Parishioners of St James at Peak Hill in far-flung Western NSW have started new gardens in the church grounds to reinvigorate the church yard and let the town and travellers know that the parish is alive and vibrant – and the result is spectacular.
With a population of around 750, Peak Hill is situated about five hours’ drive west of Sydney and is part of the vast inland Diocese of Wilcannia-Forbes; it also includes the parishes of Narromine, and Trangie.
“Although only a small parish, parishioners are proud of their church and devoted to their faith,” parishioner Adam Cannon – also Chairman of the Parish Council – told The Catholic Weekly.
“The gardens are creating great interest for parishioners and they are proud of the additions to the grounds. Quite a few parishioners go for a wander around the garden beds after Mass to admire the new additions.”
The church yard fronts the Newell Highway, which runs from Melbourne to Brisbane.
“The new gardens only started earlier this year, and we have been fund-raising to buy new pots and plants through street stalls and raffles,” Mr Cannon said.
“One of our new gardens is a rose garden that contains roses including a Pope John Paul II rose (from the Vatican gardens). Next to the John Paul II rose is a Kardinal. Our first Kardinal rose did not shoot, so I had to source another Kardinal from a nursery.
“When the nursery owner rang me to say the new Kardinal had arrived, I told her that the Pope would be so pleased, as he now had a successor again! She laughed at that.”
The centre-piece rose in the new rose garden is a rose called “Peace”, released at the end of World War II.
Not content to rest on their laurels, parishioners have begun exhibiting some of their potted plants and flowers, including at the two day annual agricultural show in August at Peak Hill. The parish won numerous sections including Champion Exhibit in the Horticulture section.
In September the parish entered the Peak Hill town and district garden competition, one of 15 gardens to enter, and was awarded second place in the Community garden section.
Designed by then-Parish Priest Fr Michael Heath, St James Church was built in 1935.
It was the first church consecrated in the Diocese of Wilcannia-Forbes, blessed and opened by Bishop Fox in 1936.
While parishioners are pleased with the fruits of their labour, Mr Cannon said, “we have much more beatification to do in the years ahead.”