Church opens to a new life

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Saint Agnes War Memorial Church, Matraville. Photos: Giovanni Portelli

Priest transforms St Agnes for community, mission

While many churches were closed and in darkness throughout much of lockdown, Matraville’s St Agnes War Memorial Church was full of light and activity, undergoing renovations to return it to its former glory.

Newly-installed Parish Priest Fr John Knight adopted the Sydney Archdiocesean Mission Plan, Go Make Disciples, by celebrating the glory of God and beautifying his church.

Externally, it was painted and basic repairs carried out, but the true beauty is found inside where heavy curtains were removed allowing natural light to flood in and showcase the new poppy-red colour scheme symbolising both the blood of St Agnes the martyr after whom the church is dedicated as well as the sacrifice of those who served in conflicts in which Australia has been involved.

One of only three war memorial churches in the Archdiocese – the others are Regina Coeli Memorial Church, Beverly Hills and St Michael’s Parish Daceyville – it was built in 1959 and dedicated to those fallen in both World Wars.

As a special tribute to the fallen this week, students from the primary school gathered to raise the Australian flag and mark Remembrance Day, which will become an annual tradition.

Fr John said he was quite simply embracing the Mission Plan and “making things beautiful and inviting”.

He called on the time, talent and treasures of parishioners to build on the wonderful past of the parish, so as to make God’s house a place of beauty that is a welcome home. “The Go Make Disciples Mission Plan talks about making things beautiful again, and COVID and the lockdown provided the perfect opportunity to do just that,” he said.

Light now fills the interior of St Agnes. The renovation was inspired by the Go Make Disciples mission plan. PHOTO: GIOVANNI PORTELLI

“The plan speaks of stewardship and making our churches inviting to the beauty of God’s gifts of each person and the legacy of God’s House of prayer, the gateway to our heavenly realm.

“I am so very grateful for parishioners who have been involved in working bees which has not only helped with the restoration, but enabled them to get involved and taking ownership of their church which is what being a disciple means, working with your gifts for the glory of God.

“We still have work to be done but the church looks absolutely beautiful.”

Some of the major works included cutting back and re-sealing the stunning brush box hardwood flooring revealing natural Australian timbers as well as re-carpeting the main nave and transepts in blood red carpets, while leaving some of the terrazzo floors exposed.
The striking lead lights were cleaned and repaired, and with the removal of heavy, dark curtains allowing parishioners to enjoy their natural colours and beauty.

Founding parishioner Michelle Viselli said the beautification took her back to her childhood when she visited the church when it was first opened.

Our church now sparkles like it did when it was opened.” Michelle Viselli

“To me, our church now sparkles like it did when it was opened when I was a young child,” she beamed.

“I have been a parishioner of St Agnes Matraville for approximately 58 years and I felt so much pride and joy looking at the interior and once again attending Mass there.

“Over the last few months we have all seen the wonderful external work that has been done and to finally see the inside today is beautiful.

“Thank you Fr John for organising the wonderful renovations at St Agnes Matraville.”

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