CHERMSIDE parish priest Fr Gerard McMorrow is beaming brighter than his church Christmas lights display after his community took the top prize in a popular festive competition.
St Gerard Majella Church won the title of Brisbane’s Best Display in the 4KQ Christmas Lights competition for the first time since their first bulb lit up 15 years ago.
This was despite having less than a dozen people helping to set up the lights. Among them was Fr McMorrow who hires a cherry picker to assemble the giant angel and surrounding lights on the church roof.
The parish community also took out the 7News Church and Community Group Award for the sixth time.
“The lights have come up very vibrant this year for some reason,” Fr McMorrow said.
Fifteen years ago, Fr McMorrow’s parish manager Kate Scutt told him to “set up a few Christmas lights around the parish”.
What started as a small display has turned into one of Brisbane’s most visited lights displays, with thousands turning up to view the lights from the parish’s front lawn and take part in its Christmas Festival.
The incredible sight signals no doubts about the real meaning of Christmas.
“There’s a huge cross on the tree, and all the silhouettes are about the birth of Christ,” Fr McMorrow said.
“There’s the angel on the church and words of peace in various languages, and the words ‘Christ be our light’ and ‘Gloria in excelsis deo’ up in lights.
“Christ is a wonderful gift to us, and we are all about giving the Christmas cheer.”
Not only have the lights attracted people to the church doorstep, but many step inside to pray at the annual outdoor Christmas Vigil Mass.
Fr McMorrow believes the lights display had contributed to a growing attendance rate at the Christmas Vigil Mass, with numbers reaching into the thousands.
“Those numbers are getting bigger and bigger,” he said. “Our lights have put the church on the map, that’s for sure.
“People are coming to see the church, not to spend time in the shopping centre or at home watching television.”
The lights display has also helped the parish financially, with profits collected from the Christmas Festival and the on-site gift shop paying for all its renovations, including building offices, the car park and a toilet block.
The parish’s patron saint, St Gerard Majella, could also be responsible for the parish’s success story.
In 2005, Fr McMorrow went on a hunt for a statue of St Gerard Majella for the parish church, which had been without one since opening in 1962.
It was shipped to Australia but was severely damaged in transit.
A 95-year-old artist agreed to repair the statue but before completing it he suffered a stroke and was hospitalised.
“The parish was really struggling to the point where it looked like we were not going to be around for much longer and there was no way we could do anything,” Fr McMorrow said.
“I brought the statue back and, from there on, St Gerard Majella has helped us and truly looked after us,” he said.
“I gave him a home.”