In telling the story of the foundation of St Thomas More Parish Mount Eliza, the creation of its church, school and all the various activities that constitute a vibrant parish community, the author has been at pains to allow that story to be told by the parishioners as well as clergy and religious. For, as the present parish priest, Father Laurie Pearson, said in one of his early homilies in the parish, "We [the clergy] come and go; it is you who are the permanent parish community."
The story began long before the parish was created in 1979. It is one of early vision and determination in the face of adversity. As we read, we learn about the early struggles in the face of local hostility to a Catholic church and school in Mount Eliza. Repeated planning applications were met with well planned opposition. Petitions, demonstrations and fund-raising campaigns were organised by vociferous protesters. Legal challenges were mounted against our planning applications. Money raised to build the school was of necessity used to pay the costs of winning planning approval. The effect of this early struggle was to bing the Catholic community into a tight-knit group, which in adversity took courage and strength from their common faith.
After the creation of a parish and establishment of a Mass Centre, first in Morning Star, then in Greyfriars chapel, the community responded in enthusiastically supporting the efforts of our first pastor to create a community of faith; that was, and is, pastorally caring, liturgically active, socially aware, charitably committed, both domestically and internationally, and ecumenical orientated.
Today, the various Parish organisations reflect this activity, care and awareness. The Parish Social Club fosters entertainment, poetry and literature, theatre, music and needlework. A conference of the St Vincent de Paul Society promotes charity to the local needy. There is also a choir and prayer groups. A committed Liturgy Team takes responsibility for the planning of our worship and the RCIA program and the Welcome Team makes newcomers feel welcome and at home. All these are just some of the activities of the parish organised and run by parishioners. Moreover, the overall running of the Parish operates through a well-functioning Pastoral Leadership Team mainly composed of parishioners.
It will be seen from this that the early vision of the committed core of parishioners has been fully justified by what is now on the site of the rundown farm that was purchased in those early years. We have an active community of faith, a much admired and well-respected school with a playing field and games area for the pupils; and our church with memorial garden and ample car parking.
The history of the parish, its beginnings and its story are marvellously recorded in Tom Johnstone's book Journey of a Faith Community, copies of which are available for purchase at the Parish Office.
The details of the trials and tribulations of establishing St Thomas More school, parish and chruch; the efforts and persistence of many; and above all, the conviction of those who were involved in the dream of the 1970s for the benefit of Catholics in Mount Eliza today, are well covered in this book which documents well the arduous, trying - and at times bitter - 25 years of efforts by parishioners. It is a true monument to a journey of faith and is a story for every member of the St Thomas More 'family'. It will inspire you.
Dick Wood - taken from the Preface, Journey of a Faith Community