Resilient community celebrates Barmedman’s 100th

By John McLaurin 

PARISHIONERS past and present descended upon Barmedman’s St Joseph’s Catholic Church on the weekend of March 12 and 13 to celebrate the church’s centenary.

The rather impressive looking red brick church which sits on Goldfields Way, halfway between Temora and West Wyalong, was quick to be erected in 1916 after the Catholic community of Barmedman had lost their first church to a fire.

Representatives from the Josephite Sisters were present at the celebrations, which started on the Saturday evening with a dinner at the local bowling club and ended with lunch at the same venue after Sunday Mass.

Archbishop Emeritus of Canberra and Goulburn Francis Carroll was the main celebrant of the Mass, with the church at full capacity.

He was assisted by Temora parish priest Fr Simon Falk and Sydney-based Marist Fr Robert Barber, whose parents operated the old Barmedman Hotel between 1958 and 1962.

St Joseph’s Church in Barmedman was built in 1916, after the first parish church was destroyed in a fire. PHOTO: LOUI SESELJA

St Joseph’s Church in Barmedman was built in 1916, after the first parish church was destroyed in a fire. PHOTO: LOUI SESELJA

During his homily, Fr Simon spoke about the resilience of the Catholics in Barmedman who keep the show going on a daily basis, despite only having Mass offered on the second and fourth Sundays of each month.

He also noted that while it was an important occasion to mark the 100 years of the building, it is the people inside who make up the church as “living vessels”, which makes it much more worthy of celebrating.

During the Mass parishioner Ann Ryall read a moving poem written by her deceased mother Pat Ryall, reducing a number of the congregation to tears.

After the Mass, the old church bell was rung loudly and an olive tree was planted in the garden on the convent and school side of the church, as a symbol of peace in the community, with the clergy taking turns to shovel the remaining soil back into the hole.

The olive tree was of great significance to the people of Barmedman, because it had been grafted from an olive tree at the neighbouring town of Ardlethan.

And what makes that particular olive tree so special is that it had been brought back to Australia from the Garden of Gethsemane in the Kidron Valley, by front-line World War I chaplain and former Ardlethan parish priest Fr Tom Mullins.

At the time that Fr Mullins returned to Australia, he was assigned to the parish of Ardlethan, of which Barmedman came under, and so it was Fr Mullins who actually planned the building of the Barmedman church.

A shiny commemorative plaque for the occasion was drilled into the bricks at the front of the church and then guests made their way to the bowling club for refreshments and lunch, where they were also greeted with a slideshow of photos and a table full of memorabilia from the past 100 years.

Guests travelled from as far away as Melbourne, Sydney, Bathurst, Canberra, Griffith, Temora, West Wyalong, Leeton, Ardlethan, Ariah Park, Wellington, Wagga Wagga, Braidwood and Hay as well the Central Coast of New South Wales.

Long-time parishioner Patricia Wells, who was the main organiser of the centenary celebrations, said she was proud of the way the event went.

“It was a wonderful celebration and it was great to see so many faces return to this place which has meant so much to so many people,” she said.

“Over the years we have enjoyed the baptisms, the first holy communions, the confirmations and the marriages, but we have had to attend the funerals of our loved one’s here also.”