By Paul Dobbyn
The inside of Annerley’s Mary Immaculate Church, left drenched and muddied by the November 27 super storm in Brisbane, has been cleaned up and now looks “almost as if nothing has happened”, parish priest Fr Adrian Sharp said.
“We had the troops in for a working bee on Saturday,” he said.
“We all worked most of the day scrubbing down walls, washing pews and the floor where possible.
“The carpets are gradually drying out although they are very discoloured and will need cleaning.”
Nearly every southwards-facing stained-glass window in the church was smashed and roof tiles were lifted by the ferocious storm which carved a swathe of destruction in a narrow corridor through inner city suburbs Annerley, Dutton Park, Kangaroo Point and the CBD.
Considerable damage to Church property was caused by the storm, described by Queensland Premier Campbell Newman as “arguably the worst since 1985 for this city”.
Nine Catholic schools were shut down the following day, including historic All Hallows’ which had sections of the roof lifted on the old convent and the original classroom block, resulting in considerable water damage.
Other churches in the corridor of destruction, including St Joseph’s Church, Kangaroo Point; and St Benedict’s Church, East Brisbane, were also damaged.
The three Sunday Masses at Mary Immaculate Church were held at Annerley’s Marymac Community Centre, and Mass was not held at either St Joseph’s or St Benedict’s churches.
Wind and hail damage was also sustained by Church offices including Brisbane Catholic Education at Dutton Park and some within the St Stephen’s Cathedral precinct.
BCE communications and marketing manager John Phelan said sections of the head office had been “extensively damaged”.
“A section of roof has been lifted on the old wing of the office, making one of the IT areas uninhabitable,” he said.
“The newer part seems generally okay but electricians are checking before staff is allowed to return, just to be on the safe side.”
Hail had damaged at least 60 cars in the BCE headquarters’ carpark, he said.
“Twenty to 25 cars, including several fleet cars, look likely to be write-offs,” he said.
“One woman had taken delivery of her new car half an hour earlier … it finished up looking like someone had been bashing it for ages with a hammer.”
Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge was in Sydney when the storm struck, but he recalled going through a similar storm in Canberra, describing it as “terrifying”.
“We had havoc in St Stephen’s Cathedral precinct, although mercifully, the cathedral itself wasn’t too badly hit,” he said.
“But schools and churches in places like Kangaroo Point, Annerley and Moorooka were really battered, and that’s been stressful for those communities.”
Archbishop Coleridge likened the life of the Church with the monster storm.
“The Church is regularly battered by super-cell storms of one kind or another,” he said.
“The crisis of sexual abuse is the latest and one of the worst.
“Damage is done, but we pick up the pieces and rebuild not only buildings but lives as well.
“The Church has to be rebuilt again and again and again – as long as the storms keep coming.”