Save 20% off! Join our newsletter and get 20% off right away!

16 years of Filipino Chaplaincy in Western Sydney

BY MARINELLA MOYA – ON THE 14TH DAY  MMayChaplainAY  2017, the community of  Filipino Catholics known as 2SM will be celebrating the sixteenth year anniversary of the Second Sunday Filipino mass of the Filipino community chaplaincy, Diocese of Parramatta. Sixteen years does not seem that long. How did this group start? It goes back a long way.

On the invitation of Cardinal James Freeman, the Society of the Divine Word mission in the Philippines sent Father Renato Paras to Australia in 1981 to minister to the spiritual and religious needs of the Filipinos in Australia. His first assignment was in Sydney.

The Filipino catholic community was growing and so was the desire to hold Catholic practices in the Filipino tradition. As soon as he arrived, he was given permission to hold masses in Filipino. It started in Marrickville. Subsequently regular masses were held in Blacktown as there were a lot of Filipinos in the area.

 It did not take long for the Filipinos in Blacktown hold the “simbang gabi”, a 9 day series of dawn masses leading up to Christmas. It was then followed by the Lenten practices such as “Pabasa”, Stations of the cross and the “Salubong”. Then came the start of the observance of All Souls day in November as done in the Philippines.

Attending mass in Filipino started to gain popularity such that schedule of masses in Filipino were done in different areas. This led to the presence of more Filipino priests to handle the religious and spiritual needs of the Filipinos in Sydney. Filipinos always feel comfortable having masses said in their language, weddings, baptism and other Catholic rites said in Filipino.

Eventually, the congregation attending the Filipino masses had grown and had to be divided into two areas: the diocese of Sydney and the diocese of Parramatta.

The diocese of Sydney covered areas such as Fairfield, Bossley Park, Hoxton Park, North Sydney while the Diocese of Parramatta had divided the areas and designated the weeks of the month as 1SM: St Claire, 2 Sm: Winston Hills, 3SM: Emu Plains, and 4SM would be in Blacktown.

Whereas masses in Filipino would be identified as merely a Filipino mass, the Diocese of Parramatta organised the religious activities of the Filipino community into a more recognisable structure identifying its affiliation according to the Sunday of the month the community attended their mass. Hence the 1SM, 2SM, 3SM and 4SM.  

The Filipino chaplaincy thru the different Sunday mass groups shows that it is a dynamic group approved by the dioceses to administer to the spiritual and pastoral needs of the Filipino Catholics.  The Australian Filipino gets to feel and is able to practice his faith in the traditional Filipino way. The 2SM, through the years, has observed and celebrated the various Catholic festivities in the traditional Filipino way. Along with the other Sunday mass groups, it has been involved in the Simbang Gabi, Pabasa, Salubong, Santacruzan and the annual Filipino fiesta held every month of March in honour of St. Joseph.

The 2SM group had its beginnings in the parish of St Oliver Plunkett in Harris Park. It then moved to the church within the Cumberland Hospital compound and on to the Cathedral of Parramatta. By 2012, the 2SM community moved to Winston Hills where it still holds its masses and fellowships.

The current 2Sm community has a core group currently composed of  Bes Mateo, Rey Rillera and his wife Rea, Pinang and Cesar Pagkaliwagan, Lyn and Owen Pangcog, Dexter and Ruth Tabeta, Grace and Mir Cosio, Erick Opena, Evelyn and Edgar Rademerio and Manny and Marinella Moya. They assist in organising the activities of the community.

Also, in the Filipino tradition, where there is the Filipino mass, there is the Filipino choir. The current choir members have Ariel Obrero as their conductor, Reli Jorge on the keyboard while Ely Belacho and Doy Ceballos provide the accompaniment on the guitar and rey Delos Reyes as the choir coordinator. 

Currently, the group’s chaplain is Father Ruben Elago . Prior to him, were  Father Raning Creta, Father Bong Dublan and others. 

On certain major feasts, all the four Sunday mass groups join forces. This is evident in the annual Filipino fiesta held every month of March in honour of its patron saint, St. Joseph.

If one wishes to witness and/or participate in any major Filipino festivity, one could attend any of Filipino Chaplain Sunday mass groups where they hold festivals in honour of Our Lady of Penafrancia, the Feast of the Santo Nino (where you would see the ati-atihan) and other Philippine festivals.

The fiesta starts off with a concelebration of the mass followed by the serving of Filipino food. Entertainment is done through song and dance presentations of local talents. There is also the much awaited raffle draw done during the fiesta which serves as the culminating activity for raising funds for the upkeep and maintenance of the Filipino chaplaincy group.

Fellowship after the mass is characterised by sharing of Filipino food and catching up with friends. It is here where one gets to taste Filipino food, Filipino entertainment and children’s games, the usual raffle draws

For the month of May, the 2SM will hold its Flores de Mayo. Little girls aged three and up will be offering flowers to Mary, the mother of Jesus. Other members of the community will be bringing their Marian images for blessing.

Indeed, a lot of activities have taken place in sixteen years. Members of the community have grown to be young men and women, the once young couples have become seniors but their faith is practiced like a Filipino and their passion to join the activities of the Filipino chaplaincy group has not wavered. All Filipinos wishing to attend mass said in their native language is most welcome to join any of the Filipino Chaplaincy Sunday mass area which will be convenient to them and their schedule. Thus , the saying”moving on to the next sixteen years, what else can we do to practice our faith?”