St Theresa’s parish community in Albion, Melbourne’s west, began its rich history 80 years ago with a community of young migrant families from Malta and Poland. By the end of the 1950s, families from Germany, Czechoslovakia and Italy had also joined the parish. Parish priest of 36 years, Fr Barry Hughes says that over the years there has developed 'a strong sense of community.’

In more recent years, the parish—which combined with Queen of Heaven and Mother of God churches since 1974—has welcomed parishioners from the Philippines, Vietnam, India, Sri Lanka and different countries of Africa. It is this vibrant community that makes up the parish, which includes various ministries. ‘Over the past ten years the parish has been developing its Parish Leadership Team, which currently has eight members,’ according to Fr Barry.

A special mass gathering to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Mother of God church

‘We have people who help to prepare the liturgies for Sunday, preparing Prayers of the Faithful, choosing hymns, and of course the people involved as readers and commentators for the liturgy.’

‘We also have people contributing to the parish newsletter with reflections on the Gospel and other reflections people have to offer,’ he says. ‘They vary as each person writes it in their own way.’

One particular thing that the parish has to offer, which Fr Barry describes as a ‘small thing’ is a food bank, which allows the parish to respond to people in need in a practical way. This is taken care of by Fr Barry or one of the parish secretaries; Jean Brennan or Genevieve Dorman.

The parish primary school St Theresa’s was also established in 1951 and is one of the most culturally diverse schools in the Archdiocese. A 'spirit of giving’ is also present within the school community, as evidenced during their annual drive on the Feast of the Sacred Heart where school families are asked to donate non-perishable foods. Come Christmas time, the school teachers have been known to ‘sometimes arrange hampers for families who are in need at the end of the year,’ says Fr Barry.

He says that the parish community ‘enjoys meeting one another and being in each other’s presence’, something the community has come to appreciate more fully given the extended lockdown periods.

While keeping in touch ‘in-person’ has been a big challenge over the past 18 months, it hasn’t stopped St Theresa’s from reaching out to parishioners. Each week, volunteers assist with posting out weekly packs on their daily walks. These consist of readings, links to hymns and a special introduction to each Sunday Mass as well as a newsletter that includes in-depth notices, reflections and photos of what parishioners have been doing to cope in the lockdown period.

Maria and Elizabeth enjoying coffee and cake after mass. 'Cuppa after mass' was held every six weeks at each of the churches before the pandemic.

‘There’s been a number of people who are very conscious of people’s needs and that is evident in the preparation of the material that is sent out and people letter boxing it,’ says Fr Barry. ’People are prepared to go out and put in the effort, dropping off these packs to different people’s letterboxes on their daily walks.

‘People still keep in contact with one another despite the limitations brought upon Melbourne during lockdowns.’

Reflecting on his parish, Fr Barry says ‘I think that we are already doing a lot of good things and I hope that this can continue, grow and develop.’ Looking to the future he hopes ‘to strengthen and broaden the parish leadership team’ so that it can continue to be of service during what can be described as ‘uncertain times’.

The feast of St Thérèse of Lisieux is celebrated on 1 October.