No. 154 - Our Lady Star of the Sea at George Town - 'No Basilica but a Great Blessing'

George Town is one of the oldest towns in Australia and the second oldest town in Tasmania. It is therefore surprising to learn that some of the major denominations are fairly recent arrivals. Although the Anglicans and Methodists had an early presence, other denominations such as the Catholics only established an official presence in the 1950’s. The establishment of Launceston as the administrative centre of the North of the island meant that George Town was destined to remain a backwater until more recent times. The development of the Aluminium smelter at nearby Bell Bay in the 1950’s as well as the establishment of other heavy industries accelerated George Town’s development.

Stella Maris (or Star of the Sea), George Town’s first Catholic church opened in 1953. It was the first prefabricated church in Tasmania and was built at Devonport and transported 130km to George Town where it was erected in less than 5 weeks. The church was opened and blessed by Archbishop Tweedy. At the ceremony Father W.T. Ryan remarked that “it is no basilica, but it is a great blessing”. He added that once the church was paid for, the Archbishop would be asked to lay the foundation stone for a new convent and school at George Town.

In 1958, Father Leo Kirkham brought the Presentation Sisters to George Town. The church was used for classrooms (and later as a school hall) until the new convent school was built. Curtains were used to divide off classrooms until the primary school was opened. A secondary school, 'Star of the Sea College', was established at a later date but the Presentation Sisters have now left George Town.

In 1992 the old church which had been used as parish and school hall was vandalised and burnt.  The new attractively proportioned modern brick church was opened in 1978 and still serves the school and the George Town community.



Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018


The original 'prefabricated' Stella Maris - Source: Commemorative display at Star of the Sea


Source: Commemorative display at Star of the Sea

Sources:

Advocate Tuesday 2 June 1953, page 14
Examiner Monday 1 June 1953, page 6
Examiner  Thursday 4 June 1953, page 15
Southerwood, W. T.  Planting a faith in Tasmania : the country parishes [Hobart]  1977


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