They came in their hundreds, many standing throughout the two-and-a-half hour ceremony, to witness the dedication of their magnificent new church, which has been designed to lift the mind from the things of earth to the things of heaven.
After 25 years in the planning and 18 months of building, the new Our Lady Help of Christians Church at Rosemeadow has finally been completed. And it was well worth the wait.
Everything about the building speaks of the divine. From the grand Romanesque architecture, the two lofty bell towers, the 46 stained glass windows, the artwork including icons and hand-carved wooden statues, to the pair of angels hovering protectively over the tabernacle with their lanterns.
“It is my humble and sincere prayer, that in this House of God, you find your spiritual home,” parish priest of 27 years, Fr Christopher Sarkis, told parishioners during the Mass of Dedication on 8 March.
“From here, and from its epicentre of Grace and Power, Our Lord truly present in the Most Blessed Sacrament in the Tabernacle, may you receive comfort and consolation in your times of troubles and sorrows, peace and rest in your times of happiness and joys; and may you be strengthened in faith, hope and charity, to go out into the world to be missionaries of God’s love, witnesses to the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, the only Name by which we can be saved.”
When asked why in a post-Christian era, a new church should be built on such a grand scale, he responded, “Now is the perfect time! The beauty of the church building should make one feel that they have glimpsed heaven on earth—drawing us from the secular to the sacred; from the earthly to the heavenly; from the human to the divine.”
The long journey of planning, financing and building the new church has not been without its challenges, Fr Sarkis said.
“Indeed I believe there were occasions when the devil himself did all he could to prevent tonight from happening.”
“God’s grace and Our Lady’s help ensured we finished what we began. And I pray it will help many people who visit to touch the Divine on earth.”
The building was financed by the development of surplus land owned by the parish and the interior embellishments were paid for by donations, Fr Sarkis said, with the overall cost reaching several millions of dollars.
Originally part of the Campbelltown parish, Our Lady Help of Christians Rosemeadow became a parish in its own right in 1994, prompting planning to begin for the new church.
Built in a cruciform shape, the new church comfortably accommodates over 500 people and features side chapels, a “crying room”, an extensive choir loft and a large entrance foyer centred around the baptismal font.
Adorning the altar are four works of art by renowned iconographer, Michael Galovic, depicting the Immaculate Conception, the Annunciation, the Assumption and the Coronation of Our Lady.
Mr Galovic said the works were not traditional icons but rather “a contemporary rendition with a nod to the classical icon and simultaneously to an altogether different treatment”.
He also produced a traditional icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour for the side chapel dedicated to Our Lady.
The enormous crucifix above the altar and the two angels on either side of the tabernacle are the work of Sydney based sculptor, Engelbert Piccolruaz.
The stunning stained glass windows were designed and made in Italy.
Bishop Brian Mascord, who presided over the Mass, likened the anointing of the new church with the sacraments of Initiation for those entering the Catholic faith.
“In those sacraments of Initiation we like this church are anointed, and we are nourished, to go out and be ‘Anointed Ones,’ in our world. You and I are called to be Missionary Disciples. We are the body of Christ. We too have had to answer the questions that Jesus posed to his disciples.”
“This church is Anointed and I am not talking about the building, I am talking about us. Yes this building will be anointed, honoring it as a sacred place, but we are anointed to be the Body of Christ in this place Rosemeadow, in this place, the Diocese of Wollongong.”
Bishop Mascord anointed the altar and the church’s walls with Sacred Chrism and then incensed the altar and entire church.
He reminded those gathered that it is not the building itself which should be the focus of attention, but rather what the building signifies—the Body of Christ.
“Being a member of the Church is much more than being in this building,” Bishop Mascord said. “It is going from this place into the world to take what we receive here to the world.
“It is commitment to the mission of the Church, which is the people of God, the Body of Christ, not the building and not the hierarchy. Our call is not to concentrate on the building but rather on those who occupy it, whether they are present or not.”
“A church is not a church unless the Church gathers, and it gathers for those experiences that nourish and support us in the highs and the lows of our journey to Jerusalem.”
Donations are still welcome to help pay for the new church, including 11 of the stained glass windows, as well as the cost of the Sacred Vessels, brassware and general furnishings.
A book will shortly be published on the theology and spirituality underpinning the design of the church, containing full colour pictures of all the windows and works of art.
To make a donation or to pre-order a copy of the book contact the parish office on 02 4628 1385 or [email protected]