The SVD commitment to walking with the poor and the marginalised is lived out in Australian suburbia, as well as overseas missions, and Fr Sunil Nagothu SVD and Fr Adrian Jenani SVD are enjoying both the joys and challenges of parish life in the Logan area of southern Brisbane.
Fr Sunil was appointed Parish Priest of St Maximilian Kolbe Parish, Kingston/Marsden, one year ago, in August 2013 and was installed by Archbishop Mark Coleridge in November. He has been joined by Fr Adrian as assistant priest.
“The previous priest had been ill for some time, so when I arrived in the parish, it was in need of rebuilding and leadership,” Fr Sunil says.
“Logan is a very poor area, with a reputation of being a challenging and difficult place for people to live.
“We have a lot of refugees in the area, people from African countries such as South Sudan, Nigeria and Burindi. People of low income are attracted to the area because it has cheaper homes and cheaper land and the government also directs people here, for those same reasons. So there are social challenges.”
Fr Sunil says the parishioners are predominantly of Pacific Island heritage, with a large representation from Samoa, as well as others from places like Fiji, Tonga and the Solomon Islands. Other cultural groups are also part of the parish community.
He says the multicultural mix has its strengths and challenges.
“Our Pacific Islander groups are all very good singers, and faithful in attending Church activities,” Fr Sunil says.
Fr Sunil says one way he has successfully sought to build cohesion in the parish was to host a Parish Mass and Dinner Dance in May.
“It was a very good night,” he says. “We had 330 people come to the dinner and they were dancing and mixing together as one parish. It was very enjoyable.”
Fr Sunil and Fr Adrian have also been busy working with the youth group, which now numbers about 40 young people.
“We meet together with the youth group on Sundays and have activities and faith formation, as well as a youth Mass once a month. Last year I took them all to Melbourne for the Australian Catholic Youth Festival, which was a great experience for them,” Fr Sunil says.
“I am also trying to strengthen the relationship between the parish and the local Catholic school, St Francis College.
“I visit the school regularly and visit classrooms and started saying Mass there last week and will continue to do that. I’m working with the new Principal and it’s a very vibrant school, so I’m looking forward to developing that relationship.”
A big focus is also visiting the sick at Logan Hospital and building up the parish’s Care and Concern Group, who offer pastoral care and support to parishioners in need. Part of that outreach is a Healing Mass once a month, followed by a free lunch in the parish hall.
“When I was first assigned here, I was apprehensive because I knew it was a difficult area,” Fr Sunil says. “But then I decided to take it as a challenge and an opportunity to go out and develop my own skills and my own sense of being a missionary to this place.
“And now it gives me a lot of joy, helping to build this little community and being present among them.”
Fr Sunil says the parish will celebrate its 35th anniversary next year and will soon have a new office, parish space and renovated presbytery, with construction currently underway.
“I’m looking forward to introducing more aspects of developing spirituality and growing as a community in coming years.”
Top: Fr Sunil, pictured outside St Maximilian Kolbe Church.
Bottom: Fr Adrian with a parishioner at a parish function.