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Home » News » Local » St Stephen’s Cathedral, the oasis in the city, celebrates 30 years since dedication

St Stephen’s Cathedral, the oasis in the city, celebrates 30 years since dedication

Spiritual heart: An aerial shot of St Stephen’s Cathedral and chapel, in Brisbane’s Elizabeth Street, with the Brisbane River in the back lefthand corner.

ST Stephen’s Cathedral parishioner Trish McMahon loved the serenity of the cathedral, particularly amidst the hustle and bustle of city life.

She said there was a “real beautiful community spirit”.

“As a parishioner, I just get that feel – the caring that’s there,” she said.

“And that’s from everybody, that’s what I like.”

She said the functions of a cathedral parish were different.

“I think it has to tick a lot more boxes and I think (it does) that fairly well,” she said.

And her favourite spot was the Blessed Sacrament chapel, which made up one of the major renovations being celebrated as part of the 30th anniversary of the dedication of the cathedral on December 4.

In 1989, the cathedral and the surrounding precinct was reworked and renovated with an eye towards the liturgical changes brought by the Second Vatican Council.

Cathedral dean Fr Anthony Mellor said the building was significant because it was right in the heart of the city.

“Cathedrals are very important,” he said.

“They’re not just religious spaces, they’re cultural spaces as well. 

“Here, hundreds of people traverse through the precinct every day and go past the cathedral. 

“Whether they’re religious or not, I’m sure that the cathedral remains an important landmark to them.”

Mass parking: Parishioners gather in the cathedral park for Mass while the major work goes on.

Fr Mellor said this particular cathedral served many functions.

Brisbane auxiliary Bishop Ken Howell said he loved the cathedral, and it had played a consistent role in his formation and life.

He had been a chorister there when he was growing up in the 1970s and kept finding his way back; firstly, as assistant priest, then as bishop’s secretary and dean of the cathedral, and now as a bishop.

He counted about three decades’ association with St Stephen’s Cathedral in some capacity or another.

“As a priest, being in the renovated space, it’s such a joy to celebrate Mass there,” Bishop Howell said.

The dedication date, December 4, pointed to Sacrosanctum Concilium – the first council document to come out of the Second Vatican Council about the liturgy.

Bishop Howell said the renovations were done with the reformed liturgy in mind.

“The renovation of the cathedral had been talked about for years,” he said.

“It got to the stage where it did need significant renovation and had become quite dark in many ways. 

“It was needed, and it was time.

“There was the reformed liturgy that needed to be considered in the light of the way the place functioned. 

“It wasn’t just renovating the cathedral, it was looking at the cathedral from the point of view of how does it function in the life of the city.”

To this end, the archdiocese contracted architect Robert Gibson, who had by then designed the performing arts complex and become one of the best-known architects in the city.

Parish Liturgy Suggestions

White vestments are worn and the Gloria is sung.

The prayers are taken from the Roman Missal, pages 1095-1097, Common of the Dedication of a Church.

Readings are selected from the Lectionary Volume II, pages 1328-1341, Anniversary of Dedication of a Church.

An explanation may be given in the parish newsletter the weekend before the feast of the dedication. This may include the Archbishop’s statement and some of the introduction.

The feast of the dedication might be a good occasion to use the blessing and sprinkling with water from the font, since it recalls our baptism which unites us as the one family of the local Church, the body of Christ in our corner of the world.

A full complement of liturgical ministries will enhance the liturgy. In particular, the ministry of parish musicians and singers.

Bishop Howell said Mr Gibson appreciated St Stephen’s by opening it up so that when you walked down Elizabeth Street, you looked out onto St Stephen’s Chapel, or the old cathedral as it was known then. 

“So the whole space started to open up,” Bishop Howell said.

The cathedral was also extended.

The Blessed Sacrament chapel, the baptistery, the reconciliation rooms, and the sacristies were all added then to the back section of the cathedral. 

It was not just the overall structure that changed, but also religious elements of the cathedral like the sanctuary space.

Bishop Howell said the same stone floor was used for the sanctuary and the nave.

He said it was an important symbolic reminder that everyone participated in the Mass. 

Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge said the Cathedral of St Stephen, in its various forms, had been part of the city of Brisbane from the beginning. 

“The renovation was not just of the cathedral itself but of the entire precinct, which is something of which we can be proud. It is a gift we offer the city, an oasis at the heart of the CBD,” he said.

“The cathedral is also a focal point for the archdiocese, in a very real sense the mother church.

“That is why the feast of the dedication is celebrated not just in the cathedral but in all the churches of the archdiocese. 

“On this 30th anniversary I commend the feast to you in a special way, asking that you make it a moment when we pray for the unity of the People of God and a renewal of prayer and mission in the Church which makes her pilgrim way in this part of the world.”

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