The former St Kevin’s Catholic Church, photographed in November last year … local residents are hoping to buy the building for future community use  (Photo: KDCCAI)

February 22, 2024

A $100,000 GoFundMe campaign has been launched by the Kilkivan & District Community Care Association (KDCCAI) in a bid to buy the former St Kevin’s Catholic Church building.

KDCCAI president Rosie Fitzgerald said the group believed it should buy the property because of its strategic importance to its “Rise & Shine Ageing-in-Place” project, as well as the building’s historical significance to the community.

“Rise & Shine Ageing-in-Place” is a long-term project to build aged care accommodation in Kilkivan.

“Obviously we have limited funds available to pay for the property so we have launched a GoFundMe campaign to assist with half the purchase price,” Rosie said.

“We were fortunate to negotiate a three-month settlement date so as soon as the contract was signed by all parties, we launched our funding initiative.

“The $3000 milestone has been reached. Donations range from $20 through to two $1000 amounts which is just awesome!

“Any amount is very welcome and we love the fact that people from near and far are already contributing.”

Rosie said the former church clearly held a special place in many hearts.

The last Mass, held in October 2023, drew a capacity congregation including former residents who drove considerable distances to attend.

“Adding to the ecumenical vibe was the fact that the local Union Church congregation opted to attend that service in lieu of their own that day,” Rosie said.

The Baxter family was well represented at the final Mass: Bernadette Baxter introduced the final service, noting that St Kevin’s Church was an especially powerful symbol. The Celtic word “Kilkivan” means church of Kevin.

“Fittingly, Bernadette was the very first donor to the GoFundMe campaign,” Rosie said.

Bernadette said a critical part of ageing well was being able to live where your heart is.

“This little church will be instrumental in allowing that to happen,” she said.

“Far too many of our elderly residents, like my late father-in-law, are forced to leave the area for physical support but their spirit is devastated as a result. We desperately need to buy St Kevin’s and buy hope and peace of mind for our elderly. No one should be forced to leave their home area.”

The five surviving Baxter siblings – Cathy, Ann, Elaine, Shane and Matthew – returned to the final Mass to honour and remember their family’s extensive connection with St Kevin’s.

Their late brother John (Bernadette’s husband) and his father Barney built the distinctive bell tower which stands at the rear of the church property.

John used to ring the bell ahead of each Mass he attended until the family moved to the Gympie area.

Rosie said buying the church building was not just about respecting and celebrating the past; it was very much about the future role of the church.

“We have a tremendous opportunity to transform this church building into the focal point of our Rise & Shine Ageing-in-Place Project by converting it into a community hub that will enable all community members to enjoy using it in its reimagined role,” Rosie said.

“That will require a lot more money, hopefully from grants and philanthropists, but we must try.”

KDCCAI hopes the future community hub could include a multi-purpose flexible meeting/communal space, a commercial kitchen, offices and other elements to support activities involving local residents from across the Kilkivan-Goomeri-Woolooga districts.

If financial support can be secured to build the accessible, rental ageing-in-place accommodation envisaged for the adjacent vacant blocks owned by Council, the community hub would also support the social needs of those residents.

“For four years KDCCAI volunteers have worked tirelessly to implement services for senior residents so they can age better in the community they love,” Rosie said.

“We do not want anyone else to have to leave our area prematurely just because there are insufficient services and facilities here – it’s not as though we are in a remote location! If you can’t aspire to ageing well here, there’s something seriously wrong.”

KDCCAI member,  local history enthusiast and former Kilkivan Shire councillor Dawn Choate is a strong supporter of the community’s decision to try to buy the church.

“In the last 25 years Kilkivan has lost two distinctive timber structures from the townscape, the railway station and the railway bridge,” Dawn said.

“We weren’t about to risk either losing this building to removal or to a developer who might have misaligned intentions for the vacant land adjacent to the church.

“We may not succeed in raising sufficient funds, but we are giving it our best shot.”

External links:

LEFT: Bernadette Baxter after the final Mass at St Kevin’s RIGHT:  Lynda Sempf, Dawn Choate and Rosie Fitzgerald in front of Kilkivan’s former Catholic Church (Photos: KDCCAI)
FLASHBACK: Gympie Parish Priest Dr Adrian Farrelly conducted the final Mass in St Kevin’s (Photo: Lauren Arrell)

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