THE ITALIAN CATHOLIC FEDERATION OF BULLEEN
I met the Scalabrinian Fathers in 1960 shortly after my arrival in Australia as a migrant. At that stage they were in Fitzroy and established the Italian Catholic Federation (similar to the Catholic Action in Italy) a lay organisation whose purpose was to help fellow migrants maintain their faith and cultural values in their transition to a foreign land with a foreign language. Meeting the Scalabrinian Fathers and becoming one of the founders of the Italian Catholic Federation, which they established in Australia, gave me a sense of the value of our cultural roots and the faith that I was born into and that my parents strongly believed in. The Scalabrinians knew that if one's faith and culture are maintained and strengthened throughout his or her life's journey then the thousands of migrants coming to Australia by the boatloads would be able to face life in a different country as a more positive experience.
The Australian Church of the 60s did not promptly recognise the need to celebrate Mass in the migrants' languages and the Italian Catholic Federation was instrumental in asking that in the parishes with a branch of the FCI and a large number on italian parishioners an Italian Mass be introduced on a regular basis. That's why soon after my move to Bulleen together with other Italians already established in the parish we approached Fr Egan and asked if he would consider having an Italian Mass at St Clement of Rome. He promptly accepted the idea. He was a parish priest of broad views and vision, he also understood the needs of migrants and held their needs on the same level as those of the local community.
The start of the Italian Mass in 1975 had a huge success from the beginning attracting also Italian Catholics from nearby parishes and in 1976 started the local branch of the Italian Catholic Federation. Those years were full of activities and enthusiasm. We had also a youth group which thrived under the Scalabrinians Fr Anthony Fregolent and Fr Luciano Ferracin. Most of those young people are now married with children and a number of them still live in this parish.
It's been 38 years since the Italian Mass was established and looking around us during Mass we notice that most of the congregation has white hair; nonetheless, Mass is still well attended. The Italian Catholic Federation is still going although with a much smaller number of ageing members. We now meet only once a month, we organise Sunday lunches every 1-2 months in the Clifton Centre for up to 100 parishioners and the choir still sings every Sunday.
All this was made possible by the far-sightedness of Fr Egan and all other parish priests that followed him and by the Italian chaplaincy of the Scalabrinian Fathers.
Ugo Romanin - President
Italian Catholic Federation, Bulleen