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Monday, 16 March 2015 10:09

Croatian Catholics honour a national hero

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Croatian Catholics 150Fathers Ivo Tadic ofm and Euzebije Mak ofm joined Canberra’s Croatian chaplain Father Miroslav Jelic ofm in concelebrating a Mass for the feast day of Blessed Aloysius Stepinac together with more than 300 Croatian Catholics from Sydney, Wollongong and Bateman’s Bay who travelled to Canberra for this annual celebration.

Croatian Catholics filled St Augustine’s Church in Farrer to overflowing on February 7 as they celebrated the feast day of Blessed Aloysius Stepinac.

More than 300 people attended the Mass in honour of the soon-to-be saint, which was followed by a community lunch.

Croatian Catholics from Sydney, Wollongong and Bateman’s Bay travelled to Canberra for the celebration, which has been held annually since 2011.

Fr Ivo Tadic ofm and Fr Euzebije Mak ofm joined Canberra’s Croatian chaplain Fr Miroslav Jelic ofm in concelebrating the Mass, which was enhanced by the assistance of the St Cecilia choir and Croatian folk musicians.

During his homily, Fr Ivo praised the faith and life of Blessed Aloysius Stepinac, who was persecuted by the Communist regime in the former Yugoslavia.

Fr Miroslav told Catholic Voice Blessed Aloysius is revered and loved by Croatian Catholics worldwide.

“He helped a lot of people during the Second World War, not only Croatians, also Serbs, Jews and others suffering in the prisons,” he said.

Blessed Aloysius was imprisoned in 1946, where he spent 15 years before his death in 1960.

He was declared a martyr and beatified in 1998 by Pope John Paul II. It is believed he could be canonised this year.

The Croatian Catholic community of Canberra and Queanbeyan has a particularly special devotion to Blessed Aloysius. In 2011, Archbishop Mark Coleridge unveiled and blessed a statue of the Croatian martyr outside St Augustine’s Church to mark the 40th anniversary of the Croatian community in the Archdiocese.

Fr Miroslav, who has been chaplain to the community since 2012, said its members were very committed to their faith and to the parish.

“The community is still strong,” he said.

“Like every church… the majority of the people are older. The younger generation come… but not every Sunday.”

He added that members of the community are actively involved in various groups and ministries.

“We have done some projects in the Solomon Islands, in Croatia and in Bosnia,” he said. “We also visit the older people in the Croatian village here.”

The Croatian community was established in the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn in 1971, and was initially based in Braddon. The first Croatian migrant chaplain was the late Fr Mato Bonic ofm.

In addition to the presence of at least one priest, for many years several religious sisters, the Adorers of the Precious Blood of Christ, also served the community.

This article was first published in the March 2015 issue of Catholic Voice, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn.