Father Peter Hoang has been parish priest at St Christopher’s in Airport West for the past four years. During this time, his focus has been on enlivening the spirituality of the parish community, describing it as ‘a desert flourishing like a green prairie’. He has also placed an emphasis on three words: reshape, renew and reform.
‘It’s about people working closely together and bringing people back,’ he says. ‘I wanted to transform this church so that people could recognise the Church of God here. The house of God must be beautiful.’
To help beautify the house of God, Fr Peter put a statue of Our Lady of Mercy under the tree outside the presbytery. Not only did it improve the appearance of the grounds, but ‘a lot of people now pass by and stop to pray’, he says.
‘Some people come at night and sit there and reflect, which is beautiful.’
St Christopher’s works with its sister parish, St Augustine’s, which is located a few kilometers away in Keilor Park, in Melbourne’s outer north. Each has its own primary school; St Christopher’s with more than 700 students and St Augustine’s with over 250.
‘I try my best to help the two schools to work together,’ says Fr Peter. With some promoting, ‘the schools have grown in popularity, particularly for families who are keen on faith formation.’
Before the onset of COVID-19, Liturgy of the Word with children was held at each Sunday Mass and the parish regularly held youth group sessions for students in Grade 6 through to early years of high school. Fr Peter would spend time teaching the group and invite them to an hour of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. The parish leadership team also encouraged youth groups from other parishes to attend every two weeks, and during the week Fr Peter would offer catechesis for children from the two primary schools. Each Saturday, a Family Mass was held where students from the local schools would attend with their parents and siblings and the parish choir would sing. The parish also has a youth choir and once a month welcomes the Tongan choir from Sunshine to sing at Mass.
In 2020, Fr Peter made sure the community kept in touch, particularly during the various lockdowns. ‘I have used times of lockdown for mini retreats,’ he says. ‘Last year, I asked my parishioners to do a retreat with me and I wrote many articles every week, each with a different topic.’
While the pandemic continues to impact parish life, Fr Peter hopes that in the future he can continue to ‘bring people back to God in unity’.
‘I hope to invite more people around the boundaries of my parish to be a part of this community, and to share their faith as well.’
Proclaim: Office for Mission Renewal17 May 2021
Melbourne Catholic17 June 2021