Traditional church restored to glory

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Renovated church
The choir stalls and sanctuary at the Maternal Heart of Mary Church at Lewisham. PHOTO: Alphonsus Fok

Glorious is the only way to describe the atmosphere at Maternal Heart of Mary parish at Lewisham last weekend.

The community led by Fathers Duncan Wong FSSP and Damonn Sypher FSSP celebrated the re-opening of their church after a restoration project brought the 1920s Romanesque-style building back to its former glory.

The work included much-needed repairs to the plaster ceiling, repainting, rewiring of the entire building and the installation of new lighting.

It took five months and around $450,000, with costs raised through fundraising, donations and collections.

In the meantime the neighbouring St Thomas’ and St Patrick’s Catholic parishes hosted the parishioners’ Masses in the Extraordinary Form.

Parishioners
“Delighted” parishioners (left to right) Mary Jankovic, Consuella Jankovic and Ewelina Ellsmore with assistant priest Father Damonn Sypher. PHOTO: Alphonsus Fok

“After several months without the use of our church, it is such a joy to come ‘back home’ to our gloriously renovated church,” said assistant priest Father Sypher.

“We are all very happy with the final result, which makes it glow with splendour and light.”

The re-opening Solemn High Mass on 3 March was a double celebration with four special nuns in attendance after arriving in Sydney from the US just the day before.

See related article: Timeless beauty has facelift at Lewisham

Carmelite nuns praying
Carmelite nuns enroute to establishing a foundation in Wilcannia-Forbes Diocese were welcomed by the Sydney parish. PHOTO: Alphonsus Fok

Mother Mariam Joseph of Jesus Crucified OCD, Sister Frances Teresa a Jesu Hostia OCD, Sister Juana Teresa of Jesus OCD and Sister Maria of the Incarnation OCD are founding members of a new community of traditional Discalced Carmelites in the NSW diocese of Wilcannia-Forbes.

Hailing from the diocese of Lincoln in Nebraska, they pray the Extraordinary Form of the Mass and Divine Office and their communities in the United States and Mexico are thriving.

Jesus Christ statue
Beloved traditional statues still adorn the 1920s Romanesque-style church at Lewisham. PHOTO: Alphonsus Fok

The group includes two Australians, who joined the order in the US and returned at the invitation of Bishop Columba Macbeth-Green to plant the seeds of their unique form of contemplative life in the outback diocese.

See related article: One step closer for new regional NSW Carmelites

Travelling with them was the Lincoln diocese’s vicar for religious life Monsignor Timothy Thorburn, who said their cloistered life of prayer and penance is powerful “silent vocation” that will bring blessings to the diocese and the country as the Church in the West responds to the clergy abuse crisis and increasing threats to religious freedom.

“They don’t preach from pulpits, they don’t teach in classrooms,” he said.

“It may look like they are doing nothing but they are the heart of the Church and do what has to be done in order to keep the Church going.”

Georgina Brazier, mother of Mother Mariam Joseph, with Lincoln diocese’s vicar for religious Monsignor Timothy Thorburn. PHOTO: Alphonsus Fok

To have the re-opening of the chapel capped off with the visit of the nuns en route to make their new foundation “only makes our joy complete” said Father Sypher.

Georgina Brazier, mother of Mother Mariam Joseph and member of the foundation’s organising committee said that the day was one of “overwhelming” joy.

The Maternal Heart of Mary church was founded by the ‘Blue Nuns’ of the Little Company of Mary when they ran Lewisham Hospital.

After the sisters’ departure in the late 1980s, the church fell into disuse but was picked up as a centre for the traditional Latin Mass. It recent years it was made a parish of the Archdiocese of Sydney under the care of the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter.