September 24, 2017
Nanango author Liz Caffery should be a breathing a sigh of relief following the successful conclusion of the Our Lady Help of Christians’ Centenary celebrations on Sunday.
The big weekend for the Nanango Catholic parish marked the exact 100th anniversary of the laying of the Foundation stone for the large, brick church in Gipps Street, Nanango.
There was a committee organising the two-day event, but no one could argue that Liz wasn’t the driving force behind much that occurred, especially the creation of a history of “The Little Cathedral In The Bush”.
Heritage Nanango Community Funding also came to rescue, providing financial assistance on top of local fund-raising to paint the exterior and interior of the church to make it spic and span for the Centenary.
A special guest for the celebrations was Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge, who blessed a “Centenary stone” and presided at a Centenary Mass on Sunday morning.
Former and current Nanango parishioners, former Parish priests, and invited guests gathered at the church on Saturday afternoon for the beginning of the celebrations.
A concert by the South Burnett Chorale started proceedings which was followed by a “wedding album” video presentation of photographs from weddings held in the church from 1918 to 2017.
Liz said about 130 or 140 photographs had been gathered together from the estimated 500 weddings held in the church over the years.
The very first wedding was between Albert Anderson and Gertie Bright in 1918.
After the wedding show, guests adjourned to the church hall to enjoy afternoon tea, chatted under marquees, or browsed memorabilia and souvenirs in the St Patrick’s School Hall.
Then it was back to the church for a short liturgy and the official blessing of the Centenary stone by Archbishop Coleridge.
In the evening, events continued in St Patrick’s Hall in the lead-up to the official launch by the Archbishop of “The Little Cathedral In The Bush” history book.
A brief history of the parish was presented by speakers as well as photos from across the years.
The first church in Nanango was St George’s, which opened in 1870. This was replaced in 1899 by another St George’s when the congregation outgrew the first building.
The decision to build the magnificent, brick building “Our Lady Help of Christians” occurred after the sudden illness and death of much-loved Parish Priest Fr James Bergin in May 1914.
Parishioners decided a new church should be built in his memory.
The Foundation stone to the “Father Bergin Memorial Church” was laid on September 23, 1917. It was due to be laid in the morning but due to “heavy incessant rain” it was delayed to the afternoon.
Amazingly (this all occurred during the Great War), the church was free of debt when it opened on May 26, 1918, with a solemn High Mass which included “Ave Maria” played on violin.
This last item was repeated on Saturday afternoon, with violinist Caroline Dingle playing Mascagni’s “Ave Maria”, and opera singer Calista Verschaeren (nee Walters) singing Schubert’s “Ave Maria”.
The afternoon also included excerpts from “Little Cathedral In The Bush”, a tribute to past priests, 1970s folk music and a special song composed for the occasion (see video below).
As the evening wound down, Liz Caffery’s efforts were acknowledged by Parish Priest Fr Stephen Camiolo with not one, but two, bunches of flowers.
On Sunday, parishioners gathered together again for the Centenary Mass with Archbishop Coleridge.