Our Lady Help of Christians - Eltham Parish
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Our Lady Help of Christians-
4 Henry Street, Eltham, Vic, 3095
Fr Kevin Burke
9439 9206
Mon, Tue, Thu – 9am to 1pm

History

The Church

Architects: Gerard Smith, Diana Iezzi, Smith & Tracey Architects

Builders: Clark Frigo, Conrad Constructions and Management

The renovation of the Church encapsulates the qualities of peace and light in the worship space. The contemporary design promotes a sense of spirit and welcome when entering the building through the Gathering Area. The creative use of colour, texture and fabric captures the strength and beauty of the natural environment throughout the building.

The Gathering Area

The need in our community for this area was the catalyst for embarking on the renovation of our Church building. It is reminiscent of the atrium space of ancient cathedrals which served as a bridging space, moving people from the world to a place set apart for prayer and worship. It is from this space today that we go each week to live the values of the gospels in each of our lives.

This is a hospitality area where we can meet familiar faces and warmly welcome new ones over a cup of coffee after Mass. This area can be utilized in many ways from a meeting place, a relaxation or reading area to a social venue. Large notice boards enable visitors and parishioners alike to find out what is happening.

The St. Vincent de Paul Parish Shop is also in the vicinity and stocks a range of devotional items, cards and prayer books. Nearby is the Reconciliation Room that will also be used as a Book Room with resources available for quiet reading or borrowing.

The Baptismal Font

Designers: Christopher John, Neville Selldrick

The font is a reminder of our own baptism and has been strategically placed at the entrance. It is through baptism that we share in the many facets of the life of our Catholic Community. This is also the Holy Water font that we use to bless ourselves as we enter the Church. Each time we do this it is a reminder of our commitment to live the Spirit of Christ in our lives. 

This font has been dedicated to Barbara Huggins, a long serving and loyal sacristan of our parish.

The Organ

Built in 1868 the organ is one of Finchams' earliest. It was first installed in All Saints' Church, East St. Kilda. In 1872 a second manual was added, but due to its small size the organ was not the most suitable for this church, famous for its choir and architecture. It was sold in 1924 to St. Andrews Church, Clifton Hill, where it was installed without modification.

When the Anglican Church decided to demolish St. Andrews in 1974, the organ was put into storage, from which organ-loving parishioner Dr. Henry Rossell rescued it. George Fincham and Sons, successors to the firm of George Fincham, rebuilt the old organ into a modern instrument.

The former choir organ was made into a great organ, the swell was expanded and made more versatile, and the pedal was made independent. The casework and console are also new. It is now a first class instrument with a real pedigree.

The restoration was donated by Mr. Jim Murray in memory of his wife, Gwendolene Mary Murray.

The Stained Glass Windows

Designer: Christopher John, Phoenix Glass

The windows on the west wall depict the Passion, Death, Resurrection and the presence of the Spirit of Christ in the parish of Our Lady Help of Christians since its inception. 

The window on the left represents the crucifixion and all that is chaos, sin and suffering. Depicted as a bushfire over Eltham, it tells the history of our first Churches near Diamond Creek. These were damaged by fire and forced the parish to move on and rebuild. The story echoes the personal hardships of all our lives. We are reminded of the need to trust, that even in these times, God is a faithful presence, just as God was to Christ in his suffering.

The window on the right represents the promise of present and future peace, and the harmony that comes with the Resurrection of Christ. The new growth on the blackened stump symbolizes the healing and restoration of the Resurrection that emerges after apparent devastation.

The Holy Spirit, represented by the Southern Cross, permeates the cosmos. The same Spirit, energising the people and environment of Eltham strengthens and encourages us in the way of reconciliation.

On the east wall is the familiar window of Our Lady Help of Christians, our Parish Patron. It is the work of Bill Peperkamp, a deceased parishioner. This window and the statue of Mary create a Marian shrine. It reminds us of the strength and conviction of Mary, as both the Mother and a disciple of Jesus. This window was donated by parishioners of Eltham to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of Father Desmond G. Jenkins, Ordination to the Priesthood 27th July, 1977.

The Stations of the Cross

Artist: Clifton Pugh

Clifton Pugh was a figure of some significance in the post modern art movement in Australia. He is described as a member of the Eltham group of painters and artists in other media who tended to live in this particular area. Trained in the classical tradition he embraced post modernism with passion, and is renowned for his experimentation with new paints and painting on boards and masonite. The Stations of the Cross here are an example of this. 

Clifton Pugh was not a Catholic but we know that he studied the Scriptures to understand the details of the Way of the Cross. Together with his portrait of Archbishop Mannix (Newman College collection) these works represent Clifton Pugh's religious works. Hence it is important not only in the art history of the twentieth century Australia, but also in the Catholic Church's artistic patronage.

It was a truly enlightened moment when former parishioners commissioned Clifton Pugh to do such a work.

Clifton Pugh's The Way of the Cross has had a controversial history. It was the subject of bitter dispute among parishioners some thirty years ago and the work has been hanging high in the passageway of Our Lady's Primary School since then. We are very grateful to George Giannis, Rendec Pty. Ltd, Fairfield, for his careful restoration of these four panels.

The Crucifix

Sculptor: Charles Rocco

Charles accepted the challenge to present a work which offers the Passion of the crucified Christ together with the glory of the resurrected faithful Christ. 

Christ's last words Father, into your hands I commend my spirit (Luke 2346) is here suitably balanced with his prophetic utterance to Nicodemus As Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the desert, in the same way the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life (John 314).

The figure creates a sense of the Spirit; it is light and ethereal. The curved torso in the spine and at the hip gives the appearance of Christ being swooped upward towards the light, which traditionally in cathedral architecture has always been the symbol of heaven. The darkness of the river pebbles in the cross suggest the pain and suffering that Christ freely chose to bear as testimony of his faithful commitment to God and his loving commitment to us.

The Chapel

Visible from the body of the Church, the Tabernacle is located in this intimate space designed for prayerful reflection. The Holy Oils are also displayed here. The three oils are Oil for Catechumens, Oil of the Sick and Holy Chrism. The first two are pure olive oil and the Chrism is mixed with balsam. These oils remind us of the sacraments that nourish, strengthen and express our Christian life.

The Garden

Construction and Design: Adrian and Sue Sinnat, Axis Landscape Design

Created from a rocky slope this garden reflects the characteristics of Eltham with indigenous plantings supplemented by colourful natives. The path meanders from the Retirement Units through a stand of olives, chosen for their symbol of peace, prayer at Gethsemane and their fragrant oil, used in the sacraments. Following the path through grevilleas and a birdbath surrounded by pink kangaroo paw you reach the Memorial Garden.

A Memorial Wall on which are placed the names of deceased loved ones is the focal point of this area. A seat under a lemon scented gum provides a place for reflection and prayer. In the centre of this garden is a fireplace where the Easter fire will be lit each year, reminding us of the promise of resurrection.

As the path winds its way down to the Church, it passes through the gardens that were prepared and planted by members of our parish community. A daffodil garden near the entrance was planted prior to the re-opening. It is a symbol for us of the hopes that we planted for our community. Each spring we are reminded of these and the beauty of God's creation as the daffodils bloom. 

The path can then be taken past the outside seating (designed for overflow on bigger occasions) around the Main Road side of the Church, through a native grass garden, and back to the front entrance.

Memorial Wall

Located in a special section of the garden, this wall is provided for parishioners to remember deceased loved ones. Plaques are available for purchase from the Parish Office and are uniform in design and size. A separate information brochure is available.

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