PARISHIONERS thanked God, and some wept with joy, as they worshipped for the first time in the new Stella Maris Church in Maroochydore.
“We waited for a long time, but … we are home. Thank you, Lord, thank you. It is beautiful,” said Josephine Schemvri, a parishioner of 20 years, wiping back heartfelt tears.
Alongside, her friend Gwen De Silva nodded in agreement. “God has blessed our parish,” she said.
For the past 18 months, Maroochydore Catholics have gathered in the nearby school hall, packing out chairs on a Saturday night and then stacking them again after the Masses.
No more. Their new Stella Maris Church – a $5 million architectural showpiece – has been delivered on budget one month ahead of schedule, meaning it is ready for expected bumper Christmas crowds.
It can comfortably seat 450 worshippers and can be expanded by simply opening the elegant floor-to-ceiling bi-fold doors.
The beautiful new church has a casual openness, accentuated by its design to naturally catch the sea breezes.
“Today in our journey we are in a new church, which is very beautiful, and we are all very proud of it,” parish priest Fr Joe Duffy told about 400 parishioners during the first Friday Mass homily on December 16.
The church will be used during the busy Advent and Christmas periods, but it will not be dedicated until early next year.
“But the church is only the beginning of a whole new direction for our parish,” Fr Duffy said.
“It is the skin around the church, and it is the skin which enables us to be the people that God wants us to be … because protected by this skin, we need to be ready to carry God’s message of love and mercy.
“I do ask that we be blessed by God because of this project, this project that you have embraced and supported and encouraged.”
The original Stella Maris Church opened in 1922 on the same large block in central Maroochydore.
After a decision to redevelop, it was agreed to go into partnership with St Vincent’s Health and Aged Care to build not only a new church on the site, but a residential aged-care facility.
Both building projects have progressed side by side during the past 18 months. The 124-bed aged-care facility is also completed and is expected to open next February.
One of the features is that residents confined to their beds or unable to attend Mass at Stella Maris will be able to view the Mass in their rooms via closed-circuit TV.
“It will be totally linked to the church,” the parish finance officer Peter Desbrow said.
Mr Desbrow described the entire redevelopoment project as a significant moment for “a big and very vibrant community”.
The development project was managed by KHA Project Management, designed by architect Deicke Richards and built by contractor Badge, employing 170 construction workers at its peak.
“It’s beautiful – a marvellous job in building something the whole of Maroochydore can be proud of for a long, long time,” Mr Desbrow said.
“It will stand out as an icon in the community.
“As a place to worship it will be spectacular.”