No. 127 - Elizabeth Town - Our Lady Help of Christians - A Hidden Sentinel

Elizabeth Town on the Bass Highway has two churches facing each other on opposite sides of the road. Like hidden sentinels, they are barely noticed by motorists as they pass through the small settlement which lies almost midway between Launceston and Devonport. Both of these churches have now closed. Almost hidden by the height of the highway is the Catholic Church of Our Lady Help of Christians.

The church was opened on 22 January 1939. The land on which it was built was donated by W.T. Cleary of the Elizabeth Town Hotel. The event was covered by most of Tasmania’s daily newspapers. Of these, The Hobart Mercury’s report is the most detailed:

“The Archbishop of Hobart (the Most Rev. Dr. J. D. Simonds) yesterday set the foundation stone, conducted the official opening, and dedicated the recently constructed Elizabeth Town Roman Catholic Church. In fine weather a large gathering of clergy and laity witnessed the ceremonies…. Centrally situated on the main North-west Coast Rd., the church is considered one of the most modern in Tasmania. Built on a heavy concrete base, the walls are of brick, and the roof is of coloured tiles. The windows are coloured lead lights. The overall size is 45ft. by 20ft. The interior consists of sanctuary, sacristy, and nave. The interior walls are textured, and completed with a cement dado. The ceiling is finished in Tasmanian hardwood. The building is designed to hold 100 persons. The furniture is of Tasmanian hardwood”.

It is interesting that the laying of the ‘foundation stone’ took place after the church had been built which is not the usual practice. After the ‘stone laying’ was completed, The Advocate mentions the Archbishop being “given a seat on a large lorry, on which were also the parish priest …and visiting priests”. This suggests that the ceremony and ‘Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament’ which followed must have taken place outdoors to accommodate the large numbers that attended the service.

In his speech the Archbishop said:

“It was a pleasure to be present and to bless and dedicate a beautiful church that was a credit to Elizabeth Town and to the whole diocese… [He] paid tribute to the splendid work performed by Monsignor Monaghan of Deloraine, who had made the building of the church possible. “Such a church,” he added, “will help combat the anti-Christian forces in evidence in all parts of the world”.

Little did the Archbishop realise that these forces were to be unleashed upon the world only 6 months later.

While the church survived the war; as a sentinel of the Catholic tradition, it was less able to withstand the forces of rural depopulation, secularism and materialism. It was auctioned for a mercenary sum of $36 000 in 2003 and has subsequently been converted into a house.



Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

The interior of the church before it was sold. Photo: First National Real Estate

The interior of the church before it was sold. Photo: First National Real Estate

The interior of the church before it was sold. Photo: First National Real Estate

Sources:

Western Tiers Tuesday 18 March 2003
The Advocate Monday 23 January 1939
The Examiner Monday 23 January 1939
The Mercury Monday 23 January 1939
Southerwood, W. T.; Planting a faith in Tasmania : the country parishes. [W. T. Southerwood], [Hobart], 1977.

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