Mass, music, memorabilia and meal mark magnificent milestone

By Wendy Shaw

A special train from Launceston was needed to carry all the attendees to the opening of the ‘capacious, substantial, and ornamental’ new Holy Trinity Church at Westbury nearly 150 years ago, according to a newspaper report at the time.

A small wooden church had served the country town since 1855, but by the late 1860s the Catholic population had risen to about 2000 and a new church was urgently needed.

The foundation stone of Holy Trinity Church was laid in May 1869 with the building completed five years later.

Designed by prolific Colonial architect Henry Hunter, the ‘plain Gothic’ structure was built to ‘comfortably seat’ 800, according to a detailed article on the opening of the new church in The Examiner on 21 May, 1874.

The paper reported: “For some years past it has been the earnest endeavour of the Rev J. Hogan, the Catholic pastor of Westbury, and his congregation to secure a building for the worship of Almighty God commensurate with the growing necessities of the people, and the more modern ideas of church architecture.

“The old wooden church has outlived its purpose, and the procuring of a new building has been forced upon the members by irresistible circumstances. The revered pastor has proved himself equal to the emergency …”

Now the Meander Valley Catholic Parish is busy preparing for the landmark building’s 150th anniversary in May.

Parish priest Fr Ben Brooks said the sesquicentenary was an opportunity to recall and celebrate the faith, hard work and commitment of Catholics over the past 150 years and beyond.

The parish priest of the time, Fr [later Archdeacon] James Hogan, was a driving force behind the building of the church.

“James Hogan was a real networker and character in the area. He was ordained a priest in 1850, died in 1899 and spent his whole priestly life in Westbury helping people out and working with convicts,” Fr Brooks said.

“Julian Tension Woods, the co-founder of the Josephites [Sisters of St Joseph] with Mary MacKillop, was a friend of his. He was homilist at the opening so there is a heritage link there.

“It was another 12-13 years before Julian Tenison Woods sent the first Josephites to Tasmania and they started at Westbury, so that is also an important part of the history of the Tasmanian church. And that link continues as we have Sr Val Becker here today.”

There were many families with Irish links in Westbury at that time.

“It was originally a garrison town, with an army barracks, but they got the Irish to come out and set up farms here,” Fr Ben explained.

“Because of huge Irish population, it is quite a large church for a country town – due to that rich Irish heritage. And that heritage continues to be celebrated every St Patrick’s Day with a festival.”

Although there won’t be a special train for the 150th anniversary in May, past and present parishioners from near and far are expected to gather for a series of events to mark the milestone.

These include – Friday, 24 May: evening meal for past and present parishioners at the Westbury Hotel; Saturday, 25 May: Church open from 9am for history display, with a musical recital at 2pm; Sunday, 26 May: Sesquicentenary Mass at 10.30am followed by a light lunch.

There is a limit of 80 for the Westbury Hotel meal and RSVPs are needed before 10 May by phone 0448 527 140 or email (

Tags: Meander Valley, News