By Anthony Barich
The Vincentian Congregation has started an evengelisation centre at Maddington parish in the hope that it will be for Australia what the Congregation’s own retreat centre in Kerala is to India.
The Vincentians arrived in Perth last year to work in hospital chaplaincy and took over Shenton Park parish.
Last week, they were also given Holy Family parish in Maddington, where 33-year-old Vincentian Fr Varghese Parackal is now parish priest.
The Vincentians, whose charism is preaching the Gospel and giving retreats, run a retreat centre in Kerala that houses over 10,000 pilgrims from around the world on any given week during the year.
On special occasions the numbers surge as high as an estimated 25,000 people.
There are eight other slightly smaller such centres in cities scattered around the sub-continent including Bangalore, Mumbai and Chennai, where pilgrims stay and dedicate themselves to prayer and listening to the Word of God.
Having taken over in mid-February, early signs are good, with 150 attending a retreat for couples on February 21 where they heard talks on God’s plan for marriage and were given the chance to reflect on their own marriages.
Taking advantage of the excellent benefits of the Sacrament of Reconciliation to help solidify their marriages, couples also renewed their marriage vows during Eucharistic Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
There, if there was need, they were urged to forgive one another and to use the occasion to make new decisions for the future.
At least 80 per cent of participants in this retreat had previous contact with the Vincentians during the Congregation’s frequent visits to Perth before they commenced residence in the Archdiocese last year.
This proved, Fr Varghese said, that people’s positive experiences bring them back.
He hopes that, like his Order’s Kerala house in the south of India, word will spread and both young and old will seek opportunities to deepen their relationship with God and to link their everyday lives to an encounter with God.
A retreat for youth was also held last week with over 30 young people participating.
Other retreats of varying length and catering for people’s specific circumstances and stage in life are planned for the future and will be conducted on a weekly basis.
The Vincentians have been kept busy across the country.
Elsewhere, approximately 500 people attended a three-day retreat run by the congregation in Melbourne during January, while a smaller-scale healing retreat in Kalgoorlie-Boulder on the second weekend of November drew very positive response.
The Vincentians also plan to evangelise through spreading the increasingly popular devotion to the Divine Mercy and to expand an existing intercessory prayer ministry based at the parish.
Fr Varghese says the parish’s retreats basically aim to help people convert, to give them “a deeper God experience”.