Sparkling Sheffield celebrations mark faith-filled centenary

By Wendy Shaw

The enduring faith and hard work of Catholic pioneers was recalled with gratitude as past and present parishioners gathered to mark the centenary of Holy Cross Church at Sheffield on Sunday 6 November.

Archbishop Julian celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving to mark the milestone. Some 140 people from Tasmania and interstate attended the Mass, the barbecue lunch, and the sharing of fond memories that followed.

In his homily, Archbishop Julian related the remarkable events that led to the establishment of the church.

“It is extraordinary to read accounts of the laying of the foundation stone by Archbishop Barry on November 13, 1921,” Archbishop Julian said.

“Preparation for the building of the church had been carried out by Fr T.J. O’Donnell, parish priest of Latrobe. He had managed to raise 1,000 pounds.

“What is remarkable is that a special train ran from Devonport with 500 people aboard. Mass and a luncheon to follow took place in the town hall. Then some 300 people processed down to this site for the laying of the foundation stone.”

Historic day: Noelle Geeves (left) and Maureen Gale (right), both descendants of people who helped to raise money to build and furnish the church, cut the centenary cake with Archbishop Julian. Photo: Maraea Kleynendorst.

The church opened a year later, in November 1922, with newspaper reports praising the quality of the building, and highlighting the stained-glass window depictions of the passion of Christ.

The Advocate reported: “On the whole, it may be said that the new church, which is the best building in the town of Sheffield, is one of the finest ecclesiastical buildings on the North-West Coast, and one of which the Catholic community have every reason to be proud.”

Archbishop Julian added: “Here the sacraments have been celebrated for 100 years. Here people have come under divine grace.”

Parishioner Christine Williams reflected on the success of the happy and “momentous” occasion.

“After Mass, in perfect sunshine, people enjoyed a barbecue lunch and celebration cake while sharing early memories, reminiscing over photos and catching up with friends,” she said.

“We thank the Couples for Christ members who provided the barbecue and our Mersey-Leven Catholic Parish for their valuable assistance in making this historic event so successful.”

Past recalled: Janice Reeves, a 1950s parishioner of Holy Cross at Sheffield, with Archbishop Julian. Photo: Maraea Kleynendorst.

Faye and Max Steers were long-time parishioners at Holy Cross. They now live in Devonport.

Mrs Steers recalled her First Holy Communion, at Holy Cross in 1957. Her four children and most of her six grandchildren were baptised there. She taught Sunday School, and supported the work of nuns who were based at Latrobe. She was involved with taking communion to nursing home residents, visiting the sick, and fundraising for carpets, lighting and an organ. Family members volunteered at working bees for the upkeep of the grounds, and parishioners celebrated their own liturgies during priest shortages.

When asked what made Holy Cross unique, Mrs Steers said simply: “The atmosphere there is something special.”

The centenary celebrations at Sheffield were part of a weekend of milestones for the Mersey-Leven Parish, with Our Lady of Lourdes Church at Devonport marking 50 years.

Past and present parishioners gather for a barbecue after a Mass of Thanksgiving to mark the centenary of Holy Cross Church at Sheffield. Photo: Maraea Kleynendorst.

Parish priest Fr Jaison Kuzhiyil described it as a special weekend for the parish family.

“Holy Cross Church in Sheffield is celebrating 100 years of spiritual care for the Kentish Catholic and wider community,” he wrote in the parish newsletter.

“We remember with gratitude Fr James Noone, Fr T.J. O’Donnell and the pioneer Irish settlers who worked tirelessly to establish this place of worship …

“I thank everyone who has been working hard to make these celebrations a meaningful and memorable one.”

Tags: Front Page News, Mersey-Leven, News, Northern Deanery