Christmas Church Services

Missionary priest to serve Ryde-Gladesville

The Catholic Parish of Ryde-Gladesville has a new parish priest.

CAPTION: Father Greg Morgan FMVD adds the Three Wise Men to his tiny Nativity scene at his parish office in Ryde. TWT on-the-spot PHOTO

Father Greg Morgan FMVD arrived from Rosebery Parish last week after a colourful career that has seem him work as a missionary priest in ministries as varied as the Hispanic streets of San Francisco and the cloistered corridors of Rome. Although widely travelled he said he is delighted to have found a new home at historic St Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Ryde and Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Gladesville. He also has a strong affinity with Holy Cross Patrician College, being schooled by the Patricians at Fairfield for eight years.

“I really feel at home here, right from the very beginning I can say I love it here,” he said. Father Morgan is from the Catholic Order of Verbum Dei, a worldwide Catholic and evangelistic movement which aims to bring the Word Of God (Verbum Dei) into people’s lives and hearts.

“My spirituality is to explore the readings at Mass, explore the scriptures in everyday life and to build community,” he said.

“My aim is to support the wonderful community we already have here. ”I know that we are living in particularly challenging times, where people work many long hours and that we do lose sight of what is beautiful and we are lacking what is spiritual and joyful.”

Within hours of his arrival, Father Morgan has struck those around him with his sense of joy and love for others and the word will soon get around that he is fluent in Italian and Spanish. Father Morgan also has a Bachelor of Commerce from NSW University and worked as a trainee auditor for Price Waterhouse, but what local people may not know is that he became a priest through an unusual encounter on a train in 1986. ”I had my calling at Villawood Railway Station, when I was 22 years old,” he said. ”I suddenly felt I had been called to talk to a Laotian man, a migrant, a voice inside me urged me to talk to him, but I felt embarrassed to approach a complete stranger.” Father Morgan regretted not listening to his inner voice but as fate would have it, he met the man again, exchanged addresses and learned that his name was Teo Pham and that he lived in a half way house for disabled, traumatised veterans of the Vietnam War. ”For the next six months I’d come by each week to teach them English,” he said.

“From there I met the Verbum Dei missionaries and I just connected, I knew I had been called to be a missionary and my calling absolutely stunned my family.” Ordained in Majorca, Spain in 1995, this joyful priest has served in Colombia, Venezuela, Spain, The Philippines, Ireland, Germany, the United States of America and Italy. ”I went on to become the Administrator General and Vice Superior (male congregation) of the Verbum Dei Fraternity,” he said. ”In saying this, I’m not really such a great organiser, I more of a people person and I’m very much for using the talents we have here and inspiring people. ”That fact that I’ve been a missionary overseas means that I also, especially, welcome being able to serve in this multicultural parish.” A constant presence in Father Morgan’s life is Jesus, whether present on the altar or in the hearts of those who seek love and seek to love others.

“We can love because He first loved us,” he said.

Gladesville has a heart for the poor

Parents and students from Gladesville’s Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic School and parish have donated Christmas gifts for families pushed to financial breaking point.

The gifts include children toys and will be distributed this Christmas through the St Vincent de Paul Society, which is active in the Ryde-Gladesville parish. Our Lady Queen of Peace Family Educator and Saint Vincent de Paul member Anna Alessi said this year is one of the worst on record for struggling families. ”We are seeing mums and dads getting $500 and $600 and even higher power bills, each quarter, and they are struggling to pay them,” Ms Alessi said. ”It is so sad, they can’t afford to go out and buy Christmas presents and some families have even been evicted and are homeless because they can’t pay their bills. ”And it is not just power bills, some people are struggling to meet medical expenses and for others it is rent and day to day living expenses.” This year the St Vincent de Paul Society took the brave step to pay the power bills of needy families and the phrase Ôthe power bill poor’ is now widely used across the welfare sector. Yet despite this emergency power bill payment scheme, there are families who have had their power disconnected for not paying a bill and are homeless. Anna Alessi encounters some of these families through her work with the St Vincent de Paul outreach van and concedes that the van’s clients no longer conform to the stereotype of the city destitute. ”It is no longer just old men, it is families with little children, it really breaks your heart but we do the best we can to help them and even pack lunches so the children can still go to school.” Ms Alessi also meets parents whose self esteem and self confidence has been shattered by their inability to pay the bills. ”Of course these parents are angry, there is so much resentment out there, especially because of the letters of demand they get from these large companies. ”These demands really demoralise people when they know they can’t possibly pay the bill, at first they can even get angry at us but then they understand that we’re not like the large companies, we are here because we have love and compassion for others.” The Weekly Times has stood up for people struggling to pay power bills and has called out the greedy power companies whose bill hikes of 30 to 40 per cent are all the more deplorable because they’re justified with the false rhetoric of climate change. At the same time, this newspaper applauds charitable organisations like St Vincent de Paul and the generous people in our local community who donate to them. ”It is sad that this is happening in our day and age and it shouldn’t be,” Anna Alessi said. ”Here we are in the middle of summer and people are scared to turn on an air conditioner or a fan because they’re afraid of their power bill.” If the way to fight back against corporate greed is through love and compassion, then Anna Alessi and the parishioners of Ryde-Gladesville (and other Christians) who put social justice into action are frontline heroes. ”I love my job, I love being among people, being able to help or just to have a friendly chat, to show that someone cares,” Anna said. ”I know that there are many, many people we still need to help and my Christmas wish for them is to be safe and to know that there are kind hearted people, who love them.” The St Vincent de Paul Society has launched a Christmas Appeal to help families in need and donations can be made through the website: ”For many people, Christmas is a joyful time of year,” the St Vincent de Paul Society said. ”However, the sad reality is that 13.3 per cent of Australians are living in poverty. ”Of these, 731,000 are children who may not get their Christmas wish. ”But your support can make a difference.” Saint Anthony’s Catholic Church in Marsfield – a St Vincent de Paul Society parish – has a Christmas tree where parishioners and visitors can put a Christmas wish on the branches. These wishes will be met by the caring parishioners at St Anthony’s Parish, where possible.


CAPTION: Social Justice and compassion in action: Our Lady Queen of Peace (Gladesville) students Alex, Romy, Monet and Robbie join Our Lady Queen of Peace Family Educator and Saint Vincent de Paul member Anna Alessi to distribute gifts to families in need this Christmas. TWT on-the-spot PHOTO

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