ST JOHN THE BELOVED PARISH?
The Building of the Community
Our Lady of the Rosary prayer group, established by the ?Maronite Community in the Penrith-Blacktown area, welcomed ?the appointed Father Sarkis Charbel a Lebanese Maronite ?Missionary when he arrived to Sydney in June 1993. His ?appointment was at the request of His Grace Bishop Joseph Hitti ?from the Congregation of the Lebanese Maronite Missionaries ??(CLMM) at the service to the Maronites abroad. ?His appointing Down Under envisioned the establishment of a new Mission ?for the CLMM in the Southern Hemisphere together with a new self-?contained parish meeting the needs of the rapidly growing Saint ?Maroun Diocese
Penrith is approximately 35 km from Parramatta, and due to ?proximity, the parishioners of the area, in general, only attended ?Our Lady of Lebanon Church on special occasions. ?To minimise the inconvenience confronted by the Out-West Maronite ?community, who were part of the parish west of Our Lady of Lebanon ?Harris Park Parramatta area, His Grace entrusted the Penrith-?Blacktown area to the CLMM.?
Our Lady of the Rosary Church - St Marysí community ?welcomed Fr Sarkis and the Maronite community to establish a ?Mass-Centre out West of Sydney with the task of building a new ?Maronite Catholic parish. Prior to the Mass-Centre the Maronite ?parishioners were attending a Latin Mass in English that was not ?meeting their Maronite cultural familiarity and needs. To begin ?with, a Maronite Mass was held every Sunday in Arabic at 3 pm. ?Hence, a milestone is set in the history of the new Maronite ?parish with the help of their patron Saint John the Beloved.?
By July 1994, Fr Maroun Moussa was appointed and entrusted ?with the responsibility of serving the community in question, ?together in prayer at the Mass-Centre 3pm every Sunday. †
This community service was maintained while he also attending ?his other commitments for other parishes in the Diocese. ?
By April I997, Fr Antoine El-Derjani was reappointed from St ?Joseph Church - Croydon to the Maronite community at St ?Marys. Due to his availability the 3 pm Sunday service was ?moved to 7 pm. ?
At that point in time the Confraternity was seen more as a prayer ?group that needed an ecclesiastical constitution to cater for a definitive ?shape, accountability and continuity. Fr Antoine implemented ?the rules and guidelines for the Our Lady of the Rosary ?Confraternity. His service to the community was rendered ?February 1998 when he was reappointed by CLMM to serve in ?Lebanon.?
By February 1998 Fr Andre Ghaoui was entrusted with the task ?of carrying the torch in serving the Confraternity and, the yet to ?be officially defined new parish autonomy, for a year until the ?arrival of Fr Ihab Chamoun in February 1999 as a replacement. †
In addition to the Sunday service, during Fr Ihabís term of ?service daily evening prayers were being held at the homes of ?the parishioners mainly during May the month of Mary. His ?services were rendered along with his other commitments to ?differing parishes. Hence, Fr Ihab was reappointed from Sydney ?to serve the Mission in Johannesburg, August 2002. ?Re-appointments and relocating are common and are inevitable ?to all Missionaries.?
The Building of St John the Beloved Church ?
During Fr Sarkisí initial appointing to Australia, together with ?the Maronite community in the Penrith-Blacktown area, they ?began searching for a property in the area to build a Church ?dedicated to Saint John the Beloved as a place to call their home.?
Early 1994, with full support of the faithful, Fr Sarkis purchased ?the property at 144 Homestead Road, Orchard Hills 2748; consisting ?of 10 Acres equivalent to 40,000 m2 with a 3 bedroom house ?situated on it. This then became to be the initial residential ?address; a Monastery for the ?Lebanese Maronite Missionaries? ?Australia. The cost of the property, was $500,000, and a 10% ?deposit was required, in order for the Diocesan ?Development Fund to finance the remaining amount which was ?ultimately needed for the purchase. The Confraternity of Our ?Lady of the Rosary donated $30,000, and the outstanding amount ?of $20,000, was allocated by the Congregation of the Lebanese ?Maronite Missionaries Lebanon to their mission in Australia ?which met the deposit requirements.?
However, the zoning of the land happened to be agricultural and ?this posed to be a problem for the communityís endeavours; ?meaning that it was not agreeable with the purpose of building a ?Church or a school. As soon as the problem was identified, Fr Sarkis sought legal advice with ?the hope of rezoning the land to pave the way for a Church and a ?School. July 1995, Fr Sarkis was elected for a position on the Board of Advisors for the new elected General Father Superior Georges Harb for CLMM back in Lebanon.
With the new appointing for the whole Order worldwide, Fr Maroun Moussa inherited the Mission in Australia with his appointing as Father Superior along with his new appointed community consisting of Fr Antione El-Derjani, Fr Andre Ghaoui and Fr Badwi Habib. Now the glamour of this honour in leadership no sooner was over shadowed by the tasks of convincing the Penrith council to accept our contribution to the area, and meeting the monthly payments.†
In spite of persistent negotiations and lobbying with the relevant ?local Government authorities and non-government bodies, on 16 ?November 1998 Penrith Council formally advised of its decision ?not to approve the rezoning of the land at Orchard Hills to ?permit Church and school constructions. The Council made it ?clear that its position was not subject to negotiation.? The Challenge was imposed on the community to find a suitable solution to the property in question, by reconsidering relocating to a more suitable place. Their endeavours to build only a Church ?for the Penrith-Blacktown Maronite community for the time being, as we were compelled to prioritise between building a church or a school. ?
A search for a new property had to begin, while ?attempts were being made to sell the property at Orchard Hills. ?Since a buyer was not found for the property, as a result, a decision ?was made to strata title 1 acre, in accordance with Council ?regulations, and it was sold for $227,000 to stay good with the bank. ?
A 5 acre property zoned rural, suitable for development at 34 Second Ave - Llandilo was considered. A conditional contract ?was signed subject to obtaining Council approval for the ?building of a Church and a community hall on the property. A ?development Application (DA940392) was submitted to the ?Council on the 25 April 1998. Due to strong objection from the ?neighbouring community a decision was made to withdraw the ?DA on 30 June 1998.†
On 21 June 1999 the property, 63 George St. Mt Druitt, a 5600m2 ?block was purchased. The cost of this property was $360,000. ?
In August 1999 an adjoining property, 22 Frank St. Mt Druitt, ??100m2 block with a house was purchased to serve as the parish ?office and for parish social activities which later in history shared accommodations with VOC Christian Radio Station.?
A Development Application (DA99-6806) was submitted to the ?Blacktown Council, and on 24 March 2000 the Council approved ?the building of a Place of Public Worship, but not without ?objections from some of the locals of the Mt Druitt local community ?prior the council final approval.?
Post council approval, the foundation stone was laid and blessed ??10 November 2000 by His Grace Bishop Hitti together in the ?presence of the Most Reverend Father General Superior George ?Harb. ?
The Construction of the Church commenced on 2 January 2001 ?under the supervision of Fr Maroun together with Diab ?Finianous (builder) and Sons.?
SJBC Building Design
The original plans for St John the Beloved Church were designed ?by Farah Georges from Design Effects, Anthony Hachem ??(Engineer), Barry Barakat (Mechanical Engineer), Mark Bou ?Diab (Storm Water Engineer), Joe Rahme (Electrical Engineer), ?Malissa Coleson (Interior Designer).
George Khoury (Architect) from ANFLO Construction, made ?some modifications to the original design including necessary ?amendments, and directly supervised with Fr Maroun ?the construction of SJBC.?
The cost of building the church has been $3,000,000.00 Australian ?Dollars, of which $1,500,000.00 was raised through money and works ?donated, and a loan was taken out to meet the costs in completing the Church construction.?
Inspired by the Good News, Fr Maroun envisioned the concept and design for the shape and contents of the† construction of Church building, ?which embodies the spirituality of St John the Beloved, the only ?disciple who witnessed the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ by standing at the foot of the Cross with Mary the mother of Jesus etc; The whole ?Church formed the shape of the Cross; rising from the ?earth to the sky as a three dimensional Cross. The rich symbolism was further embodied and ?enhanced by the skills of the renowned artist Terrance ?Plowright; the window images behind, up and above the back of the Altar are designed to depict the Great Resurrection at our Lord's Second Coming, the windows that circumference the Church Building depict the 12 ?Apostles together with a window depicting the Great Epiphany scene: the Revelation of the Most Holy Trinity situated where the baptismal Font is nestled. The images embracing the oblong Altar were inspired by the Book of Revelation yet the shape was inspired by the contemporary tradition of the Easter Egg that represents the new life which cannot be contained by death depicting the Resurrection. Moreso, the Tabernacle ?Door, the Lecterns, the Baptismal Font, the Crucifixion Scene, the ?Stations of the Cross, St Joseph and Our Lady of the Rosary tiled in mosaic. The Cross mounted on top of the the roof of the Church aligned with the Altar below, ?the out standing statute of St John the Beloved with the Eagle in front of the ?Church amidst a water fountain in Honour of the Patron Saint of the Parish.
Last but not least, the Lebanese Maronite Missionaries' Cross Emblem in glass above the ?Church entrance door serving as a gem on the coronation crown that depicts the heavenly glory that awaits the Lord's good and faithful servant such as the selfless faithful that supported, supporting and will support this God giving parish.? The least that this blessed community can give in return to our Saviour for what He has bestowed upon His lowly servants from mercy, forgiveness and protection of our families...
Towards every way you turn, you can behold a biblically inspired depiction.
For the greater Glory of the Most Holy Trinity: before, now and forever we give thanks and glory to God Almighty!