On Sunday 24 September, the community of Holy Trinity Parish Bentleigh came together in all their multicultural finery for a series of Migrant and Refugee Sunday celebrations at three of the parish’s weekend Masses: at 9.30am at St Paul’s Bentleigh, and at 10.30am at both St Catherine’s Moorabbin and St Peter’s Bentleigh East.

The Masses were publicised throughout the parish in the weeks leading up to Migrant and Refugee Sunday, and parishioners were encouraged to dress in their national costume and bring along a plate of national ‘finger food’ to share.

On the day, each of the three parish churches were filled with a spirit of celebration as many parishioners turned up in their various national costumes. At the after-Mass celebration at St Peter’s, Parish Priest Fr Raju Jacob MST joined in, attending the festivities in Indian national dress. ‘I got some good-natured ribbing about my outfit,’ he says. ‘A few parishioners thought I was wearing pyjamas! I’ll have to step up my fashion game for next year.’

The homilies at all three Masses touched on the experiences and needs of those who have travelled from around the world to make a new home in Australia, many by choice and some by necessity. Fr Jacob connected the day’s gospel message of the last being first to those who come to our shores through need or searching for a better life. The prayers of the faithful also focussed on migrants and refugees, concluding with the Australian Catholic Bishops’ prayer for Migrant and Refugee Sunday.

After the Mass, parishioners were encouraged to stay for a multicultural feast, and many took up the invitation. In each location, the parish community spaces had been festooned with bunting and national flags by teams recruited from each community—the Indian community at St Catherine’s, the Filipino community at St Peter’s and ‘Aussie’ community members at St Paul’s. The tables were laden with an array of delicious food—a true celebration of the diversity of cultures and cuisines represented within the Holy Trinity community.

Some parishioners invited extended family members along to the Masses and parish celebrations, helping to swell the numbers and providing an opportunity to welcome people who would not normally attend Mass.

Pastoral Coordinator Donrita Reefman, who was able to attend two of the three fests, says, ‘Next year, I’m sure even more will be bold enough to dress up, after seeing this year’s response. I was delighted to see so many parishioners fill the tables with food, bring along extended family and stay for a much longer time than our usual morning tea after Mass. How lovely to see our parish community growing in sharing food and culture together with such joy!’

During and after the celebrations, the organisers received significant positive feedback, with many appreciating the opportunity to highlight and celebrate the rich multiethnicity of the parish while enjoying delicious food and strengthening the bonds of friendship within the community.

Plans are already being made to do it again in 2024.