Missionary Society of St Paul
A Migrant Chaplain in Australia
- Fr John Taliana mssp
Fr John Taliana was sent from Malta to Australia while still studying for the priesthood. In his years in Australia he did both Parish ministry and migrant chaplaincy, besides serving for some time as Congregational Leader. Having experienced the reality of being a migrant himself has helped him to better understand the needs of migrants in Australia.
Being a migrant chaplain within the Australian Church is like having a very large parish - spread throughout the suburbs.
Like any other pastor, as a migrant Chaplain I found myself journeying with my people, celebrating with them the joys and happy celebrations and sharing with them the sorrowful and painful events of everyday life.
The ministry of a migrant chaplain is important and needed because the chaplain is called to serve as a bridge between the Australian Church and the Ethnic Community. In this context it is important that the chaplain has a reasonable command of the English language and knows the history of the Australian church and has experienced it. The chaplain is to encourage his/her community to take an active part in the life of the local parish community.
As Maltese Chaplains we have strived to put the above approach into practice.
The Migrant Chaplain is often on the road traveling from one suburb to the other, and the Maltese community is not an exception to this because it is widespread.
Liturgies in Maltese are celebrated in different parishes, especially where there is a high number of families. There are also opportunities for the community to come together not only for religious events but also to socialize and celebrate other occasions.
Nowadays the Maltese community is an aging one and this means that more people need to spend some time in hospitals or nursing homes and hostels. Very often they request the presence of their chaplain to minister to them in their own language. This is always of great comfort for those who are old or sick, to be able to express and share themselves in their own mother language. Naturally, during these hospital visits we also meet their families. This opens up a lot of opportunities to minister to them too, and see to their needs.
As Chaplains we have many happy occasions such as baptisms and marriages and other family celebrations. For us, these are always opportunities to minister to the couples and their families, encouraging them and challenging them in their faith.
Most importantly, the Chaplain always works hand in hand with the local Parish Priest for the welfare of the community. He cannot work in isolation from the Parish Priest, but together, their primary concern is to meet the needs of the people entrusted to them.
"I follow you wherever you go"