SUNNYBANK’S parish priest is “worn out” after organising a $2.3 million Christmas gift for his parishioners.
Fr Dan Ryan, who is parish priest at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Sunnybank, gave his congregation a brand new church in time for Christmas Masses this weekend.
Six months ago the Sunnybank church, originally built in 1963, was knocked down to make way for a major expansion, which is still being finalised.
Fr Ryan told The Catholic Leader in June that rising Mass attendances prompted the $2.3 million church expansion.
The entire congregation of more than 2000 Catholics over six weekend Masses relocated temporarily to a parish-owned community hall next door while construction on the church began.
Developers knocked down the building, leaving only “bare bones” and the front and back walls.
Fr Ryan said he was amazed that the process took only six months.
“I’m worn out,” he said.
The church reopened for the official blessing Mass on December 16, concelebrated by Archbishop Mark Coleridge and 35 priests from throughout Brisbane archdiocese, many of whom served as priests and deacons in Sunnybank.
Up to 600 people can fit comfortably in the church, but Fr Ryan expects the reopening will bring more Catholics through the doors.
“We are actually going to put up an electric sign at the front of the church with the word, ‘Open and welcoming’,” he said.
The day after the official reopening Mass, the congregation welcomed its newest baptised member Joseph Bird, son of Sunnybank youth ministers Steven and Eloise Bird.
Joseph was baptised in the same font as his older brother Isaac and father, who grew up in the Sunnybank parish and received all his sacraments, including Holy Matrimony, in the church.
Mr Bird said before the expansion, the youth Masses on a Sunday night would fit about 480 people inside the church with a further 200 standing.
High numbers at the Easter and Christmas Masses meant the congregation “spilled out into the street”.
While the expansion will mean more room for the growing community, the demolition of the church was also a difficult time for Mr Bird.
“I’ve been here forever,” he said.
“It was hard to let go of the old church, but I just had to trust.”
Mr Bird said the parish had installed air-conditioning, space for parishioners in wheelchairs, hearing loops and a webcam for streaming major liturgies, like the Good Friday service.
“It will be a nice space for young people and the elderly to experience God,” he said.
Mother-of-four Kristen Roe was 11 when her family became part of the Sunnybank community.
It was there she met her husband Daniel Roe, another parishioner who was baptised at Our Lady of Lourdes.
The pair married at the church and had their four children baptised there.
Mrs Roe said it was time for the family to make “new memories” at Our Lady of Lourdes.
“We had a long history in the church, but now we’ll be making new memories,” she said.