Across the Plains Distant Parish Creates Special Tribute to ANZACS on 100th Anniversary of Gallipoli

Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
22 Apr 2015

The poppy-covered Cross is even more spectacular at night

Members of St Augustine's Catholic Parish in the small Western Australian town of Pinjarra in the Diocese of Bunbury, 86 ks south of Perth, have created an unforgettable tribute to the first ANZACS who fought at Gallipoli 100 years ago.

The imposing steel Cross that sits on the lawn outside Pinjarra's Catholic Church has been covered by more than 550 handmade red poppies with a further 250-plus handmade poppies "planted" in the grass below.

"It is a tremendous effort by people in our parish and is wonderful way to mark ANZAC Day in this centenary year," says parish priest, Father Wayne Bendotti.

The poppy-covered cross and sea of poppies below were installed on Monday this week and will remain on display for the next 10 days.

"The idea came from one of our parishioners at a Pastoral Council meeting earlier in the year. The idea could well have been inspired by the sea of poppies that filled the moat surrounding the Tower of London for Remembrance Day last year. But wherever the idea came from, everyone in town thinks this is the perfect tribute to the Fallen and the ANZAC spirit," Father Bendotti says.

After coming up with the idea of covering St Augustine's landmark steel Cross with poppies, there was much discussion on the best way to go about this.

Situated at Pinjarra's only set of traffic lights the ANZAC tribute outside St Augustine's Church can be seen and enjoyed by all comers

"It took a fair bit of innovation and thinking outside the square, but in no time the parishioners had worked out not only how to attach the poppies to the Cross but also how to ensure the poppies they made would stand up to rain and the elements," he says.

For the poppies crepe paper or paper of any sort was out of the question as it would disintegrate at the first hint of rain.

The solution by the ever-resourceful the ladies of the parish was to buy up as many plastic red table clothes they could find in Pinjarra as well as in nearby Mandurah. Then after making a template for both inner and outer petals of each poppy, the template was issued to numerous volunteers.

A tall ladder and safety harness needed for ANZAC tribute at St Augustine's Catholic Church in Pinjarra, WA

The next problem to be solved was how to attach the poppies to the steel cross.

"Their answer to this was ingenious," says an admiring Father Bendotti. "They not only bought up  metres of shade and made this into a sleeve to fit over the vertical and horizontal arms of the Cross. They then stitched it together at the back and used wire and crochet hooks to attach each poppy to the Cross."

Installation of the shade cloth with its hundreds of poppies over St Augustine's large steel Cross was no easy task, and at first it was hoped a cherry picker could be used. But in the end the installation on Monday was carried out by a courageous volunteer harnessed up for safety atop a very tall ladder.

Once the Cross was covered with poppies, the scarlet poppies left over were attached to slender wooden stakes and planted in the ground at the base of the Cross.


Father Wayne Bendotti Parish Priest at St Augustine's in Pinjarra, WA

"As well as a tribute to the original ANZACS and all those who have given the ultimate sacrifice, the poppy-covered Cross and the poppies on the ground also symbolise the blood of Christ and his own Sacrifice," says Father Bendotti.

The Cross and its poppies is also lit each night and makes a spectacular statement in the small town. Although Pinjarra only has a population of 4000, St Augustine's and the Cross are sited beside the town's only set of traffic lights enabling whoever is driving to or from town to pause and take in this special ANZAC tribute.

"We took photographs on Monday and posted them on Facebook and within just half an hour we had 110 likes," says a delighted Fr Bendotti adding that already people from the nearby towns of Bunbury and Mandurah have made a trip to Pinjarra just to see the Cross.

More are expected this weekend, particularly on ANZAC Day.

"With so many dawn services and different commemorations across the region, we decided that St Augustine's would hold its own commemoration service a day later." Fr Bendotti says explaining that there will be a special Mass to remember the ANZACS and all those who served or are serving in Australia's armed forces, and their families, on Sunday, 26 April.

The Cross with its poppies will remain on display until mid next week.