Little voices and the Kingdom of Heaven

Exploring ways to encourage and welcome young families in or back to the Catholic Church is a modern challenge being creatively addressed in a small pocket of our Diocese.

As the recent Synod identified, there is a need and want from parents and children to be more engaged in their faith and in their church.

On a local level, Father James Odoh and parishioner Primrose Selui, of Saint Benedict’s Inner Newcastle Parish, have taken the opportunity to be a part of a family friendly program that allows children to “make some noise” in the church.

The Saint Laurence O’Toole’s Multicultural Children’s Choir was formed in 2019. Ms Selui, a volunteer, leads the children’s choir and Fr Odoh engages with the parents about the Catholic faith. The one of a kind family-oriented program is called Children’s Choir and Parent Catechesis.

The inspiration for the choir was to encourage children to feel welcomed and included in the life of the church. It was also an opportunity for the church to offer and for the children to receive the gift of music as they mature into young adults.

The second part of the program was intended to help build community among Catholic parents and to give them an opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of their faith, optimising their time while waiting for their children to finish choir. Fr Odoh provides a space for mothers and fathers to simply talk about the Catholic faith they share and to listen to one another. The topics covered stem from the seven sacraments within the church, the church’s teaching, scripture and tradition and its application to their everyday lives.

 “Parents are actually the first teachers of their children and we need the young children in the church,” said Fr Odoh. “If the young parents don’t know about the faith that we are practising in the church it will be hard for them to practise the faith at home and to be able to teach their children about the faith.

“Bringing them into the church and allowing the young parents to participate in the sacrament and the service will encourage them to be fully part of it and after which they will live it out also in their home, which is also the domestic church.”

Musically gifted, Ms Selui, gives her time and leans on her experience as a choir conductor in Tonga, and local vocalist, having performed in the past at the monastery and currently at the cathedral. She leads and teaches the eager and spirited children she happily and proudly calls “her choir”.

Ms Selui was invited to perform a solo at the 42nd annual Christmas “concert from around the world” last December at the Sacred Heart Cathedral. Instead, she encouraged her children’s choir to sing on the night as their first public performance.

“The feedback from people that night was amazing,” said Ms Selui. “I think it’s different from when adults are performing. When it’s kids, it’s like an angel performing.

“I am very proud, and I was thinking we are going to have more recruits for next year. I am happy because it is something the people really admire. When I look at the kids, I can see they are out there already and they can do anything.”

Working in harmony, Ms Selui and Fr Odoh are ensuring the Catholic Church stays alive through inspiring and encouraging children and their families to continue to feel welcomed and to participate in church and at Mass.

“As a community, we like hearing the voice of the children because most of the time we don’t have them within our midst,” said Fr Odoh.

“So, just to allow them to know that children are gifts, even in their noise or in their cry, it brings us joy and reminds us about Christ as a baby.”

The Saint Laurence O’Toole’s Multicultural Children’s Choir is testimony and witness that young families are still very much present and a part of the church. It is also an encouraging reminder that Jesus said: “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14)

If you would like to join the Saint Laurence O’Toole’s Multicultural Children’s Choir, please email

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Natalee Bonomini Image
Natalee Bonomini

Natalee Bonomini is a Newcastle writer.

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