Parish History

OLHC church dedication 232 1

The History of OLHC Parish

The History Of Our Lady Help Of Christians Church at Rosemeadow

In 1984, Masses began to be celebrated in the Ambarvale area by priests from St. John's Parish, Campbelltown.

The Catholic community of Our Lady Help Of Christians began to take shape in 1985 when Fr. Paul Ryan took up permanent residence in Ambarvale. Although Mass was being celebrated prior to Fr. Ryan's arrival, his move to Ambarvale was the first formal step towards the development of the Parish Centre at Rosemeadow, as the area soon after came to be known.

In 1986, Fr. Adrian Van Klooster became the area's second priest. During Fr. Adrian's time, the church was built and officially blessed and opened by Bishop W E Murray, Bishop of Wollongong, on March 1, 1987. Prior to the opening of the church, Mass was celebrated in the Library of John Therry High School.

In 1991, Fr. Borgia Mould OFM became the area's next priest, for nine months, until a permanent replacement could be made. In August, 1992, Fr. Christopher Sarkis was appointed proper pastor, taking up residence in Donalbain Circuit. With the restoration of the Presbytery completed in 1994, Fr. Sarkis moved there in May of that year.

On 8 December, 1994, the Parish Of Our Lady Help Of Christians, incorporating St. Bede's Church at Appin, was canonically erected by Bishop W.E. Murray, Bishop of Wollongong. Fr. Sarkis was appointed as the Parish's first Parish Priest.

The New Church

Use of the book "Our Lady Help of Christians Catholic Church Rosemeadow - A Walk Through" is acknowledged for parts of this section
Available For Purchase

Since his arrival at Rosemeadow, Fr. Sarkis had a dream for a new church for the parish. This dream became a reality with the Solemn Dedication of the new Our Lady Help of Christians Parish Church on Friday 8 March, 2019.

Planning for the new church began in 1994. In 2003 the development of surplus parish land began with the aim of providing funds for the new church. In 2008, this land was rezoned for residential development. The parish entered into a joint venture with Miltonbrook Developments as the managing agent for the parish. A Development Application was granted in June 2010 and first sales of the rezoned land began in 2012.

February 2014 saw the call for expressions of interest from architects for new church designs. In August, the parish formally engaged De Angelis Taylor & Associates as the church architects. Their final designs for the new church are shown:

The first official announcement of the building of the new church appeared in the Parish Bulletin of 30 October 2016. In it, Father announced the approval of a Development Application by Campbelltown Council. This was the culmination of 15 years of planning and negotiation with various government departments, both local and state, from rezoning of land, to planning, development and sales. Fr. Sarkis further noted that discussion and planning of the actual church with architects, together with the various requirements and permissions needed from the Diocese of Wollongong, had been ongoing. Work on the new church was expected to begin on March 2017.

On 29 June 2017, the final building plans and contract were signed with FAL Construction as the successful builder for the new church. FAL Construction has been involved in the construction of commercial buildings, education facilities, religious structures, medium density residential projects, hospitality projects and aged care lifestyle resorts since 1989.

Work on the new church began in July 2017 and was completed in early 2019. To view a visual history of the building of the church, click here.

On Sunday 3 September 2017, the parish celebrated Foundation Day with the Blessing of the land on which the church was to be built. The Most Reverend Bishop Peter Ingham - Bishop of Wollongong celebrated the 10.00am Mass, after which parishioners processed up to the land for the official blessing and dedication of the site for the new church.

The first Mass was celebrated in the church on 23 February, 2019. Friday 8 March, 2019, saw the Solemn Dedication of Our Lady Help of Christians Parish Church. The Principal Celebrant was The Most Reverend Bishop Brian Mascord - Bishop of Wollongong. Fr. Sean Cullen acted as Master of Ceremonies. Over 1,100 people were in attendance at the Mass. To view a slideshow of the Mass, click here.

Architectural Features Of The New Church

The church shows clear signs of a Romanesque architectural heritage

Romanesque architecture describes the European style of building design which flourished during the late Medieval era, between 800-1200AD. Typical characteristics of Romanesque architecture include the use of semi-circular arches, arcades (rows of arches, supported on either columns or piers) and towers (a regular feature of Romanesque churches with the towers being square, circular and octagonal in shape).

Transepts are another feature of Romanesque architecture. A transept is an area set across the nave which separates the nave from the sanctuary. More often, the transepts extended well beyond the sides of the rest of the building, forming the shape of a cross (cruciform church). The point where the main axis of the church crosses the transept is known as the crossing (belonging to both the nave and the transept). Above the crossing was usually a dome or cupola.

The Our Lady Help of Christians Parish Church

Before entering the church, parishioners pass under the porte-cochere, included in the design of the church for several reasons such as the practical provision of a suitable space to receive wedding and funeral cars. It also serves as an outdoor space for liturgical events such as the lighting and blessing of the Easter fire and Paschal Candle, and the blessing of palms and procession on Palm Sunday.

The Porte-Cochere

The narthex (or foyer) has been designed to enable greeting and social interaction between parishioners before entering the church proper. The piety store, bathrooms and access to the choir loft are located on the right side of the foyer while on the left side are located the kitchen, a multi-purpose room and a withdrawal room which offers a space for parents to bring their children to settle them down if necessary during Mass before returning to the church proper. Confessional rooms are also located off both sides of the narthex.

In the middle of the narthex is a large holy water font. Also located here is the framed parish crest, hand-made by the parish craft and social groups, and the Benefactors Book, containing the names of those people and groups who contributed to the cost of providing all that was required to furnish and embellish the church.

The Narthex

Parishioners coming into the church proper come to the nave, the central part of a church, extending from the narthex to the transepts. Architecturally the nave is the central, open space of a church that is divided from the side aisles by columns, shafts, or piers, as seen in the image below. It is that part of the church where parishioners sit and stand.

The Nave

The use of semicircular arches and arcades is clearly evident on the outside of the church

At the back of the church located on the back wall of the choir loft is The Rose Window. The centre medallion of the window comprises the Coronation of Mary as Queen of Heaven and Earth. On either side of Mary is the Father and the Son who are holding the crown and placing it on her head. The Son holds a sceptre in his left hand, a reminder that he is constituted Lord and Universal King by the Father. The Father holds a globe in his left hand to remind all that He created the world. Above the Son, the Father and Mary is the Holy Spirit by whose power Mary conceived and gave birth to the Son in human form, Jesus Christ.

Encircling the centre medallion are the Twelve Apostles. Mary was with the Apostles when the Holy Spirit descended upon them in the upper room on Pentecost Sunday. Given Mary's role in strengthening and encouraging the Apostles at that time and in the early years of the church, it is fitting that the Apostles are also present at Mary's Coronation.

The Rose Window

At the front end of the nave, nearest the sanctuary, is the transept. In many Romanesque churches in Europe, the transept extended beyond the side walls, resulting in a cruciform (cross) shape of the church. This is also the case with the OLHC Church. Two chapels are located at both ends of the transept, the Marian Chapel on the left and the Sacred Heart Chapel on the right.

The Marian Chapel

The Sacred Heart Chapel

In many Romanesque churches, a cupola projects over the crossing, that part where the nave intersects the transept. The OLHC cupola, located above the sanctuary, depicts the creation of the world by God. The cupola surmounts the entire church building and is at its highest point. This represents the entering of God into the world he created out of nothing. For this reason, the ceiling of the cupola is painted blue - representing the sky, the beginning of the world's creation.

The Cupola

The sanctuary of the new church bears special mention due to a number of notable features. Of note, the sanctuary floor, ambo, altar, tabernacle, baptismal font and holy water font are made from Carrara marble sourced in Italy.

Sanctuary Features

View of the sanctuary showing the four Marian Icons

The Holy Spirit window, above the central crucifix, is patterned on Bernini's famous window above the high altar in Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome.

The Holy Spirit Window

The crucifix is hand-carved and based on a medieval cross design. On either side of Jesus's arms are depicted Mary (Our Lady) and Saint John, who remained at the foot of the cross as he died. At the base of the cross is the skull and crossbones. The skull and crossbones recall Golgotha, the place of the skull, where Jesus was crucified.

The Crucifix

On either side of the crucifix are four sanctuary icons, the Marian Icons. The icon on the far left portrays the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady where, from the first moment of her conception, Mary was preserved from all stain of sin. The second icon portrays the Annunciation where Mary was asked by the Archangel Gabriel to be the Mother of God. The two icons on the right portray Mary's Assumption into heaven and her Coronation as Queen of Heaven.

The Marian Icons

The tabernacle is of Gothic design featuring, on the door, the Lamb of God and the seven seals Gospel. The "seven seals" is a phrase in the Book of Revelation that refers to seven symbolic seals that secure the scroll which Saint John saw in his revelation of Christ. The opening of the seals of the scroll marks the second coming of Christ. On either side of the tabernacle are two angels holding the sanctuary lamps above the tabernacle.

The Tabernacle

At the base of the altar is sealed the relics of martyrs and saints. This goes back to an ancient tradition of the early Church where Mass was celebrated over the tombs of the martyrs. The relics of the following are sealed within the altar: Saint Perpetua, Saint Maria Goretti, Saint Martin de Porres, Saint Pope Pius X, Saint Charbel Makhlouf, Saint Nimatullah Kassab Al-Hardini, Saint Mary of the Cross MacKillop and Saint Leopold Mandic. Soil from the Holy Land in Jerusalem was interred with the relics.

The Altar

Towers are an important feature of Romanesque churches. As a general rule, large Romanesque towers are square - as are the OLHC Church bell towers. The OLHC Church has two bell towers: the front belfry containing a single bell and the rear belfry containing a peal of eight bells.

The Two Towers - the front belfry containing a single bell and the rear belfry containing a peal of eight bells

The bell in the front belfry was cast in 1909 by Taylor's Bell Foundry, currently the world's largest working bell foundry and located at Loughborough, Leicestershire in England, for Saint Chad's Church in Burton-upon-Trent, England. It bears the original inscription "God save his church" and has been refurbished by the same foundry that originally made it. It is the principle bell and has been named "Our Lady Help of Christians". It is rung every day for the Angelus and for other occasions such as funerals.

The rear bell tower contains a peal of eight bells. These are rung before weekend Masses and occasions such as weddings and any special celebration. Four of the bells were newly cast by Taylor's Bell Foundry in 2017 while the remaining four bells were refurbished and tuned by the same foundry.

The new church can accommodate 523 seated people and was financed by the development of surplus land owned by the parish. The interior embellishments were paid for by donations mainly from parishioners.

There are 46 stained glass windows in the church, designed and manufactured by De Metz Studio in Italy using traditional craftsmanship and imagery. Twenty windows are located in the nave, 8 are located in each side chapel (16 in total), and 8 are located in the cupola. The two remaining windows are The Holy Spirit window above the sanctuary, and the Rose Window above the choir loft. These windows took two years to produce. The De Metz Studio also produced the statues found in the church.

Australian iconographer Michael Galovic was commissioned to produce the four Marian Icons that hang above the main altar. He also produced the icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour located in the side chapel dedicated to Our Lady.

The large crucifix above the altar, the two angel statues on either side of the tabernacle, and the 15 Stations of The Cross panels are the work of Sydney-based sculptor Engelbert Piccolruaz.

About the new church Fr. Sarkis had this to say:

The motivating concept for the design of Our Lady Help of Christians church was twofold. First, the beauty of the church would be such that it immediately draws the person who enters it from the secular to the sacred; from the earthly to the heavenly; from the human to the divine. The beauty of a church should make one feel that one has glimpsed heaven on earth. Second, that a person could, by walking through the church and reflecting on its art and architecture, come to an understanding of our Christian faith in the Catholic tradition. Therefore, everything has been designed, chosen and situated with the intention that as soon as one enters the church from the foyer, the effect, physically and spiritually, is for one to immediately be lifted from the earthly and secular, to the divine and sacred: in short, to God.

For this reaon, there is nothing in the church that is there for purely artistic reasons alone, but rather to use the beauty and craftsmanship of art and architecture to help raise the mind, heart and soul to God. The beauty of everything seen in the church is meant to reflect the beauty and greatness of God, and thus to draw us more deeply into the grandeur and transcendence of God. May the beauty of this holy and sacred place help you to be able to glimpse even here on earth the heavenly Sion for which we strive ever forward on our earthly pilgrimage of faith.

The History Of Saint Bede's Church at Appin

Prior to the building of St. Bede's Church, Fr. John Sumner was appointed to Appin Parish as its parish priest in 1835. Mass was celebrated at Appin on Gordon's Farm and a Roman Catholic school opened in 1836 with Michael O'Rourke in charge. In 1838, Mass was being celebrated in a cottage built for the purpose by the District Constable.

It was Father John Therry who made the decision to build a church at Appin and by 1837 he had collected more than £150 ($300) in donations for this purpose. A report in the "Sydney Morning Herald" on December 18, 1837 noted: "The Foundation of the Roman Catholic Chapel was laid at Appin last week by Bishop Polding".

The land on which the church, presbytery, school and cemetery were built is most likely to have been a four acre grant promised by the government.

The main structure of the church was completed by 1841. However, the church was not officially opened until October 8, 1843, as Bishop Polding had been overseas.

The church was originally named the Church Of The Immaculate Conception by Fr. Therry, but was later changed by Archbishop Polding to St. Bede's. The most likely reason for the name change was that Bishop Polding wanted to dedicate the church to St. Bede, the founder of the Benedictine Order to which he belonged. Fr. Sumner, the first parish priest of St. Bede's, was also from this order and both he and the Bishop included the name Bede in their names: John Bede Sumner and John Bede Polding.

From 1837 to 1903, Appin was a parish in its own right. As previously stated, the first parish priest was Fr. John Bede Summer, the first priest ordained in Australia. At the end of 1843 Dean John Grant was transferred from Darlinghurst Gaol where he was chaplain, to be the Parish Priest of St. Bede's. In 1845, the presbytery was built on church land west of the church. Until this time, both Fr. Sumner and Fr. Grant lived at the Campbelltown presbytery during their respective terms.

Between 1841-1844, the church was sometimes referred to as "All Saints" but after 1845 was always referred to as "St. Bede's".

Appin was a Catholic parish from 1836 to 1903. Then, because of dwindling population, St. Bede's was made an outstation of Picton Parish from 1903 to about 1930. Then it became part of St Johns Parish in Campbelltown until 1977 when Fr. Tom Whitty became Parish Priest of Appin Parish. St. Bede's again became part of Campbelltown Parish on the death of Fr. Tom Drake in 1985. On December 8, 1994, St. Bede's joined the newly formed Rosemeadow Parish.

In 1999, restoration works were carried out on St. Bede's Church with a formal opening occurring early in 2000.

From a historical point of view, St Bede's Church at Appin is the oldest Catholic Church in continuous use on the Australian mainland.

In 1978, the National Trust classified St. Bede's (and the adjacent cemetery) as "one of the finest Regency Gothic churches to have been built by the Roman Catholic Church in Australia. The interior is remarkable for its intactness."