020.

“When I was appointed there, I was to step into a beautiful community and then COVID hit and it all went upside down,” he recalled.

“My first focus was my community, to build a relationship, and within three months everything had closed.”

However, together with the leadership team Fr Lancy knew the importance of continuing to connect with the community at such an uncertain time.

“We kept our doors open through Zoom, celebrating Masses through Zoom and Facebook, and we didn’t stop printing our bulletins and newsletters,” he said.

“We had volunteers who were willing to put these bulletins into mailboxes, so we managed to reach almost all the older parishioners in their homes and the others through email.

“That was our way of connecting and slowly, slowly they began to know who I am.”

Fr Lancy soon learned that the parish was very multicultural, with many new young families and international students joining since the pandemic ended.

To welcome them into the vibrant community he helped establish some small groups that would meet monthly for coffee, a meal or even bingo.

When Christmas festivities began the Carols in the Courtyard event was rolled out, bringing together more than 200 parishioners from Hindmarsh and Findon to build a sense of community between the two churches.

A couple of years ago the parish began a building project for a new parish hall at Hindmarsh, which will also accommodate the parish office.

Fr Lancy said fundraising was ongoing, but several events have been held, including a ‘Hearts United’ dinner dance with nearly 300 people from the parish attending.

In April, the community came together again to launch the centenary celebrations for Sacred Heart Church at Hindmarsh.

“So yes, it was sad to leave…I was attached to the community very much and they were very supportive spiritually and financially,” Fr Lancy said.

In another move to build community, Fr Lancy meets monthly with the three other Indian priests in South Australia who are part of the Congregation of the Holy Cross.

“It’s important for members of the congregation to get together regularly, as we always look for a community life.”

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