Hungarian Catholic Community

Faith Journey

HUNGARIAN -Fr Laszlo with Sr Nien and Basia.PNG


The number of Hungarians in Adelaide and South Australia in 2005 were approximately four thousand.  According to the 1998 Australian Census, the average age of first generation Hungarians born “at home” is approximately 60.5 years.  The Hungarians of Adelaide arrived in two big waves: in the early 1949-50’s and after the 1956 War of Independence.  Hungarians from Yugoslavia and Transylvania also came in smaller numbers.  Since 1989, there had been no mass Hungarian immigration.

1950 - 1970

The first Hungarian Catholic movement began on August 20th, 1950 when solemn Mass was celebrated in the Cathedral.  László Fazekas, a Catholic priest, arrived from Némo.  During World War II, he served as a military pastor on the frontlines.  The Hungarians did not know him personally, but several people remembered his encouraging writings in the weekly and monthly newspapers published in the Compass and the Catholic Correspondent Nemo, which were prepared for refugee Hungarians.

On 24th of December, 1950 at 11 o’clock, Father Fazekas celebrated Mass in the cathedral in the presence of Archbsihop Beovich.  Most of the Hungarian community at that time, approximately 500 people were present.  This is how Hungarian Catholic life began in Adelaide.  Father Fazekas first lived in the immigration camp in Woodside, approximately 33 km from the city and then got an apartment in the parish in Woodville.  He later received a nice apartment and full board in a correctional facility run by nuns in Marion.  He operated from there until his death in 1971.

Although most of his pastoral ministry was in serving the Hungarian Catholics, he was not financially dependent on them.  The selfless work and organizational skills of Father László Fazekas created the Hungarian Catholic community.  He was a first-rate preacher and a knowledgeable priest.  On the 24th February, 1952 the Regnum Marianum Catholic Community was formed on a hot summer’s day. Led by Fr László Polgar and seven founding members and their families.  By name: Antal Krassay, Ern Flock, Gábor Ṍhzi, Endre majoros, László Polgár, Barnabás Berks and Erzébet Csányi (Elizabeth Révész Sr.).  It later became a registered association called The Regnum Marianum Catholic Hungarian Welfare Association, Inc., and as a legal entity, it could already buy real estate.  In College Park, close to downtown, they brought a multi-plot timber farm that also housed a corrugated tin warehouse.  For years, they beautified, rebuilt the room and arranged the garden according to their financial means.  During the brief ministry of Father István Pálinkás SVD, a Divine Word Missionary, a priest’s residence was also built.  The aim of the Regnum Marianum Community was to bring together Hungarians from Adelaide and South Australia.  There was no office or membership fee, everyone was equal and worked and donated according to their ability and means.  A school, a girls association and a choir were established.

From 1952, there was Mass every Sunday.  In three neighborhoods: two Sundays in downtown Pirie Street and one Sunday each month in Croydon Park and Enfield.  Later in Hindmarsh, Mass was celebrated at Sacred Heart Catholic Church on one Sunday afternoon each month.  Thus, the vast majority of believers had the opportunity to go to Mass not too far from their place of residence.  Few families had cars at the time, and public transport wasn’t the best on Sundays.  Overtime, there were Masses only in Pirie Street and Hindmarsh. At the Regnum Home, Masses were sometimes held on major holidays, e.g. at Christmas or on the feast of St Stephen, King of Hungary.  Later, the church at Pirie Street could no longer be used.  From 1982, with the permission of the Archbishop, Sunday Mass was held in the Regnum Marianum Chapel.

Over the past decades, the Regnum Marianum has worked successfully from a religious and multicultural perspective.  The Hungarian Masses, annual retreats, and the feasts of the church year provided an opportunity for Hungarian Catholics to workshop and glorify God in their mother tongue.  But Regnum was also home to scouts, a youth group, literary evenings and many other cultural and family gatherings.

Hungarians arriving after 1956 were warmly received and helped by Father Fazekas.  He warmly welcomed the visiting Hungarian priests: Ferenc Forró SJ (1953, 1958, 1959) Gyula Tétényi (1955, 1959), and religious sisters: the sisters from Kalocsa (Chief maria Mediatrix and Sister Niceta) expelled from China, who settled in Sydney and visited the Regnum Community when passing through in 1955 and 1957.  IN 1966 and 1970, the pre-Easter Tridiums were held by Father István Békési SJ, a teacher in Melbourne.


1970 - 2000

On 20th of August, 1971, Father Fazekas was still leading the Stations of the Cross and celebrating Mass in the Regnum Chapel.  On the 26th of August, expectantly, after 21 years of priestly service, he died of heart failure at the age of 58.  His sudden death shocked the entire Hungarian community.  At his requiem Mass, the Hungarian faithful filled the Cathedral in Wakefield Street to capacity.  The requiem Mass was celebrated by Father István Galambos and Father Béla Fazokas OP, Two archbishops, bishops and many of his fellow priests were present.

Father Béla Fazokas already celebrated the Hungarian Mass in the church in Pirie Street.  He held spiritual retreats and prayer meetings and then organized the October Feast in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Patroness of Hungary, which has been held every year ever since.  In doing so, he reassured and strengthened the community that had lost it’s pastor.  Since he had to go back to Canberra and Sydney, on November 21st, Mass was celebrated partly in Hungarian and Sacred Heart Church in Hinmarsh by Father Lawrence Foote OP, an Australian Dominican priest.  He was subsequently the chaplain to the Hungarian Catholic Community in Adelaide from 1978 to 1981.

After the death of Father László Fazekas, it became the task of the Regnum Community to support the Hungarian Chaplain. On 26th November, 1971, Father Menyhért Bées OFM arrived.  The first mass he celebrated on 28th of November was in the church at Pirie Street.  He organized the visit of Cardinal Jószef Mindszenty between September 30-November 11, 1974.  He retired in 1978 but continued to do supply work in Adelaide for a few years until 1996.  He died in Melbourne.

István Pálinkás SVD ministered to the Hungarian community in Adelaide from 1981 to 4th of June, 1982.  During his time, the priest’s residence was built on the Regnum Marianum property.  His Divine Word Missionary Order sent him to Papua New Guinea.  He came to visit a few more times, but in 1995 he died at his mission station during the Christmas Mass.

Between 1982 and 1984 The Lithuanian priest Father Savickas was here for a few months, then Father József Szabó SJ from Hungary spent five months with the community.  Several Australian guest priests have also celebrated the Eucharist for the Hungarian Community, e.g. Father John Swann, Director of the local Catholic Immigration Centre.

In 1984, Father Tamás Marik OFM came from Hungary.  He was an excellent preacher.  He also organized the beautification of the church and the reconstruction of the parish.  He revived the faith life of the community by introducing Scripture and prayer meetings, Bible study and pioneered the charismatic renewal in the community.  He hiked with the young people, sailed, and provided them with many common experiences.  During Father Tamas ‘ time as chaplain to the Hungarian community, Bishop Attila Miklósházy, the bishop for the Hungarian Catholics in the diaspora visited the community in 1990 and 1993.  In 1993, Father Thomas returned to Hungary.

From 1993 to 1994, Father Jeffrey Foale, director of the Catholic Multicultural Department, celebrated the Eucharist in English for the Regnum Community, and the parishioners responded and sang in Hungarian.

It was a great pleasure in October 1994 when Father Béla Oláh SVD came to Adelaide from Papua New Guinea on sick leave and took on the role of chaplain to the community, but in March 1997 he died after a short battle with cancer.  Not only Hungarian but also a lot of the Australian Catholic faithful took part in the requiem Mass at the Sacred Heart Church in Hindmarsh, which was filled to capacity.  He was laid to rest in Sydney, in the cemetery of his order.

After 1997, the Sunday Eucharist was celebrated by Slovenian Franciscan, Father Janesz Tretjak OFM.  On Mondays, the chaplain to the German community, Father Ervin Schmutz SVD would celebrate Mass for the community.  Several times a year, on the occasion of major feast days, Father János Kiss, the Hungarian chaplain from Melbourne, travelled here so that the faithful could listen to the Mass in Hungarian.


The Hungarian conference of Australian, held every three years, has already been held three times in Adelaide.  The first of these gatherings was held on December, 1976.  The second time was in 1987-1988, and the third time was in 1996-1997.  The Regnum Community contributed to the success of these meetings, especially by organizing the liturgical services.  On the second and third gatherings held in Adelaide, a large number of Hungarians came from the other Australian states, from Hungary, and from other overseas countries in order to worship and glorify God in Hungarian during ecumenical workshop under a huge tent which was erected in the Regnum yard.  This was followed by a gala dinner.


2000 - Currently

In July 2000, Father László Horvath OFM arrived from Hungary.  He was born in Melbourne, Victoria from Hungarian parents.  After completing three years study at the Adelaide Seminary in Rostrevor, he decided to join the Franciscan order in Hungary and complete his studies for the priesthood in Budapest.  He was incardinated into the Franciscan Province in Hungary and subsequently ordained a priest in Budapest, Hungary in 1993.  After ordination he spent a brief period in Karpatalja, Ukraine as a missionary before spending nine months in Eaglehawk, Bendigo as an assistant priest.  Returning to Hungary in 1994, he spent another seven years as an assistant priest in a large parish in Alsóváros (Lowertown), which is in Szeged, a University City in southern Hungary.  At the request of the Adelaide Archbishop, Leonard Faulkner, the Hungarian Franciscan Provincial, Father Jakab Várnai released Father László to Adelaide for a few years in order to look after the spiritual needs of the Regnum community.  He has been living in Adelaide and serving the Hungarian community there since July 2000.