ST Stephen’s Cathedral dean Fr Ken Howell has hailed the “felix culpa” of The Go Between Bridge, which gave impetus to the restoration of St Mary’s Church, South Brisbane.
Fr Howell, also parish administrator, told those gathered at the St Mary’s Blessing of Restoration last Sunday, Brisbane City Coun-cil had assisted with air-conditioning and double glazing to deal with anticipated additional traffic passing the church in Merivale Street to access the new bridge.
He also spoke of matters “more than bricks and mortar”, of a “community of faith (which) is alive and moving forward”.
Those present at the large gathering included Bishop Brian Finnigan, Brisbane Mayor Graham Quirk, representatives from religious orders and local politicians.
Fr Howell said “How is everything going at St Mary’s?” had been a question he had been frequently asked.
“It was just three years ago that the saddest of circumstances surrounded this church and its community,” he said.
“The decisions of our archbishop and his appointed pastor became a national news item, hence the reason for this question that is asked wherever I go.
“I am ever happy to report the good that has happened here and continues to happen here, despite the intense sadness I feel personally that a large group of parishioners felt they could no longer worship in this church.
“Our prayers continue for them.”
St Mary’s parish finance council member Tom O’Donnell joined Fr Howell in acknowledging the generosity of donors and the work of the Archdiocesan Property and Building Services.
Among those mentioned were the services’ director Stuart Lummis, Archdiocesan Development Fund customer service manager Cheryl Caughley, architect Ian Sinnamon and BCC officer John Prosser.
Mr O’Donnell paid tribute to Fr Howell’s triumph over “personal vilification”, during a time when he was “often in the media glare”, to rebuild St Mary’s parish.
“(Fr Howell) inherited a parish with no money, a congregation which might be described as a remnant rump and a church with some major maintenance issues,” he said.
Among Fr Howell’s achievements was that the average congregation size had more than tripled, parish finances were on a proper footing and the church itself had been financed and restored.
“Indeed, it is fair to say that Father Ken has led this parish with tact and sensitivity based on his own strong faith,” Mr O’Donnell said.
Earlier thanking Brisbane City Council, Fr Howell alluded to an expression from the Easter liturgy.
He referred to a phrase from the Exsultet “in Latin: ‘O felix culpa’ – ‘O happy fault'” relating to the Fall of Man that led to the coming of Jesus Christ as Saviour. “O felix culpa – O happy fault.
“If it wasn’t for The Go Between Bridge – all of this (church improvements) just would not have happened.
“Thus I leave my final comments of thanks to the people of Brisbane through the Brisbane City Council and its consideration of the need to safeguard this church long-term through protecting it from increased traffic noise.
“Of course the added bonus is that now we can worship in air-conditioned comfort and our beautiful leadlight windows have been meticulously restored and protected through double glazing.
“The city council project was in excess of $1 million and we also thank council for the $15,000 heritage grant towards the roof replacement with heritage-specified galvanised iron.
“It most certainly has not only given a whole new lease of life to one of the gems of church architecture in Brisbane, but it has – more importantly – given a small faith-filled community a new lease of life that will no doubt add to its growth into the future.”
The Catholic Leader is an Australian award-winning Catholic newspaper that has been published by the Archdiocese of Brisbane since 1929. Our journalism seeks to provide a full, accurate and balanced Catholic perspective of local, national and international news while upholding the dignity of the human person.
The Catholic Leader acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the First Peoples of this country and especially acknowledge the traditional owners on whose lands we live and work throughout the Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane.