Christ the Light Catholic Parish
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St Joseph's Church Plenty Road Mernda
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48 Mernda Village Drive, Mernda, Vic 3754
Fr. Martin Ashe
9412 8493 [NEW]
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday 9am-4pm

History

CHRIST THE LIGHT CATHOLIC PARISH – Past, Present and Future

 All will have seen the bluestone church that is St Joseph’s on the eastern side of Plenty Road about half way between Hazel Glen Drive and Bridge Inn Road. 

The Past

The church connects us with our past.  It had its beginnings in the early days of European settlement when the area was known as YanYean South and was part of the Heidelberg Mission – which originally extended from Heidelberg to the Murray! 

The first Mass in the district was in 1857 in a private home (since demolished) on Yan Yean Road on the hill that is north of the Doreen Store. Mass was celebrated subsequently for the district - twice yearly - at the Ryan family home in Yan Yean to meet the needs of the growing (largely Irish) Catholic population, especially among the workers at the reservoir. 

In 1874, a meeting was held and a decision taken to build a church, fund raising commenced, and the land where the church is located was purchased.

The church history brings out a very important point.  While this was a Catholic initiative, the whole community contributed in various ways, and showed a sense of shared community at that time.  Reports at the time noted “all sections of the Upper Plenty, irrespective of creed or country, have promised aid with a liberal spirit”, and “the generous aid of our Protestant neighbours.”  A subsequent example of this early ecumenism was the donation of the organ sometime after 1928 by Leslie Clark of Chapel Lane, Doreen.  Mr Clark was not a Catholic.

With limited resources, progress was slow but steady, and building commenced in 1879.  The distinguished church architect, Mr T. A. Kelly designed the church in “decorated Gothic style”.  Much of the work was by voluntary labour from the reservoir workers.  Fund raising continued.  And with a final surge it was completed and opened on 23 February 1884.

Down the years it served the rural community.  Mass was on a monthly basis until the 1980s.  The needs were simple.  Electricity only came in 1981.  And a toilet was only added in the 1990s.  Our forebears were tough!  

The Present   

More change has occurred in the past decade than in the previous 120 years.  With the coming of urban Melbourne, the church community has grown substantially.  In 2006 we moved from one Mass on Sunday to two, and in 2012 this was extended to three (with one being at the Nazareth Centre at St Joseph’s School).  The church is small, and cannot cope with big congregations as occurs at occasions such as Christmas (1200 celebrated Mass this Christmas).  These large Masses necessarily are held at the Nazareth Centre.  There are now also weekday Masses at the church.

It is over five years now since a new parish was established.  Previously we had been part of the Epping-Mernda-Whittlesea parish.  Given the growth of the area, a new parish comprising Mernda-Whittlesea-Kinglake has been formed.  This includes Doreen and surrounding areas.  We have two priests currently serving the parish – Parish Priest Fr Martin Ashe and Assistant Priest Fr Joseph Truong (Fr Joseph has been with us from December 2015. Previously, Fr Abraham Santiyagu served as Assistant Priest from February 2015-August 2015; Fr Arockiaraj Viagulam served as Assistant Priest from January 2012 - January 2015).  Fr Joseph's presence is also a reminder of the multinationality of the current community, who come from between 20-30 countries.  A major change from the original Irish settlers.             

St Mary's School Whittlesea has been the only catholic primary school in the area with over 200 students until the establishment of St Joseph’s School in 2009.  The school is thriving and also has over 200 students, and continues to grow rapidly. It is a happy and caring place - a place where going to school to learn is a pleasure – with a strong Catholic/Christian educational element underlying it.

At the community level, a key point has been the establishment in 2009 of a Conference (i.e. branch) of the St Vincent de Paul at St Joseph’s (there was already one serving Whittlesea and Kinglake).  The Conference is kept busy throughout the year and quietly goes about its work assisting those in need in the area.  As part of its work, it distributed 65 hampers to families in need at Christmas.

Other community work is carried out by our Pastoral Coordinator, Sister Anne Hill, and includes preparation for the sacraments, liaising with the school community, and Communion to the sick.      

The Future

There is much to be done for the future. We have a new Catholic primary school in Doreen which opened in 2015.  This is located on the corner of Eminence Boulevard and Bassett’s Rd.   This will be a major development, in time intended to cater for an estimated 400-500 students. 

Over and above this will be the aim of tending to the Catholic and Christian needs of the church and school communities and of the area in general.  St Joseph’s is part of this broader community and will play a positive role in its development.

And all of this started from the people who toiled and persevered to build the beautiful bluestone church over 130 years ago.

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