The Church Upon the Hill: Mary Help of Christians Church
Domus Dei et Porta Coeli
History written by: Kitty Thomas
Sunday, 17th April 1983 was a momentous day for parishioners of South Tamworth. The long dreamed of new church, dedicated to Mary Help of Christians, Patroness of Australia, was opened and blessed by His Lordship, Bishop Henry Kennedy DD, the seventh Bishop of Armidale. With bishops and many priest from the Diocese and other areas, Bishop Kennedy celebrated the first Mass in our church. The building was filled to capacity with present and former parishioners, Tamworth civic leaders, and visitors from throughout the Diocese and State. The architect was Michael Nelson from Uralla with builders being a local firm, Groenneau Constructions.
The new church lived up to expectations, beautiful, functional and well designed. The large entrance lobby opened to the main body of the church. A red carpet covered the nave, sanctuary, Blessed Sacrament Chapel and a crying/meeting room with total seating capacity of 470. Features of this "House of Prayer for all the people" are the magnificent carved wooden statues, stained glass windows and sand blasted Stations of the Cross. The small Lady Chapel dedicated to Mary Help of Christians, contains a statue by Stella Steliga of Melbourne and two windows showing images of Mary. The statue of the Risen Christ by Joseph Steliga captures the life like facial expression of Our Saviour. Windows in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel show grapes and wine flowing to a host and chalice; those in the Baptistry represent Christ's Baptism and our rising to the new life received at Baptism.
The polished timber baptismal font was designed and built by local man, Phillip Underwood. Modern Stations of the Cross commence with the Last Supper with the final Station being the Resurrection. The stained glass windows and Stations of the Cross are the work and creativity of parishioner, David Young. David's Father, Brian had donated the second altar in the Robert Street Church. These beautiful works of art were all given by parishioner families, whose names are recorded in a Donors' Book.
Opening from the left of the entrance lobby is a hall with seating for another 300. The hall has a stage, storage area and kitchen. The need for a larger Church had been on the parish agenda for several years. Due to rapid growth in the area, the Robert Street building was needed for classrooms.
Early in 1977 an account was opened with the Diocesan Investment Fund (now ADIG). All monies raised towards our proposed New Church would be placed in this account. Father Le Fevre received an anonymous donation of one thousand dollars which he invested in cattle. These were placed on local properties free of charge. Local stock buyers bought and sold cattle, raising funds for the new church. Bricks in the new Church were sold for 50 cents. Suddenly it was all happening.
The New Church Appeal was officially launched in 1978 when talented parishioners staged a concert in Tamworth High School Auditorium. Vicar General, Monsignor Frank Ryan and the Mayor and Mayoress, Alderman and Mrs. MacKellar were in the audience. The event raised one thousand two hundred dollars. Fundraising went into overdrive. Art Unions at 50cents a ticket and a prize of a Commodore car were well supported and raised several thousand dollars. A music hall, "Pirates of One Tree Hill" ran for three nights, with a warm-up sale of "Claims for Pirates Treasure" (another name for Bricks in the New Church). The list goes on — football pools, many lunches even a raffle of a Cocker Spaniel (pedigreed of course) which raised five hundred dollars. There was a melodrama at the RSL Club and a Hoedown at Rosary College.
Perhaps being almost 30 years younger meant parishioners could keep up with the frantic pace of meetings and events, even thriving on them with the goal being so important. Now at last we were enjoying the fruit of out labours and soon settled into this very different Church.
Father Le Fevre
The parish under the guidance of Father Le Fevre continued to flourish. Father Le Fevre had for many years hoped to build a church in honour of Mary Help of Christians. Fortuitously his ambition was realized.
Father remained in South Tamworth for another 10 years celebrating his Silver Jubilee of Ordination in 1986. A parish gift to him was the beautiful painting by Werris Creek artist, Philip Pomeroy, of the New Church now displayed in the Church Hall.
In 1993 Father was transferred to Tenterfield. In May 1998, returning to South to perform a wedding, he encountered a severe rain storm north of Armidale. He skidded off the highway, up an embankment and his car crashed. He was killed, aged 69. His funeral, from the church he had built, was one of the largest seen in Tamworth. Father Le Fevre rests now in the Priests Section of Lincoln Grove Cemetery on Gunnedah Road. May He sleep in peace.
Patron of Australia
MARY HELP OF CHRISTIANS was designated Patron of Australia at the first Provincial Synod held in Sydney in 1844.