Swatar today becomes St Ġorġ Preca parish

The church at Swatar which today will be the centre of a historic event when the town will be declared a parish.

The church at Swatar which today will be the centre of a historic event when the town will be declared a parish.

Today is a red day for the residents of Swatar as Archbishop Paul Cremona will declare the town a new parish dedicated to St Ġorġ Preca, the first Maltese saint.

Fr Gordon Refalo will be leading the parish.

The ceremony starts at 6.30 p.m. with Mgr Cremona concelebrating Mass with Archbishop Emeritus Joseph Mercieca among others. Guests of honour will be the President and Mrs Fenech Adami.

About 40 years ago, Tal-Qattus and Tas-Swatar in the limits of Birkirkara, which border Msida and Mater Dei Hospital, consisted mainly of fields and farms.

In the early 1970s, developers started building houses moving away from Birkirkara. Then, in the early 1980s the government released about 300 plots under a home-ownership scheme. At the time, the parish priest of Birkirkara saw to the pastoral needs of the community while Fr Karm Busuttil, from the parish of St Helen, Birkirkara was assigned pastoral duties at Tal-Qattus and Tas-Swatar.

Sunday Mass was celebrated in the garage of a family by the name of Falzon and later in the garage of Joe and Gina Degabriele.

As the community grew, the need was felt for a proper chapel or a pastoral centre. Towards this end, Canon Karm Pirotta sold a plot of land and allocated funds for the construction of a pastoral centre.

Work started in 1998 and was completed in two years. In 2002, the centre's basement, which was blessed by Auxiliary Bishop Annetto Depasquale, was used to celebrate Mass. On completion of the whole structure in 2004, Mass was said in the upper hall.

Church services were carried out by Fr Busuttil assisted by Mgr Tarcisio Delicata. The services included meetings for young children and youths as part of the activities by the Young Catholic Action - Żgħażagħ Azzjoni Kattolika.

In April 2005, then Archbishop Joseph Mercieca appointed Fr Gordon Refalo as rector with the intention of turning the pastoral centre into a parish centre. In fact, on December 3, 2006, Archbishop Mercieca gave his approval to nominate Swatar an independent zone from the parish of St Helen.

A pastoral council was set up to assist priests and, from that date, the pastoral services included baptism, first Holy Communion, confirmation and the first procession with the statue of Our Lady of Sorrows in Easter 2006. The number of families at Swatar is close to 1,450 with an estimated population of 5,000.

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