Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Canberra's St Patrick's Church Braddon saved!

Some time ago I reported on the fight between parishioners and the Archdiocese of Canberra-Goulburn over the future of a Church located near the centre of Canberra City, St Patrick's Church, Braddon.

Well, it seems now that all bets are off, because according to The Canberra Times, the ACT Government's offer for the site was deemed insufficient to make selling it worthwhile.

That is great news for the various groups who use the Church - the German Community has its Sunday Masses there (as does the local parish), as well as the office workers and others who attend the weekday lunchtime Masses there.

When the Church loses its focus...

This was one of those deals, championed by the former Archbishop, +Coleridge, that seemed, on the face of it, more about building up the Churches financial resources than advancing the cause of Christ.

It involved closing and selling off the only Church still located in walking distance from one of Canberra's city centres, a church that was still in active use, in order to raise money for the development of the area around the Cathedral (!) in Manuka.

And the methods the diocese used to advance this affair seem, at least on the basis of what I have been told, questionable.

I for one noticed, for example, when the diocese suddenly closed off the parking for the Church making it much harder to go there for Mass or access the Catholic Bookshop in Favier House.  It turns out they had leased the parking, without consulting users, to the Anglicans!

Similarly, initially the diocese seems to have thought it owned the land itself - but in fact it was part of the Central Canberra Parishes territory, thus requiring the parishes sign-off.  Many of the parishioners, as well as former parishioners, were less than happy at the proposal.

Some have claimed to me that there were a number of rather heavy-handed attempts to 'persuade' individual, and in some cases vulnerable, parishioners into compliance by various senior members of the diocesan hierarchy.

And some people have suggested to me that it was not entirely coincidental that the contract that had the Dominicans running this parish was terminated, despite the fact that the diocese is desperately short of priests.

In desperation, a number of supporters of the Church sought Heritage listing for the Church.  They succeeded, but the Archdiocese is continuing to fight the decision all the way.

Whatever the truth of the various claims, this is not edifying stuff!

And there is a great deal of irony in Canberra's relentlessly secularist Government effectively saving a Church from being closed and demolished...

The way forward

Canberra still lacks an Archbishop.

Whoever does get the job needs to take a hard look at what has happened and the modus operandi of all involved.

I'd also suggest a serious rethink of the proposed Manuka development: shouldn't the Cathedral of a diocese stand above its surroundings rather than be crowded in by apartments and office buildings?

And as for the archdiocese's finances, if the situation really is that dire, perhaps a strategic rethink aimed at taking seriously the Pope's hope that we become a  'poor Church for the poor' might be in order.  A church that focused on making the spiritual riches of the Church available to all, to spending its wealth on the worship of God rather than on protecting and growing its financial resources for example.

Shedding much of the archdiocesan bureaucracy would be a good start - Canberra has a ready supply of well-trained laity who could well be persuaded to help out on a volunteer basis if allowed to do so.

Build a real Cathedral!

Of course one bold solution to the Manuka issue that could be used to unite the Archdiocese in a great cause would be to commit to building the Cathedral originally planned for Canberra on the site given to the Church for the purpose on the shores of Lake Burley-Griffin.

Back in 1926 it was announced that:

Early in the New Year, a commencement will be made by the Roman Catholic Church of a comprehensive scheme to cater for Canberra and its environs. The foundations are to be laid in July of a school, church, and of a convent in Canberra, and of a large hall in Queanbeyan.

On the occasion of the laying of the foundation stones, the Archbishops of Sydney and Melbourne andthe Bishop of Goulburn will visit Canberra.

The Church has secured three fine sites in the city area, one of which is a cathedral site on the northern bank of the Molonglo River....

The main cathedral site is situated on the northern side of Molonglo Basin, on the right hand side of Commonwealth Avenue bridge head, on the way to Civic Centre from the Administrative Area.
The site is opposite Parliament House, and is close to the large residential areas of Ainslie and South Ainslie...

The foundation stones of the initial edifices will be laid on Sunday, January 30, next..."

Alas, all that eventually resulted was a large house for the Archbishop on one of Canberra's prime pieces of real estate!

The 'better late than never' principle seems popular at present, and a Cathedral dedicated to Our Lady Help of Christians could be a much needed shrine and shield against the forces of relentless secularisation.

And perhaps the project could be launched as an act of reparation for the sins committed in the child abuse scandal.

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