In the leafy suburb of Mooroolbark, in the outer east of Melbourne, can be found the parish of St Peter Eymard’s. Fr Joseph Lu Xin has been the parish priest for 11 years and describes his parishioners as both ‘community-spirited’ and ‘charitable at heart’.

‘The community has a range of people of various age groups and nationalities, from dedicated long-term parishioners to the new faces that arrive regularly.’ Fr Joseph says.

The ‘charity’ Fr Joseph describes, can be witnessed by the work of their St Vincent de Paul Society volunteers. The group consists of four to five parishioners that teach English to a group of nearly-15 refugee and new-migrant students from China and Myanmar. There is also a social justice group with the Kirkbrae food van that offers relief to those struggling, including during the Victorian lockdowns.

Fr Joseph also adapted his own way of serving in light of the pandemic and the lockdowns.

Fr Joseph visiting a sick parishioner at Peninsula Private Hospital, Frankston.

‘I tried my best to visit parishioners who were lonely. Quite a number of parishioners don’t have access to the internet so I’d mail-drop and when it was allowed, I’d visit them,’ he explains.

This included a socially distant visit to Kirkbrae nursing home where a 96-year-old parishioner was struggling with COVID-19.

‘I could not go inside so I anointed him and gave a blessing outside his window,’ he explains. ‘He survived and pulled through and after that he came with his daughter to thank me.’

‘I’ve never anointed someone outside a building before,’ he says with a smile.

The parish also celebrates their multicultural community and have a variety of music ministries of different ethnic backgrounds which include Tongan, Filipino and Anglo-Australian choirs.

Fr Joseph also mentions a Multicultural Mass and Lunch event that was first held two years ago. ‘It was very successful,’ reflects Fr Joseph. When the idea of the multicultural lunch first came about, Fr Joseph says it reminded him of when he was a priest for the Society of the Divine Word.

‘In September we’d have a multicultural Mass and dinner, so I said why just have a multicultural lunch, when we can have a multicultural Mass as well?’

‘On the day people dressed in their national dress and we had the Prayers of the Faithful in multi-languages,’ he says. ‘We hope to continue doing that after COVID as it was very successful.’

Despite the challenges, Fr Joseph says his parish has been able ‘to go back to normal’ in terms of numbers after a number of lockdowns.

‘So many people come for Mass and recognise that they need God,’ he says. ‘It is good, I have to say.’