Seven hectic weeks gave way to a moment of triumph for Sacred Heart Parish, Highgate on Saturday night, as they celebrated the completion of their historic church’s restoration.
It was almost seven years to the day that parish priest Fr Peter Bianchini launched the Heritage Appeal Fund for restoration work on the beloved city church.
Fr Bianchini and parishioners were joined by Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB and Archbishop Emeritus Barry Hickey, a one time parish priest and current, nearby resident of the parish.
The project has seen the sealing of the floor and the laying of new carpet as well as the installation of new lighting and audiovisual equipment.
Assessments of the church carried out before the project began in 2005 revealed urgent action was needed, with the stained glass windows being deemed unsafe.
Over the past few years, each stained glass window has been removed, restored and put back in its place.
The parish thanked one of their own, Ferlyn Geiles, who spearheaded the management of contractors and coordinated a raft of parish busybees over the years.
Mr Geiles thanked Fr Bianchini for allowing him to be involved and for “putting up with my single-mindedness, my rants and my ravings”.
In his remarks, Fr Bianchini joked that Ferlyn “too found out that I am single minded, but unlike Ferlyn, I am also very sensitive. Ferlyn experienced some of my sensitivity along the way,” he said with a wry smile; a line which garnered much laughter.
The hardworking maintenance committee, of which Mr Geiles was a part, was the “think tank” of the project, Fr Bianchini said, and designed the new lighting to highlight the church’s ornate Jarrah ceiling (a 100-year build-up of dust had to be removed first).
Highgate had been a new home to many waves of Catholic migrants, including Mr Geiles own family in 1973.
That welcoming spirit was still evident in parishioners’ responses to the National Church Life Survey, Fr Bianchini said, the results of which he had just received.
The parish joined Mr Geiles in thanking his wife and two children for their support, with Fr Bianchini presenting Mr and Mrs Geiles with gifts of thanks.
Addressing Archbishop Costelloe, Mr Geiles said he was grateful the Archbishop was able to make the occasion.
“You asked us in this Year of Grace to see the face of God in all that we do. I hope this presentation reveals that wish,” Mr Geiles said.