CATHOLICS in Rosalie are preparing to mark 100 years since the laying of the foundation stone of their Romanesque church that was nearly destroyed by fire.
In June 1917 Archbishop James Duhig laid the foundation stone of Sacred Heart Church, Rosalie, which was later opened on June 16, 1918, by Archbishop Bartolomeo Cattaneo, who was the apostolic delegate for Pope Benedict XV.
While the first Catholics in Rosalie initially attended Mass at St Brigid’s Church, Red Hill, or at St Stephen’s Cathedral, the swelling numbers required a new church in the suburb.
Archbishop Robert Dunne bought a plot of land in Rosalie on Given Terrace and Fernberg Road, and built the suburb’s first church in 1898.
Nearly a decade later a larger church was built, blessed and opened by Rosalie’s first parish priest Fr William Lee.
Archbishop Duhig announced a new brick church would be built for the parish and in 1917 he laid the foundation stone.
Parish priest Fr Peter Brannelly, who is the fifth priest to look after Sacred Heart Church, said the First World War delayed some of the church’s development.
“From pictures of the church after its opening, the Sacred Heart statue is not there because it had to come out from Italy, but the war held it off,” Fr Brannelly said.
The church took another blow from a devastating event when it was almost destroyed by a fire that broke out on Sunday, January 11, 1942.
According to The Canberra Times’ January 12, 1942 issue, the estimated cost of damages was at £8000, more than half of the initial build costs.
It was reported that the blaze broke out while priests were “at tea in a nearby presbytery”.
The church was eventually restored to new life and reopened in 1943.
Under Fr Branelly’s direction, Sacred Heart Church went through a second renovation worth about $500,000.
This included new floor tiles, improvements on the original light fixtures and restored pews.
The pews still bear the scorch marks of the 1942 fire, which Fr Brannelly said was a way of preserving the history of the church.
The restoration is just the beginning of the church’s centenary celebrations, which start on June 17 with a choral concert featuring three choirs from the parish.
These choirs include the St Brigid’s Red Hill choir, the Korean Catholic Community’s Gloria Choir and the newly formed Latin-American Community Choir.
Three parish cantors will also perform solos during the concert, to be held at Sacred Heart Church.
The concert will coincide with the St Vincent de Paul Society’s Winter Appeal, which seeks donations to assist with much-needed charitable works across Australia.
In the society’s Rosalie/Red Hill conference, the donations will support a recent 30 per cent increase in emergency responses.
Over the next year, the Jubilee parish will start collating a history book on Sacred Heart Church.
“What we want to do is all the history that comes in, it will be catalogued, collated and stored up in our archives so that in 100 years’ time that generation of parishioners can look back and tell the story,” Fr Brannelly said.
Sacred Heart Church Rosalie’s concert will be held on June 17 at 6pm following the Saturday Vigil Mass at 4.30pm.