Hard Hats and Holy Water at Blessing of Sydney Metro Tunnelling Machine

Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
16 Apr 2018

St Barbara - patron saint of miners and tunnellers - was invoked in the blessing of a massive roadheader machine which will be used to dig tunnels for the Sydney Metro railway project.

In a special blessing ceremony on 16 April at the Bligh Street construction site in the city, the Dean of St Mary's Cathedral, Fr Don Richardson, sprinkled the huge tunnelling machine with holy water.

He also blessed a statue of St Barbara mounted on the side of the roadheader, the construction workers at the site, and all those gathered for the ceremony.

The roadheader will carve out the new Sydney Metro Martin Place Station as part of the Sydney Metro railway project which will deliver twin 15.5km railway tunnels and excavate six new stations between Chatswood and Sydenham. The project is expected to be completed by 2024.

Fr Don explained that the blessing is oriented more towards those who will operate the machinery rather than the machinery itself.

"From a Christian point of view we consider that the saints stand in solidarity with us and they intercede for us with God because we're all connected," he said.

Fr Don said it was the first time he had blessed the commencement of a tunnel and that tunnelling "is an inherently dangerous business" making it important to "ask God's protection and blessing."

Station Tunnel Superintendant, Brian Marshall, who oversees the construction workers at the site, said he has taken the statue of St Barbara to different tunnelling projects around Sydney including the tunnel under the Sydney Opera House and the North Strathfield underpass.

"It's the tradition that normally the Superintendant will bring the Santa Barbara with them to the project. Every job I've been involved with we've had a Santa Barbara."

"She'll move from here down into the portal of the tunnel and we'll carve a little piece out of the rock for her to sit in and she'll stay there until the end of tunnelling."

"Some of the workers will say 'hi' to her each day," he said.

It is a tradition all around the world for St Barbara's intercession to be sought at the beginning of major tunnelling projects. The third century Greek saint was an early Christian martyr killed after converting to Christianity. It is believed her father, who treated her cruelly, was struck and killed by lightening, hence, her association with artillerymen, firemen and tunnellers.