Golden anniversary for parish that survived trial by fire

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Parish memorabilia
A memorabilia collection of military patches and badges in the parish. PHOTO: Patrick J Lee

There were smiles all round as St Christopher’s Church, Holsworthy, celebrated its golden anniversary.

Parishioners are proud of its unique history as the first parish church built within an Australian army establishment, the Holsworthy Military Barracks.

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Fr Andrew Feng and Deacon Mick Flew
Fr Andrew Feng and Deacon Mick Flew enjoyed the BBQ lunch at St Christopher’s golden jubilee celebrations on 27 January. PHOTO: Patrick J Lee

The church was designed and built by the Australia Defence Force’s Military Engineering Battalion to honour Australians who died in Korea, Malaya and Vietnam.

It was blessed by the then-Archbishop of Sydney Cardinal Gilroy and opened by Colonel Bunting Obe on 26 January, 1969. The first parish priest was military priest Fr Jim Boberg.

The parish was transferred to the Archdiocese of Sydney in 1998 and given to the care of Fr Anthony Misfud.

Mass
Fr Anthony Mifsud led the Mass along with army chaplains Fr Xiang (Andrew) Feng and Mick Flew. PHOTO: Patrick J Lee

Tragedy struck in 2009 when an arsonist set fire to the church on 4 March, destroying the altar and tabernacle and causing smoke damage to the rest of the interior.

But parishioners rallied and the church has remained essentially the same while the parish’s demographic has changed, especially with the introduction of the primary school and new development in the area.

The celebrations on 27 January were also a welcome to St Christopher’s new administrator Fr Xiang (Andrew), who is also a chaplain at the Holsworthy Army Barracks and so the parish’s special connection with the continues.

Historic photo
The early days: a group of First Holy Communicants at St Christopher’s.

Present at the thanksgiving Mass were hundreds of past and present parishioners and staff of St Christopher’s Primary School along with other parish and civic leaders.

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Long-time parishioner Ian Morrison said the day was “wonderful”.

A retired military officer, Mr Morrison entered the Catholic Church as an adult under the guidance of Fr John William and even after moving from nearby Moorebank to Prestons, faithfully returns to the parish each week with his wife Rita.

“We got here in 1974 so we’ve been here quite a long time, it’s a great parish,” he said.