Home' The Southern Cross : June 2015 Contents Page 10 June 2015
When Semaphore parishioner
Alice Ferrao arrived in Australia
from India 32 years ago she knew
she had to ‘come good’ on a
promise to Our Lady.
She began praying a novena to
Our Lady of Perpetual Succour
from her home in Bombay in
1981 after being denied entry to
Australia due to a lack of suitable
employment for her husband
Walter, a master mariner.
“I knelt down in front of Mother
Mary and prayed that if she
helped our family migrate to
Australia I would promise to help
others follow her,” says Alice.
Her prayers were answered within
18 months and the family arrived
in Sydney in January 1983. They
settled in Adelaide in 1986.
In giving thanks for her family’s
migration to Australia, Alice
initiated a novena (a prayer said
over nine consecutive days) to
Our Lady of Succour 11 years
ago, first at the Lockleys Parish
and then at Henley Beach. The
novena continues to this day at
Hectorville parish on Saturdays.
“I am sure many others have
received answers to their
prayers,” says Alice. “Especially
new migrants who came to Our
Lady for assistance in finding
suitable employment, the ability
to purchase a home, for good
health and many other blessings.”
Alice is known across the
Archdiocese as an exceptional
musician, composer and teacher
who uses her talents to help
children and adults come closer
to God. She was recognised for
her service to community through
an Archbishop’s award.
Through her music ministry
Alice has connected people
from different parishes to form
a choir which she trains for the
St Thomas Feast Day Mass held
annually in July at St Francis
Xavier’s Cathedral. She has
composed music for parts of the
Mass, as well as written opening
Alice plays the organ at
Hectorville Parish for the novena,
at Brooklyn Park Parish for the
school children’s Mass and at the
Philip Kennedy Centre for their
Lenten and Christmas liturgies.
Born in Byculla, Bombay,
Alice says she was raised in a
staunchly Catholic home.
“Our home was consecrated to
the Sacred Heart of Jesus and
our family knelt and said the
rosary every night,” she says.
“My father was an excellent
vocalist as well as playing a few
instruments. He sang in the choir
at Gloria Church (Byculla), and
encouraged his children to join
the choir at a very young age.”
The eldest of nine children, Alice
was educated at Gloria Convent,
a Catholic school run by the
Carmelites. She began studying
the piano at age six and has a
Licentiate of the Trinity College of
“I am so glad that my parents
instilled in us the power of prayer.
It is only my strong faith that
has kept me resilient and always
brought me through, because life
does have its ups and downs and
some have come my way,” she
Although Alice played the pipe
organ at regular Sunday Mass
in India, she says her first direct
involvement with the
Catholic Church began in the
early 1960s when she joined the
Legion of Mary. She would visit
the sick and aged parishioners
and developed a strong bond and
faith in the protection of Mother
“It is a faith that exists to this
day,” she said.
Alice is married to Walter and
their children are Petranel and
Michael Mulvihill has been serving
at the altar since 1953 when
he was a young boy attending
Mass at St Mary’s Star of the Sea
Church in Hastings, England.
The Brooklyn Park/Richmond
parishioner remembers attending
the local Catholic school built
beneath the church and the
priest coming along one day and
pointing to “you, you and you” to
recruit altar servers.
But Michael’s passion for the job
grew quickly and when his father
migrated to Australia for work
opportunities in 1956 and his
mother followed a year later with
six children, he served every day
on the ship in a bid to improve his
Latin and his serving skills.
“It wasn’t an easy task keeping
the communion plate steady in
the rough seas,” he said. “I had
to lock arms with the priest so I
wouldn’t fall over and the people
kneeling down linked arms as
they swayed back and forth...it
was lucky I didn’t cut their throats
with the plate,” he recalled.
In Adelaide, Michael was
educated by the Marist Brothers
at Thebarton and continued his
altar serving at Queen of Angels
Church, then St Aloysius Church
In his teens he considered
becoming a priest but at 17
he met a girl, his future wife
Anne, and so altar serving (and
marriage) became his vocation.
In 1966 the Richmond parish
priest needed altar servers and
asked the 24-year-old Michael
to instruct some young people.
Back then there were about 30
boys willing to serve (girls weren’t
allowed to be altar servers until
1996) and there was plenty of
social activity such as cricket
games between the neighbouring
He remembers one boy’s parents
bringing along a tray of fancy
cakes one day and then they
started “experimenting” in pies
and pasties. The boy was Simon
Milisits, son of Villi!
An accomplished sportsman
and coach of many of his six
children’s teams, Michael
considers himself to be a
“teacher” rather than a trainer
and he believes no-one has the
right to refuse another person
from serving on the altar, even if
it sometimes means having ten
servers for one Mass.
He also likes to keep a “bit of
the past” by teaching servers the
Latin phrase “I go unto the altar
of God, to God who giveth joy to
At 70, Michael still serves at
three Masses a weekend and
prepares the altar for weekday
Masses at St John Bosco, as well
as instructing at his parish and
wherever else he is needed.
“I couldn’t do it without Anne’s
support ,” he says.
He is on the national executive
council for the Guild of St
Stephen which he joined in
1980 and earlier this year he
received one of three medals at
the Archbishop’s Awards - for
service to parish life – after being
nominated by parish priest Fr
“I was flabbergasted,” he says,
adding he asked Archbishop
Wilson if he was sure he had the
right person but the Archbishop
said “you deserve it.”
Michael says serving at Mass
makes you feel “a different
person” after you’ve finished.
And he feels very satisfied when
parishioners come up to him and
say how much they appreciated
the young servers. “One of the
youngest has to go on tippy toes
to reach the altar,” he laughs.
With the majority of servers from
migrant backgrounds, Michael
is frequently invited to special
celebrations and is enjoying
learning about other cultures.
And he is determined to keep
teaching as many as he can: “I
want to go on with this,” he says.
Parishes or schools interested
in training for their altar servers
can contact Michael through
the Brooklyn Park/Richmond
parish on 8352 3561.
| living catholic
The Southern Cross continues its Living Catholic page which features articles and photographs highlighting the many good works that often go
unnoticed but make a big difference to people’s lives and to the community in general. Parishes are invited to submit suggestions for stories
that demonstrate in a practical sense Living Catholic. Please send an email to email@example.com.
By Rebecca DiGirolamo
THANKSGIVING SONG: Parish organist Alice Ferrao is perpetually grateful to Our Lady for answering
her prayers for migration to Adelaide.
Alice in tune
with Our Lady
Dedicated altar server
looks to the future
By Jenny Brinkworth
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