News

Appeal launched to preserve St Benedict's, Broadway

Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
4 Dec 2015

St Benedict's is Australia's oldest consecrated Catholic Church

The Senior Deputy Vice Chancellor of The University of Notre Dame Australia, Hayden Ramsay, officially launched the Restoration Campaign for St Benedict's Catholic Church, Broadway at a luncheon at the university's Sydney Campus today.

Major restoration work on St Benedict's is underway to preserve Australia's oldest consecrated Catholic Church for future generations.

St Benedict's Parish is working in partnership with The University of Notre Dame Australia to raise the $1.8 million needed to complete the essential and urgent restoration.

"St Benedict's Church is the heart of our Broadway site. It is packed daily for Mass and confessions and the centrepiece of all our key events and ceremonies," Professor Ramsay said.

St Benedict's is the third oldest Catholic Church in Sydney, after St Mary's Cathedral and St Patrick's Church Hill, but it was the first to be consecrated.

Urgent restoration works are already underway

The location of St Benedict's was secured in late 1838 by John Bede Polding, a Benedictine monk who would become Australia's first Archbishop. The Parish originally ministered to the steadily growing population of Catholic convicts, emancipists and free settlers who lived in small terrace houses and worked in nearby factories and on the wharves.

Gold miners from the area who left Sydney during the Gold Rush of the 1850s sent back money from their findings, enabling St Benedict's to be the first debt-free Parish in Australia. This meant it became the first eligible for solemn consecration, with the consecration being performed by Archbishop Polding on 24 February 1862.

Designed in majestic gothic style by the famous British architect Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin in 1842, it was the Parish in which the first Australian born Cardinal, Cardinal Gilroy, grew up and was the first Catholic Church in Australia to have change-ringing bells.

Unfortunately, St Benedict's impressive history also confirms its age, and recently the beautiful stonework of St Benedict's exterior has started to crumble. Sitting at the heart of Notre Dame's Broadway site, the University and the Parish have acted quickly to make the grounds safe and preserve this beautiful piece of Australian history.

An urgent 18 month project to restore the exterior of the church began in July 2015 and is due for completion in December 2016. The project will restore the architectural integrity of the building with a focus on repairing structural issues and limiting further deterioration. The restoration will be respectful of the patina of age that is such a vital element of the aesthetic significance and character of the building.

St Benedict's is packed daily for Mass and confessions

Work will be completed in three stages: from July 2015 to January 2016 the tower and spire will be repaired. This includes repairs to the pinnacles and statues. In February 2016, work will begin on the north (Broadway) and east (Abercrombie Street) sides of the church, including the sacristy. In April 2016, work will begin on the west and south sides, with completion due late 2016.

The Parish community and Notre Dame have begun a major appeal to raise the $1.8 million needed to complete the essential restoration to ensure that rich history of the church is preserved.

"The Parish and the University now have the responsibility to ensure that St Benedict's continues to enrich the lives of future generations," Administrator of St Benedict's Parish, Father Epeli Qimaqima said.

For information on supporting the St Benedict's restoration please go to:  http://www.nd.edu.au/savestbens.