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‘Heaven on Earth’

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Menai parish priest Fr Mani Malana (right) and assistant priest Fr John Pham in the completed Holy Family Church. PHOTOS: ALPHONSUS FOK

One of Australia’s most ambitious Church renovations has become a huge blessing for Sydney parish

Good things come to those who wait and the parishioners of Holy Family Parish at Menai have been richly rewarded for their patience.

A $1.1 million beautification of their Church was unveiled last weekend and the community has given it their blessings.

The extensive project began three years ago and despite Masses being temporarily celebrated in the nearby school hall, parishioners say it was well worth it.

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Designed to lift the mind from the things of earth to the things of heaven, the Church can only be described as glorious.

A bland and uninspiring church with sparse altar, blank walls and plastic chairs, at top, the old entry to the church and workman during construction, middle, and the steel frame holding the two-storey high reredos in place. PHOTOS: ALPHONSUS FOK

In fact, so breath-taking, many of the craftsmen found it difficult to leave the site each afternoon as they wanted to stay and gaze on its beauty and some have even converted to the faith.

Originally built on a bush block 40 years ago, the parish has come a long way and today has grown to a be a thriving Catholic hub consisting of a primary and high school community.

And it’s hoped the renovation, considered the largest on a Church in Australia for several generations, will attract not only new local parishioners but Catholics from all over Sydney.

From the magnificent marble sanctuary, life-sized statues of the Holy Family, oak confessional and triumphal arch, the traditional design has given the Church a renewed sense of worship and identity.

The completed classical style church featuring a magnificent marble sanctuary, life-sized statues of the Holy Family, oak confessional, triumphal arch and hand-crafted timber pews.

Thirty-six tons of carved marble were crafted overseas to create the stunning sanctuary, two-storey high reredos (a large screen, placed behind the altar), baptismal font, Ambo and John the Baptist sculpture.

An enormous crucifix above the altar was gifted by the Sisters of St Joseph, originally in the chapel of Sydney’s St Margaret’s Hospital.

“Walking in here makes me feel like I am in heaven, I hope it will inspire people to spend some time
with the Lord”

Additional improvements include wooden pews with padded kneelers replacing plastic chairs, replaced audio visual equipment and updated lighting.

Described as an extraordinary journey of prayer and community, the beautification has seen a collaboration between the parish community and a new movement of traditional architects, craftsman and artists both in Australia and abroad led by Sydney’s MJ Suttie Architects.

However at the heart of it all is parish priest Fr Mani Malana who said the long journey of planning, financing and building the new church has been a real labour of love.

“Walking in here makes me feel like I am in heaven, a place of real beauty, and I hope it will inspire people to come and spend some time with the Lord,” he said.

“Yes there have been challenges due to COVID and waiting on goods coming from overseas but I thank God that with the intercession of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, we have been able to accomplish our dream of a beautified Church which is now devotional and prayer-inspiring.

“The tabernacle is back to the centre of the Church, and people can sit or kneel comfortably to participate in the Liturgy.

“One of the biggest challenges for any parish priest is to unite scattered parishioners and I pray our renovated Church will do just that and see the return of those who have left as well as attract new parishioners.”

Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP will celebrate Mass and bless the Church on Sunday, 11 September at 11:30am.

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