By Rachel Curry
South Perth parish has celebrated the restoration of its iconic church, St Columba, and the 80-year anniversary of the laying of the church’s foundation stone at a special Mass celebrated by Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB.
A large number of parishioners braved the chilly weather to attend the Mass, which was followed by a reception at the nearby Fr Denis Brennan ANZAC Centenary Building, on the evening of Thursday, 9 June.
Archbishop Costelloe was the chief celebrant for the occasion, alongside South Perth Parish Priest, Monsignor Brian O’Loughlin, and former parish priest, Father Michael Casey, who later joined forces to cut a ceremonial cake.
St Columba is a rare example of a Spanish Mission-style church in Australia and the recent renovations to restore its roof, tower and external walls came at a considerable cost of approximately $500,000.
Parishioners contributed through the Donate a Tile Appeal, the National Trust Appeal and wedding fees, to ensure the church, which is situated at the top of a hill overlooking the Swan River and the city skyline, would continue to be a recognisable Perth landmark well into the future.
Fr Casey also established a Heritage Conservation Account, through which approximately $125,000 was saved, while he was parish priest.
During his homily for the occasion, Archbishop Costelloe referred to a piece of history detailed in the Mass’s commemorative booklet, in which St Columba had a dispute with the Abbot of the Monastery of Clonnard, Finnian, and subsequently left the monastery.
Despite the squabble happening almost 1,500 years ago, the Archbishop explained that it still held relevance for us today.
He said it showed us that there had always been great tension in the Church “between the ideals to which we are called and the reality of our own very often poor attempts to reach those ideals”.
“We sometimes think of… suffering as something inflicted on the Church from outside – from persecution, from bigotry, from prejudice and all those kinds of things – and, indeed, many people would suggest that the Church today is suffering more persecution in our time than in any time in the Church’s history,” he said.
“While this may be true, it is also the case that our Church suffers from within. The Church is and always has been made up of very fragile, vulnerable and limited people.”
Archbishop Costelloe said the first example of such people were the 12 disciples, who betrayed Jesus, denied Jesus, and deserted Jesus when He needed them most.
And yet, despite their failures, Jesus never stopped believing in His disciples or calling them to the highest of ideals.
Indeed, on the eve of His suffering and death, He said to them: “Love one another as I have loved you”.
“It couldn’t have been because He was blind to their struggles or their fragility that He kept putting these high ideals to them,” Archbishop Costelloe said.
“It could only be because He knew that if they constantly tried at least to remain open to His love and His grace in spite of their failings, then the ideals He was holding out to them would be able to lead them forward, towards the fullness of life to which He was calling.”
While Jesus knew the disciples could achieve little on their own, the Archbishop said, they could achieve great things if they remained united to Him and “to an ever deepening relationship of love with Him”.
This outlines a great message of hope for us today, he concluded.
“As a Church, as a community of disciples, we know, perhaps in these days more than ever only too well, that we are a fragile and weak and sinful people,” he said.
“But we also celebrate tonight with great joy and hope that we are a people who, as long as we remain united to the Lord, can achieve great things and still aspire to the highest ideals because we do not travel the journey of life or faith alone,” he said.