On Sunday 2 October, the Mandarin-speaking Chinese Catholic Community of Melbourne celebrated a historic day with the dedication of their first church, Our Lady of China Catholic Church. This day was the fruit of many years of collaboration and fundraising, a dream the community has longed to see fulfilled.
An estimated 500 people were present for the event and Archbishop Peter A Comensoli performed the dedication, describing the day as ‘remarkable and historical’.
The excitement was palpable as the community celebrated Mass together and shared food afterward.
In his homily, the Archbishop encouraged the Mandarin-speaking community with the words of Paul to the Christians at Ephesus: ‘So you are no longer aliens or foreign visitors; you are fellow-citizens with the saints and members of God’s household’ (Ephesians 2:19).
The Gospel first reached China in the fourth century, he said, and its history is ‘deep and complex’.
But it has endured, even into today. It is thought that by 2050 China will be the largest Christian country in the world, by raw numbers.
‘Now, as present-day citizens of China who have taken the immigrant’s journey out into the wider world,’ he said, ‘it is people like you who bring the household of Christ into places like Melbourne, where the Christian message needs to be replanted among a people who have forgotten their heritage.’
‘You are following in the footsteps of St Paul; you are the seed planters of faith in an unfamiliar land. This house of the Church, crafted by God and built by your hands, is a symbol of this undertaking, and the whole Church in Melbourne is the more lovely for it.’
Fr Francis Li is chaplain to the Mandarin-speaking Chinese Catholic Community and has been serving them for many years, guiding them to this point.
For much of their life in Melbourne, the Mandarin-speaking community has had nowhere of their own to gather for worship. The very first Mass for Chinese Catholics wasn’t until 1958, with Fr Joseph Yu, at St Francis Church in the city.
Under Bob Hawke’s prime-ministership, the Chinese Catholic Community grew exponentially, and once a month they were able to have an English and Mandarin Mass at St Mary Star of the Sea in West Melbourne.
Over the years, as more Chinese immigrants arrived, Mandarin-speaking Catholics rented other churches so they could meet and celebrate the Mass in Mandarin, all the while dreaming of establishing their own church in Melbourne. In 2017, that dream became a reality, when the establishment of the Chinese Catholic Centre in Box Hill—renamed Our Lady of China Catholic Church (OLCCC)—was officially approved.
‘With God’s blessing and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the support of Archbishop Denis Hart, and the hard work and generosity of the community members, we now have our own community centre, Our Lady of China Catholic Church at 57 Lexton Road Box Hill North,’ Fr Francis told Melbourne Catholic in May.
With the dedication, Our Lady of China Catholic Church has been officially set apart for its sacred purpose and will continue to provide a spiritual home for many Mandarin-speaking Catholics in the years to come.
Fiona Basile30 November 2022
Melbourne Catholic30 November 2022