No. 831 - Moonah - St Therese's Church-School (1932-1954)

Moonah is a suburb of Greater Hobart and is located approximately 5 kilometres north of the central business district. Moonah was previously known as South Glenorchy before it was developed as a residential area in the late 19th century.

The parish of St Therese, Moonah, was created in February 1931with Father T.J. O’Donnell appointed to oversee the construction of the new parish’s first place of worship. Previously Catholic Mass was celebrated in the Moonah Community Hall. On 25 October 1931 the foundation stone for a church-school was laid by the Very Rev. D. Murphy, Administrator of the Archdiocese of Hobart. Built in the midst of the Great Depression, the building had a threefold function; that of a church, a school and a hall. It is also unusual in that it housed a nuns’ chapel within the church as well as an enclosed shrine to Saint Therese. Moonah’s first Catholic church was designed to be a temporary place of worship until a permanent church could be constructed. However, the ‘school-church’ was used for over 20 years before it was replaced by the magnificent brick church which dominates upper Hopkins Street. St Therese’s Catholic School abuts the new church and the original ‘school-church’ is now the parish hall and a part of the school’s campus.

The ‘church-school’ was dedicated to ‘St Theresa of the Child Jesus’* in a ceremony led by Archbishop Dr. William Hayden on Sunday 21 February 1932. The occasion was described in Church Notes and News in the Hobart Mercury:

“A large crowd In the afternoon witnessed the dedication ceremony, by the Archbishop, for whom members of the Hibernian Society and Children of Mary formed a guard of honour. A dedicatory tour of the building was made, and holy water was sprinkled around its base…. Welcoming the Archbishop, Father O'Donnell said that on that day 12 months before they had nothing, now they had a fine new building, spacious grounds, a convent and presbytery, and 200 children in the school. It was sufficient proof that the Archbishop had made no mistake when he set up the new parish in such times of distress.The erection of the building had served another good purpose, because it had given employment when work was so much needed".

The Mercury’s report went on to describe the new church in some detail:

“The building, which is built as a hall is of brick. The main hall is 84ft. long and 30ft. wide. At the eastern side there is a verandah, 10ft. wide, running the full length. In the front is an entrance lobby and two offices. The stage portion has been turned into a sanctuary and sacristies. The sanctuary 20ft. deep and 15ft. wide. There are two sacristies, 12ft. by 10ft, and a chapel for the Sisters, 20ft. by 12ft. . The shrine of St. Theresa is 10ft. by 8ft. The main hall is divided into four rooms, used class rooms, each being 20ft. x 30ft, and lighted with the latest pattern of window, as used by the Education Department. On the eastern sides smaller windows are placed above the verandah. The ventilation is excellent, as each window is supplied with hoppers and sashes that open at the top. The sanctuary is tastefully decorated. The altars are of wood, beautifully executed and finished in white enamel. The shrine is very handsome”.

“A large door, which runs into a recess in the wall, can be moved forward to cut off the sanctuary from the main hall when it ls used for other purposes. The seats are of Tasmanian hardwood, and are of the combination variety, thus serving both as church seats and desks for the school children. The pulpit also is of Tasmanian hardwood. At the rear of the main building Is a kitchen, and a supper room, 30ft by 20ft. This is used as an infant-school also…. The hall has accommodation for 500 people. Tho school, which ls under the direction of the Sisters of St. Joseph and. secular teachers now 200 pupils.. The area on which the church is built is 3½ acres, in what is considered the best part of Moonah and has frontages on both Hopkins and Amy Streets. In addition to the new building a temporary presbytery been provided in Hopkins' Street, and a temporary convent in Coleman Street. In future years a new church, convent, presbytery, and school will be erected”.

The Great Depression of the 1930s, which was only brought to an end with the outbreak of the Second World War, delayed the planned developed of a new church for two decades. In 1954 when the new church of St Therese of Lisieux was at last opened, the original church hall continued to be used as a teaching space until the school was extended. In 2017 a major renovation of St Therese of Lisieux Church was undertaken which resulted in the Church returning for a period of six months to its original home in the school-parish hall. The new church of St Therese (which opened in February 1954) will be the subject of a follow-up article on ‘Churches of Tasmania’.

* A note on spelling:

Why is there a variation in the spelling of Saint Therese? (“Thérèse," "Theresa," and “Therese")

All three are appropriate, but if one is to remain faithful to her actual French name, it is "Thérèse." In English, we don't have the vowel marks which the French have, so she is simply "Therese." It was once popular to use the more Anglicised version "Theresa," but it has caused confusion between her and Teresa of Avila. In order to avoid confusion between the two Carmelites, many choose to use the spelling more reflective of her French name, "Therese."

The Catholic Standard 1931

                                                                   The Catholic Standard 1932


Mercury, Thursday 5 March 1931, page 3
Examiner, Monday 26 October 1931, page 7
Examiner, Monday 22 February 1932, page 8
Mercury, Monday 22 February 1932, page 2


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