St Augustine’s Church Feb 9 2020

I would like to welcome His Grace, the Archbishop of Melbourne, Peter Comensoli. I would like to thank Father Victor Ferrugia, the present pastor of  St Augustine’s. I would also like to thank the North Melbourne Cathedral Parish council, and all who have helped in organizing this Divine Liturgy. I  particularly would like to thank all of you for coming today to this very special  liturgy of Thanksgiving.

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This year our Ukrainian Catholic Church will hold it 7th  Patriarchal Sobor in Lviv,  Ukraine. The theme this year is “Immigration, settlement and the global unity of the church. The Church is with you always and everywhere.” The church has always been with us!

Today we gather to thank God and the Roman Catholic Church of Australia for those early days of immigration which started in 1948. As you know, the Australian government welcomed about 18,000 Ukrainian immigrants after the second world war. Over 4,000 were in Melbourne alone.

تم النشر بواسطة ‏‎Ukrainian Catholic Church in Australia, New Zealand and Oceania‎‏ في السبت، ٨ فبراير ٢٠٢٠

 

Back then the Australian Catholic Church who knew very little about Ukrainian Catholics, welcomed us into their churches as we were all brothers and sisters in Christ. Our church and rite was nothing like theirs and they had not seen or heard about us up to this time. Archbishop Daniel Mannix deserves our deepest gratitude for offering us the hospitality of St Augustine’s Church.

Looking at our church archives we can see some very interesting facts about our life as guests of St Augustine’s. We were here from 1950 till April 1963.

We had over 500 baptisms in St Augustine’s in those 13 years. Probably over 1000 in total if you look at other churches within Victoria. St Augustine’s saw over 150 of our weddings and very surprising to me about 100 funerals. What shocked me the most were the little notes in the funeral records which stated the reason for death. Most of our immigrants were very young when they came to Australia.  There were many cases of cancer, car and motorcycle accidents. Far, far too many traffic accidents. Worse still, were the big number of deaths, which were simply recorded as “workplace accidents”. What was going on in Melbourne in those days?  Surely we still have these deaths today but our safety records are far better now!

Most of these sacraments were celebrated by my predecessor at the time Father Ivan Prasko – before he was a bishop, but even after that. At the beginning of our stay at St Augustine’s, Fr Paulo Smal who was the first Ukrainian Catholic priest in Australia, who celebrated many baptisms, weddings and funerals there.

Listen:

Since the Australian Catholic Church at that time knew nothing about our church and our married clergy, they ordered Father Smal out of Australia. He moved to the USA where he served our church until he passed away.

I am hearing from many of you who have come to celebrate those early years recollecting the very positive time you experienced here in this lovely church.  Many are recalling, Yes -This church is very special-I was married here.  Yes, I still like to visit from time to time- I had my first Holy communion. Yes, I remember as a youngster catching public transport with my parents every Sunday to attend liturgy and to bond with others with a Ukrainian background.

We had over 500 baptisms in St Augustine’s in those 13 years. Probably over 1000 in total if you look at other churches within Victoria. St Augustine’s saw over 150 of our weddings and very surprising to me about 100 funerals.

Many friendships were made here. It is a very special church and will remain so for our Ukrainian community.

Immigration is still an important topic today. In the last 30 years over 20 million Ukrainians have left Ukraine. They are presently living in almost every country in the world. Ukrainian immigrants are also coming to our doors in Australia. We, if anybody should know what it means to be a migrant.

How things have changed. Whereas we once struggled to support ourselves, we in these last 70 years have come to the point where we have to help others, and we have. In the last 30 years we have sent millions to Ukraine to rebuild Ukraine’s church and society. During the 2004 tsunami in Asia our church gave Sri Lanka $67,000. During the recent bush fires in Australia our community has already raised over $64,000. We are no longer a church of migrants but are now a Ukrainian Australian Church which has responsibilities to Australia, Ukraine and indeed the whole world.

We have lived through the 70 years of the Soviet underground oppression. Let us continue to keep our eyes of faith on the Icon of Christ. Our final destination rests with Him.

We are Ukrainians from different eras and different countries. Many non- Ukrainians are now a part of our church. Our modern questions are now, how do we integrate all these many cultural backgrounds we come from, and build a united Ukrainian Catholic church?  How do we maintain our faith, church and rite in a secularized world while living in a minority situation? Our Patriarch in his recent pastoral letter to us, said, “Our church is no longer a local reality, limited to a particular territory. Today she is at the same time global and local.”

Just as in the earlier times, despite all our difficulties our parents and grandparents always gravitated to the church to nurture their faith. Many of you have already told me that St Augustine’s was sometimes too small to accommodate our faithful. Today our churches are all big enough. Our church is more developed and better organized then it ever was. We have our own catechism and our own pastoral programs.

Our Patriarch is telling us that our future lies in our understanding of our past, our baptism in Kyiv in 988, our history in St Augustine’s. We must not forget our history, but we must also plan for the future. We as a people and a church, are deeply religious. We have lived through the 70 years of the Soviet underground oppression. Let us continue to keep our eyes of faith on the Icon of Christ. Our final destination rests with Him.

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