Early struggles of faithful recalled at joyous celebration

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Early struggles of faithful recalled at joyous celebration

A church designed as one of the most perfect specimens of early English architecture in Tasmania marked its 160th anniversary in September.

The early struggles of the faithful were recalled as more than 120 people packed St Michael’s Church at Campbell Town and about 150 attended a celebration lunch that followed.

Work on the church began at a time when large estates were being established in the area and grand country houses built. But much of the Catholic population was of poor convict stock.

Archbishop Julian said that the Catholics in the area in the 1850s were ‘poor and desperate’.

“The first Catholic bishop of Tasmania, Bishop Willson … appealed for assistance from the government to pay for a convict chaplain and provide a church for the Catholics in this area,” His Grace said.

The parish now covers a large swathe of central Tasmania, with the parish priest looking after churches at Campbell Town, Ross, Oatlands, Tunnack and Swansea.

Parish administrator Fr Seraph Balmadres recalled the contributions of Fr John Fitzgerald, the first Tasmanian-born diocesan priest who served the district from 1855 to 1863, as well as those of the Presentation Sisters; the Sisters of St Joseph; and the priests, including in more recent times Fr Mike Delaney, Fr John Hayres and Fr John McKay.

People with a special connection to the church had travelled from throughout Tasmania to attend the event, as well as members of other denominations from the locality.

Dennis Murphy had travelled from New Norfolk to attend. A stained glass window in the church was donated by his ancestors.

There was a certificate of appreciation for one of oldest parishioners, Phyllis Ashton, 92.

“We wanted to acknowledge all the support, encouragement and inspiration that she has provided to the people of Campbell Town,” Fr Seraph said.

“Unfortunately she was not able to attend the celebration as she was in hospital with pneumonia at the time.”

Fr Seraph added that it was a joy to see the packed church.

“I would like to encourage everyone to come to the church,” Fr Seraph added.

It was a sentiment echoed by Archbishop Julian, who reminded those at the anniversary Mass that St Michael’s was where Catholics’ faith was nourished and encouraged.

“May this simple, beautiful church long be a place where Catholics will come to seek the Lord,” he added.