Former youth chaplain takes on new role as Armadale parish priest

21 Jan 2021

By Amanda Murthy

Father Mark Baumgarten in front of St Francis Xavier Church. Photo: Michelle Tan
Father Mark Baumgarten in front of St Francis Xavier Church. Photo: Michelle Tan

The Armadale parish community extended their arms welcoming their new parish priest Father Mark Baumgarten, who was officially installed at a Mass at the Saint Francis Xavier (SFX) parish on 13 December 2020.

Representing the Archdiocese of Perth for the auspicious celebration attended by hundreds, was Vicar General and Vicar for Effective Communications, the Very Rev Fr Peter Whitely VG, with Armadale Assistant Priest Fr Matteo Verdi concelebrating alongside Fr Baumgarten.

Armadale Parish Priest Fr Baumgarten’s installation Mass was celebrated by the Archdiocese of Perth’s Vicar General and Vicar for Effective Communications the Very Rev Fr Peter Whitely VG, with SFX Assistant Priest Fr Matteo Verdi concelebrating alongside the elect. Photo: Michelle Tan.

Throughout his homily, Fr Whitely related the readings of the day to the ‘huge task and first-time responsibility’ that Fr Baumgarten will undertake in his new role.

Many parishioners want a priest that possess all these qualities. A parish priest that will be able to relate to all parishioners: young and old, hoping their leader will always be available at the drop of a hat, that they will lead a vibrant, exciting and welcoming Liturgy, and a priest that will give great homilies,” Fr Whitely remarked.

“What you are asking for is the perfect parish priest, but such a person does not exist in our Archdiocese.

“All of us priests have our flaws and all of us are equipped with talents and gifts. So today, I present to you, your newly, yet to be installed, imperfect parish priest. You know his gifts and his talents, and you will notice his weaknesses in the years to come,” he added.

“The Archbishop is giving Fr Mark a challenge to be here as your parish priest. It is his first appointment as a parish priest too and this is quite an awesome challenge ahead for him.”

Empowering the former Catholic Youth Ministry chaplain, Fr Whitely said that just like the prophet Isaiah who once declared, “the Spirit of the Lord has been given to me, for the Lord has anointed me,” the Lord has already anointed Fr Baumgarten on three different occasions.

“The Lord anointed you at your baptism when you became a part of God’s family. He then anointed you at your confirmation, He gave you special strength as a Christian to witness to Jesus in the world, as a person and as a Christian – and you did that in the various occupations and in the work you held before becoming a priest,” Fr Whitely assured Fr Baumgarten.

“He then anointed you as a priest. This is a special anointing, of service of God’s people. You, Fr Mark have been anointed to serve God’s people.”

Fr Whitely explained that this service to ‘God’s people’ was the same task once delivered to the prophet Isiah, reflected in the Gospel reading of the day, “He sent me to bring Good News to the poor, to heal hearts that are broken, to proclaim liberty to captives, freedom to those in prison, to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour.”

“Just as Fr Mark has the responsibility to pray for all of you, I ask that you pray for him – that He will be open to the voice of the Lord speaking within him through His Spirit. The Spirit that has anointed Fr Mark to be in service to you,” Fr Whitely stated.

“I pray that God will guide him and that together this parish will become a community that God wants you to be.

“A community of Christians who will reach out all people and help them come to know Christ, the same way that Fr Mark will help you all in the parish, come to know Christ,” he concluded.

Following this appointment, Fr Baumgarten ended his three-year role as Catholic Youth Ministry Perth Chaplain.

  • Father Mark Baumgarten with a family of parishioners from St Francis Xavier Church. Photo: Michelle Tan
  • Armadale Parish Priest Fr Baumgarten extending a warm welcome to some parishioners who were in attendance to witness his installation at a Mass held on 13 December 2020 at the St Francis Xavier Church. Photo: Michelle Tan.
  • Fr Baumgarten cuts his welcome cake, made by parishioners at a morning tea, held after his installation Mass on 13 December 2020 at the St Francis Xavier Church. Photo: Michelle Tan.

At the conclusion of Mass, Fr Baumgarten shared a meal with the parish he has called home since his appointment as administrator in July 2019.

“The Mass was a beautiful celebration for the parish, and I’m grateful for Fr Whitely’s wise words. There will always be challenges, but I’m blessed with a very supportive parish community, and I’m grateful for the Archbishop’s trust in me.”

Fr Baumgarten expressed that while it has been a steep learning curve, he has been impressed by the wonderful sense of community, resilience and deep love of Christ shown by the parish community, through every challenge they’ve endured in the past.

“For example, I was struck by the genuine longing for the sacraments by so many during the COVID shut-down. But thank God we’ve avoided the worst thus far compared with many parts of the world,” Fr Baumgarten stated.

“Perhaps the challenges of this time will serve as a reminder of the value of our faith and our sacramental life and I pray this will help us not take it for granted. “My mission remains to help foster the encounter with Jesus Christ among the people I’m entrusted with,” he concluded