IT took a lightning bolt to push the faithful keepers of St Columba’s Church, Wilston, into an action plan to ensure the sacred icon stays standing for another 100 years.
Last year lightning struck the 104-year-old church, which is part of the Good Samaritan Parish and St John the Baptist Parish, prompting the community to launch a three-year plan to restore the church to its original shape.
A committee set up to assess the state of the church indicated ongoing issues that were undermining the safety and functionality of the church.
As well as the damage caused by the lightning bolt, brickwork from the church is beginning to crack or spall from repairs that used the wrong type of mortar.
There is also a tree growing on the roof of the church, paint is peeling from water damage on the inside of the church and various stained-glass windows have been smashed over the years.
Parish priest Fr Leonard Uzuegbu said the parish needed at least $1.5 million to complete the restorations over the next three years.
A fundraising campaign, called Family of Faith, will oversee the fundraising goals to pay for the restorations and repairs.
The first phase of the restoration process, which will repair damage to the brickwork on the front of the church, will require up to $420,000.
“It’s a lot of money, but we are not really concerned about the money, it’s about what we want to achieve, to have a parish in good shape, if possible to restore it very close to its original shape so that we will have something to give to the next generation to look after,” Fr Uzuegbu said.
He said taking care of the church also honoured his predecessors from the past century.
“I always think, how many priests have really celebrated Mass there and here I am, one-hundred years down the track, celebrating Mass on the same sanctuary, at the same altar?” Fr Uzuegbu said.
“Standing at the altar to celebrate, I know I am walking in the footsteps of many heroes of faith.”
Parishioner of six years Christine Anderson, whose children attend St Columba’s Primary School, said it was important to restore the church now so future generations could make use of it.
“It’s our gathering place for happy moments as well as sad moments,” Ms Anderson said.
“As one of the younger parishioners, you really see that when we come to celebrate First Communions and Confirmations with the love and the support of the community.
“We want this church to be here for our kids and grandkids and their kids thereafter.”
Parishioner Graeme Rush, who has been in the community for more than 40 years, has seen several changes take place in the church, including amendments to the pew arrangements to entice brides-to-be to walk down the aisle at St Columba’s.
“Lots of ladies didn’t want to get married in this church because it didn’t have a central aisle,” Mr Rush said.
“About 20 years ago we changed to this arrangement which is halfway towards having a central aisle.”
He was also at St Columba’s when they tore down the old bell tower and attached bell which the Good Samaritan Sisters used to ring on a regular basis.
“There were lots of stories of people ringing the bells and the nuns being lifted up off the ground but it was mounted on what was effectively a windmill stand that got very rusty and it had to come down,” Mr Rush said.
He said the lightning bolt incident was a sign that it was time for the church to undergo more changes.
Donations to the parish’s Family of Faith campaign can be made at https://www.kbcatholic.org.au/family-of-faith-campaign or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.