The members of St.Alphonsa community are the Faithful of the The Syro-Malabar Church, which is an Oriental (Eastern Rite) Catholic Church, in full communion with the Church of Rome. It is the second largest of the 22 Oriental Catholic Churches with over 4 million vibrant believers worldwide. This year, 2013, marks the 9th year of its existence as a growing Malayalee Catholic community in Brisbane and its surroundings. Under the spiritual leadership of Rev. Fr.Thomas Areekuzhy MCBS, a Catholic community was formed in 2004. In 2007,2008 and 2009 many Syro-Malabar Catholics migrated to Brisbane. These Syro-Malabar Catholic Community members are predominantly settled in different northern suburbs around Brisbane. The people who belong to this community, who were residing in these suburbs gathered together to form the community in 2007. This Syro-Malabar Catholics, named as St. Alphonsa (the first native saint of India) Catholic Community Inc in December 2012. This community, under the guidance of Fr. Thomas D. Areekuzhy M.C.B.S. came to be known as ‘St. Alphonsa Catholic Community’ during the year 2009. Fr. Thomas, at that time, was serving as the parish priest of Sts. James and. John Parish, Clifton, in the Diocese of Toowoomba QLD. Fr. Thomas, with his leadership and guidance, inspired and united the community across Brisbane Suburbs and gave the community a spiritual animation. It was in the same year a full-fledged Sunday School, with the name ‘St Alphonsa Sunday School’ started to function at St. Pascal’s Church, Wavell Heights.
From May, 2007, the Community gathered at some residences and shared prayer meetings. The Community gatherings during this period resembled the household gatherings of the early Christians, called the home churches. These gatherings of the congregation provided
the members with a sense of community feeling and provided them with mutual religious and material support. Gradually, the community grew and the necessity of finding a larger space was deeply felt. This led the Community to St. Pascal’s Church, Wavell Heights in 2008. The then Parish priest permitted the Community to gather at St. Pascal’s church to continue the practices including worship services, customs, and observances. The activities of the Community extended to various realms, which include catechism, celebration of the feast, youth programs, retreats, chain prayers, etc. In the year 2010, a Committee was elected by the members of the community to organize and to lead the activities of the Community. Under the efficient leadership of the Committee, various activities were under taken and a platform was set to launch the future development. Some of the outstanding achievements of this Committee were the publishing of a Community Calender and a Parish Directory of Members.
During these years, the community raised funds and provided help to various charities including ‘The Mission of Mercy. The Community, during this period, participated in many charity events to help the needy. During February 2011, Saint Alphonsa Committee campaigned and raised funds, and donated towards the Brisbane Flood Appeal. The donations were handed over to Archbishop Bathersby to distribute among the deserving families/individuals in our wider society. During the Christmas season, St Alphonsa Catholic Community Inc conducts Christmas Carols in the traditional Kerala style, and the Choir sings the Christmas story, stories about the holy family, and visit each and every house of the Community Members, spreading the great joy and Glory of Christmas. St Alphonsa Catholic Community members also make Christmas Cribs at their residences and prizes are given for the best cribs. In 2013 St. Alphonsa Catholic Community Inc. established three ever rolling trophies for the Crib Competition to commemorate Fr Thomas’ 32 years of priesthood.
Keeping the traditions of Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, St Alphonsa Catholic Community has solemnly celebrated the feast since 2009 during the month of August. This feast is of the Holy Mother of God, St. Alphonsa, and St. Mary of the Cross, MacKillop. The celebration includes Solemn High Mass (in Malayalam), a public procession carrying the decorated statues of the saints, Litany of our Lady, followed by a social meal. The procession during the Feast depicts the traditional feast in Syro-Malabar Rite. The highlights of the Feast include: colourful decorated umbrellas, flags carried by children, traditional band (Chenda melam) and men and women dressed up in traditional Kerala costumes. The Feast has a great spiritual influence on the community and retreats become an inevitable part of it. To give a spiritual enlightenment, bishops are invited to become the main celebrants for the Solemn Mass. Bishop Bryan Finnegan was the chief guest in 2009 and Archbishop George Valiyamattam, of Thalassery, Kerala, was the main celebrant in 2010. The Archbishop of the Brisbane Archdiocese, His Grace Mark Coleridge was the chief Guest for St Alphonsa Thirunal celebrated in August 2012 at St Paschal’s Church, Wavell Heights.
The Community was greatly blessed by the historic first visit of the Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, His Beatitude Cardinal George Alencherry, on 28 November 2012. It was a great privilege and blessing for the Community to celebrate Holy Mass with His Beatitude on 29 November 2012.
As St Alphonsa Catholic Community Inc. developed, it was strongly felt that the Community should celebrate Malayalam Mass more regularly and hence, in January 2013, St Alphonsa
Catholic Community Inc. started celebrating monthly Malayalam Mass. During this time St Alphonsa Sunday School expanded substantially and has at present about 150 students. The St Alphonsa Sunday School developed a formal structure and Policy and Procedures for the Management of St Alphonsa Sunday School. Similarly, a Child Safety Risk Management Strategy for St Alphonsa Sunday School was implemented and legal requirements for working with Children and Young People were strictly followed. A structured Parent Teacher Association (PTA) was created with an aim to make every child’s potential a reality by engaging in and empowering families and the community to provide support for all children to develop personally and spiritually. The PTA is not merely facilitating parental participation at St Alphonsa Sunday School, but also has become a forum where parents, teachers, and administrators come to discuss ways to promote quality education and encourage community involvement, and to work for the spiritual and emotional development of children.
St Alphonsa Catholic Community Inc., since January 2013, started organising youth programs. These Youth Programs focus on enabling the youth to acquire the attitudes, competencies, values, and social skills that will support the normal socialization and the healthy development of young people to carry them forward to be successful in adulthood.
In the year 2013, St Alphonsa Mathrusangam (Mothers Guild) was formed, which became a major venue for mothers to come together on a regular basis. St Alphonsa Mathrusangam became the platform for various activities, entertainments, and competitions for the mothers in the Community.
St Alphonsa Catholic Community Inc. grew and the Community needed more facilities and resources to meet the ever increasing demands of the Community members. Realising the development and needs of the Community, in February 2013, the Metropolitan Archbishop of Brisbane, His Grace Mark Coleridge, gave directions to St Alphonsa Catholic Community Inc. to move to the Parish of Hendra and Northgate.
Complying with the directions of the Metropolitan Archbishop of Brisbane, His Grace Mark Coleridge, on 16 June 2013, St Alphonsa Catholic Community Inc. relocated to the Parish of Hendra/Northgate.
St Alphonsa Catholic Community Inc. right from its inception took part in all ministries during the celebration of the Holy Mass, including altar servers, readings and other Liturgical ministries. Some of our members are working as members of Pastoral Councils in parishes in and around Brisbane suburbs.
We acknowledge the dedicated services of all our community members from time to time to achieve our greater goal. With cohesion and confidence, we hope to move forward for a brighter tomorrow. As we move on to the future, we may have to face challenges in our journey and it would be a good time to show our fellowship and unity for the strengthening of the Community. We need to share our time, talents, and resources for the betterment of our community and remain focused in devoting our time and energy for the overall development of our Community. Let us shoulder together to make this journey smooth and strive to be a model in witnessing our faith among others.