A solemn dedication mass was held on Friday 8 March for the new church in the parish Our Lady Help of Christians in Rosemeadow. Principal celebrant, Bishop Brian Mascord reaffirmed the faithful present, saying “this Church is anointed, and I am not talking about the building, I am talking about us. Yes, this building will be anointed, honouring it as a sacred place, but we are anointed to be the Body of Christ in this place …”
The parish priest, Fr Christopher Sarkis, said, “It’s been a long road, but we could never have done it without the grace of God being poured into the hearts of the hundreds of parishioners, architects, builders, artists and prayer warriors who have dedicated the past couple of years of their lives to support this project. Their hard work, encouragement, prayers and loyalty have been overwhelming.”
The new Romanesque church—that can comfortably accommodate over 500 parishioners—was overflowing with 800 visitors that night.
The church has been designed in a cruciform shape, following a centuries-long and venerable tradition of church design and architecture.
When asked about the motivation behind building a church on such a grand scale in this post-Christian age, Fr Sarkis replied: “Now is the perfect time! The beauty of a church building should make one feel that they have glimpsed heaven on earth—drawing us from the secular to the sacred; from the earthly to the heavenly; from the human to the divine. Secondly, by walking through it and prayerfully reflecting on its art and architecture, a church building should help us come to an understanding of our Christian faith in the Catholic Tradition. So, it’s not just a church building. It’s a physical teaching tool that is meant to point us to the beauty and greatness of God.”
There are 48 stained glass windows, designed and manufactured in Italy using traditional craftsmanship and imagery. There are also two bell towers containing nine bells, all cast in England. Famous Australian iconographer, Michael Galovic, was commissioned to produce four icons, and renowned local sculptor, Engelbert Piccolruaz, carved the Cross and Corpus, as well as the gilded timber angels of adoration for the Tabernacle.
Fr Sarkis said, “There is nothing in the church that is there for purely artistic reasons alone. Rather, the use of the beauty and craftsmanship of art and architecture is there to help raise the mind, heart and soul to God. The objective underpinning the design and art of the church was to visually give a simple spiritual synthesis of what we believe as Catholic Christians.”
When asked what his hope is for anyone who enters the new church, Fr Sarkis said, “It is my humble and sincere prayer that—in this House of God—those that enter find their spiritual home. May they receive comfort and consolation in times of troubles and sorrows; peace and rest in times of happiness and joys; and may they be strengthened in faith, hope and charity, to go out into the world to be missionaries of God’s love.”
“The architects and builders have been meticulous! I am so grateful for the way they put their heart and soul into this project. I have spent countless hours with them over the past two years of construction, and I can tell you that every brick in that building has been laid with love.”
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Our diocesan logo is theologically rich and very succinct. As a hand, it depicts our mission as a diocese and as individuals within the diocese, of bearing (bringing, carrying) Christ’s love to one another and to the world around us. In this, we are the hand of Jesus Christ, and we are offering ourselves to him so that he might work through us.
We can be the bearers of his love only as a response to his call and in the strength of his grace. We are reminded of this in two ways—through the symbol of the dove (the Holy Spirit) also present in the logo, and by the incorporation of the cross that segments the logo. The presence of the cross is a reminder that bearing the love of Christ will inevitably cost us if we live it authentically. However, in the way that the Cross is the portent of redemption and life—an echo of the tree of life in the book of Genesis—so becoming bearers of the love of Christ will also bring us to life.
The four fingers of the hand also represent the four regions of our diocese. The first is bluerepresenting the beautiful water of the Shoalhaven. The second is a blue and green combination representing the waters and escarpment of the Illawarra. The third is greendepicting the hills and plains of the Macarthur. The fourth is dark green illustrating the forests of the Southern Highlands.