On Sunday 19 November, St Ambrose’s Catholic Church in Brunswick celebrated an incredible milestone of 150 years since the church’s completion. Around 300 people were in attendance for Mass, with the church packed beyond capacity and people flowing out the doors.
Following Mass celebrated by Archbishop Peter A Comensoli, people enjoyed a catered lunch and a special musical performance in the church at 2pm by the group Progetto Corelli.
St Ambrose’s was one of the first parish communities to respond to Archbishop Comensoli’s invitation to Take the Way of the Gospel. Under this initiative, four churches in the area—St Ambrose’s, Our Lady Help of Christians, St Joseph’s and St Fidelis’—have come together under one ‘Mission’ as the Brunswick and Moreland Catholic Community (BMCC).
During Sunday’s celebrations, Br Tony Clark SM, a member of the coordinating committee for the celebrations, reflected on the significance of this anniversary in light of the huge changes the community has gone through in recent times, becoming part of a larger mission.
‘Our celebration today is a statement that we are looking forward and moving forward in that mission,’ Br Tony said. ‘That mission has many challenges and many opportunities, and particularly the St Ambrose’s Parish is very much committed to that mission and to that vision.’
‘To our current members of the St Ambrose Parish and to the Brunswick–Moorland Catholic community, thank you for your presence today and always [and] that you join us and remind us of the presence and faith of Jesus Christ in our midst,’ he said.
In attendance at the celebrations were a number of civil representatives—federal, state and local—as well as many religious brothers and sisters, and representatives from other Christian denominations.
Reflecting on the event, Patricia Murray, a member of the coordinating committee for the celebrations, said, ‘The celebration of the day exceeded all my expectations. There was a great sense that this was a significant and historic occasion. It was a privilege to have Archbishop Comensoli celebrate with us. And it was heart-warming to see so many former parishioners, priests and representatives of religious orders returning to Brunswick to join in the celebration of the liturgy and to enjoy a shared lunch in the sunshine afterwards. It was truly a faith-filled and joyful day.’
During the celebrations, Archbishop Comensoli blessed a plaque commemorating the anniversary. He said, ‘Brunswick has always known of itself … as part of a mission.’ Although it did become its own parish, from the very beginning ‘it was part of a larger mission,’ and ‘the gift of the seed that was planted then continues to grow and bear fruit.’
‘As this plaque is blessed,’ he said, ‘far more importantly, may we be blessed.’
In the two weeks leading up to the event, members of the St Ambrose’s community have been contributing to a ‘history tree’, with people attaching the names and photos of family members and parishioners who have been part of its history.
St Ambrose’s Catholic Church was originally built out of necessity as the Catholic population in the area rose fast during the gold rush. Thanks to generous donations of money and land, the foundation stone of the church was laid in 1870 by then vicar general Dean Fitzpatrick. Costing an estimated £6,000, St Ambrose’s would become one of Melbourne’s finest churches, built out of bluestone with a timber-supported ceiling, a 19th-century organ and beautiful stained-glass windows.
The choir at St Ambrose’s became well known, especially after they introduced the pipe organ in 1891. In the late 1920s, the 11 o’clock Mass with choir was broadcast live on ABC radio.
Through the generous contributions of many people over the years, the church and community have grown, with people investing time, land and money to provide for their Catholic community.
In his homily for Mass, Archbishop Comensoli reflected on the parable of the Talents from the gospel reading.
He said that ‘in God’s eyes, even the smallest, single talent he has given to you is tremendously valuable. God has already given to each of us faith, hope and love. We each have the Spirit’s gifts from Confirmation. Individually, there will be charisms we each have received.’
‘He has given these gifts, the talents, entrusting them to us for our own good and the good of each other. They are there to use creatively and trustfully. He will not punish us for doing so. Let’s not frighten ourselves into thinking otherwise.’
Proclaim: Office for Mission Renewal29 November 2023
Melbourne Catholic28 November 2023