By Emilie Ng
NANANGO parish priest Fr Nigel Sequeira is clutching his Rosary beads in the hope Our Lady will send helpers to revive one of his “bush churches”.
Our Lady Help of Christians Church is one of the South Burnett country town’s most iconic buildings, having hosted more than 3000 baptisms and 710 marriages in its 98-year lifespan.
But it’s also in dire need of restorations and repairs, having battled extreme weather conditions, including its fair share of droughts and floods.
Fr Sequeira believes praying to the church’s namesake will bring the parish back to life before its centenary in 2017.
“Our churches in a sense suffer from that because we don’t have the funding or the finances to keep them going,” he said.
“We’re praying rosaries and asking people to pray that help will come.”
Through the power of prayer, the Nanango parish community has raised more than $23,000 in the past year.
Heritage Nanango Community funding, a not-for-profit, volunteer-run joint initiative of Heritage Bank, has also given the parish a $42,339 grant to re-paint the church’s exterior.
Fr Sequeira started the renovations with a small blessing ceremony on March 11 with local tradesmen, painters, Heritage Nanango community funding representatives and parishioners.
He said the new coat of paint on Our Lady Help of Christians would be a “sign” that the church was in a renewal phase.
“Nanango is a beautiful place, and the church is an icon to the town and the people here,” Fr Sequeira said.
“It has a great history behind it, and it’s something that we’ve got to remember at all times.”
Nanango’s oldest parishioner Pearl Walters is counting down the days until Our Lady Help of Christians turns 100.
The 92-year-old moved from Toowoomba to Nanango in 1933 to help teach in the old convent attached to the parish.
Her husband’s grandfather was also the first Catholic recorded in the church’s baptism register.
Mrs Walters said her earliest memories included doing “figure eights” on the town’s racecourse with a former parish priest who was teaching her to drive.
She married and raised six children in Nanango parish, and is hoping the whole family will reunite for the church’s centenary in 2017.
Fr Sequeira hoped the centenary celebrations would bring back members of the community who had moved away.
“We need to bring people together to keep these places going,” Fr Sequeira said.
“The place was a bustling community.
“It’s wonderful to live here and be pastor of this place.
“I think it’s just reaching out and giving people an invitation to come and see and to help out and they get on board.
“Our country churches always need help.
“If anyone can help our parishes, our bush parishes, we ask you to help us.”