About Harvey Catholic Parish

Harvey, WA
Regional (Agricultural)
Priest plus leadership teams

Harvey Catholic Parish

Harvey Catholic parish is a multicultural church formed by immigrants moving to a regional area of Western Australia for agricultural work. In the town of Harvey, “Our Lady of the Immigrants” was initially founded with Italian immigrants, along with Irish descendants, growing in cultural diversity over the years, with more recent arrivals including Filipino and Tongan mass attenders. The annual multicultural fiesta celebration recently included over 30 nationalities.

Father Jess Navarra describes the health of the parish being reflected in the inclusion of culturally diverse members of the parish and their involvement in the life, mission and ministry of the church. Young families are involved in liturgy, and mass is adapted to include new traditions from the country of origins of attenders.

An intentional leadership strategy of the parish is to recognise the strengths of people within the parish, to bring them together and to align the strengths together. Everyone is encouraged to be a part of things in some way. Trained in organisational development and change management himself, Father Jess and his ministry team have developed collaborative leadership approaches, appreciating people and encouraging them to contribute.

When first arriving at a parish Fr Jess acknowledges the need to allow parishioners time to grieve a past priest and to adjust to a new leader. His approach is to respect that process and to establish relationship, trust and confidence. Approaching key leaders of the parish and communicating that they are acknowledged and recognised by the priest is a vital component, in terms of a strong leadership team and a healthy approach to collaborative ministry.

It was after a few months from his arrival, Father Jess and the team were able to launch a new vision of the parish, inviting parishioners to reflect, pray and discern. Three gifting Sundays were held to encourage more participation in the life of the church, to join ministries and groups.

Father Jess maintains a positive outlook on parish life and says it is key to appreciate people. The attitude of leader is paramount according to Father Jess who affirms the importance of a leader projecting a joyful life. Pope Francis spoke of the joy of the gospel, which encouraged this parish to ask “how could you be an agent of the gospel of joy?”.

Some examples of this joy include fiestas and celebrations. Their hospitality space is used regularly for various celebrations, often with food, music and dancing. Some festivals include a symbolic procession through the streets of the local community. 

One of the most well known ministries of this parish is the Community dinner held every Monday night, for the marginalised and lonely. It has grown in size and involvement, as more and more people in the local community became involved as volunteers, cooks and pick up drivers. Partnerships with local business and schools were also established. From food donations, to volunteer servers, the community dinner is commonly spoken about as “Ours” revealing an ownership of the vision and mission of this activity throughout the local area. It has attracted attention from media, received grants and was nominated for an Australia Day award.

Managing change, developing potential and nurturing a visionary enthusiasm are central themes of the leadership style of this parish. From inclusion of different ethnic groups, joyful festivals and the careful design of meaningful, inclusive celebrations of mass, this parish is on a journey of enlivening their ministry.

As well as trusting people, building teams and ensuring people know they are called, that they are here with a purpose to serve in their unique way, Father Jess looks to the future.

While being consultative, animating and inspiring, this leader continues to ask “Where are we now? Where would we like to go? What is our dream and how will we achieve this dream?”

Stories from Harvey Catholic Church

Browse through some of the stories and wisdom that leaders of Harvey Catholic Church shared with us, on how they enliven their ministry and church life.