Parish stories: Hoppers Crossing North, Melbourne

A parishioner-centric community who aren’t afraid to ‘get their hands dirty’, St James the Apostle in Hoppers Crossing North is one of the biggest beating hearts of the West. 

‘I think it’s the Kingdom of God seen in action,’ says Parish Priest Fr Jude Pirotta MSSP. ‘Once we stop being Kingdom people, then things die. You have to remain living out the reign of God Our Parish and school communities all contribute to the living and active witness of God seen in dark and struggling places, but I think there’s a lot of hope evolving,’ Fr Jude reflects.

 St James the Apostle Parish attracts 1600 every week and over the weekends one can find 1000-1600 men, women and children in the congregation. ‘Due to the growth in the area and the large attendance at Mass, this has left us with a good problem to have, which is the need to extend our church,’ says Fr Jude.

With the parish moving into their second stage of three extensions, the parish that puts the Church into action has been growing significantly since it was first established in 1989.

The Parish is a growing one with nearly 34 groups strong, says Parish Council Chairperson Geralyn McCarthy.

‘We strongly believe at St James  that we work in collaboration as a community of faith,’ she explains. ‘We’re very much empowered to build up our church and as a result of that, what we’ve found is that many parishioners of all nationalities who in wanting to own their church, have developed different ministries, some of them are outreach ministries, some of them are soup kitchen and Vinnies and annual Mission immersions trips.’

The Parish has a mission that is stationed in the Philippines with the Missionary Society of St Paul and as a result, earlier this year sponsored a youth orchestra of 35 children to fly over to Melbourne and perform across the Archdiocese. The children were hosted by families within the parish community. ‘A Paulist Missionary gave these young people the opportunity to be educated and journeyed with them for the past 14 years providing them with musical equipment, teachers and conductors from overseas,’ says Fr Jude.

‘During their stay, they performed in four places. Tarneit, Braybrook, Heidelberg and then Colac.’ Fr Jude says that many parishioners inspire him no matter the age, from young parishioners to the Vintage group which caters for the seniors of the Parish.

‘We have a strong parish council so we work together side by side not ever thinking Fr Jude is the head honcho and the rest of us are like Santa’s little helpers but on the contrary, we make decisions together, and consult and that really empowers people,’ explains Geralyn.

‘People keep looking to do more. We provide young adults with retreats, faith formation programs and encourage them to attend courses provided by the Archdiocese.’

‘Last month I was away in WA and our young adults were running a movie night with 120 people,’ Fr Jude says. ‘It was encouraging to see these young adults make themselves available for the young families in our community.’

The parish has also held other fundraising activities for struggling families within the local parish school communities of St James, St Clare’s, St Francis of Assisi and Thomas Carr College.