A Snapshot of Our Past – Centenary of St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church

St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church celebrated its centenary.

The church was established on November 18, 1921. Corowa had a Catholic community that worked hard to realize the vision of a beautiful church.

The original church was built on the same site in 1875, however, as the number of Catholics increased in the area, there was a need for a larger place of worship.

St Mary’s Star of the Sea, detail of the east window.

According to Free Press reports from the time, work on the church continued “uninterrupted and without a hitch of any kind, until the official opening”. This was no small feat, when you remember that the labor market was unstable and skilled craftsmen were hard to find; building materials and supplies were difficult and sometimes almost impossible to obtain; and the general effect of the aftermath of the war was felt at every turn.

The church is Romanesque – a style widely used in early Christian churches and adapted to modern materials and requirements.

The exterior of the building features a “beautiful traced window surmounted by a canopy niche containing a magnificent statue of the Sacred Heart in white Carrara marble”.

A week before its opening, the Corowa Free Press wrote: “Coming Sunday will see the consummation of one of the most important undertakings ever attempted in the district – the conclusion of the erection and opening of the magnificent new building of the Catholic Church in Corowa.”

The Sanctuary of Saint Mary

Prior to the first Sunday mass led by Father Hickey, the building was blessed by the Bishop of Wagga Wagga Joseph Dwyer.

The opening ceremony was held on Sunday, November 20, with “an extensive attendance of adherents and visitors from remote areas of both states, who came to pay their respects to those who were responsible for the erection of such a magnificent edifice and also to welcome His Grace. the Archbishop of Melbourne, Dr Mannix, who was present by invitation”.

Archbishop of Melbourne, Dr Mannix.

The Archbishop was graciously hosted at Springhurst and Rutherglen before moving on to Corowa. A visit by an archbishop to a small country town in NSW was unheard of at the time, and even today is still rare.

“As the procession passed through Wahgunyah, the flashing headlights of more than 30 cars resembled will-o’-the-wisps and provided an imposing sight. Arrived at the lower end of Sanger Street, where a huge crowd awaited the arrival of the feast, a short halt was made, and a loud cheer of welcome rose from the assembly. The Border Brass Band struck up an Irish tune, and the procession marched up the street to the rectory.”

There were five masses in total on Sunday morning with the church packed.

The triangular enclosure in front of the church was the scene of a magnificent welcome event

Father Patrick Hickey.

His Grace Dr. Mannix in the afternoon. “The cars were particularly numerous and occupied the stands on either side of the enclosure, where people sat to follow the debates and listen to the speeches. Seats have also been provided for hundreds. It is estimated that around four thousand people were on the ground. The Border Brass Band entertained the congregation…until the ceremony began”.

The foundation stone was laid by Bishop Dwyer on Sunday November 21, 1921.

If you enjoyed reading this article, there is much more to see about the history and development of Corowa and the district at the Federation Museum which is carefully curated by the Corowa District Historical Society.
Opening hours: Tuesday 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. and Thursday and Saturday 1 p.m. – 4 p.m.

Comments are closed.