No. 838 - Newstead - Sacred Heart Catholic Church "A post-Vatican II Church"

Newstead is a Launceston suburb situated on the east side of the city centre. It is named after "Newstead House" which was built and named by Ronald Campbell Gunn in 1855.

In December 2020, Sacred Heart Catholic Church celebrated it 50th anniversary. Sacred Heart was built to replace St Thomas More’s Catholic Church which had opened only 33 years earlier. [see No. 110] As early as the 1950s it had become apparent that a larger church was needed for Newstead. The suburb’s increased population and the opening of a primary school adjacent to the church had brought this need about.

The move to build a larger modern church was driven by parish priest Father Tim Murphy. Father Murphy who was born in County Kerry, Ireland, arrived in Tasmania in 1927 as a newly ordained priest. In 1950 he came to Newstead where served until 1977. ‘Father Tim’ is credited as the driving force in raising £70 000 towards building Sacred Heart. Father Murphy’s arrival at Newstead coincided with the era of Archbishop Guilford Young who succeeded Archbishop Tweedy in 1955. Bishop Young’s leadership of the Church is distinguished by his implementation of the reforms of the Second Vatican Council and his contribution to the liturgical renewal of the Church. Thus it was the combined effort of these two men which produced a building that reflected the new era.

Archbishop Young was intimately involved in the planning of the new church creating a design to accomodate the new form of participatory worship:

“This is a post-Vatican II church….which has been designed to draw the people of God closer together in faith and love, and strengthen them to reach out to the world”.

The planning and design of Sacred Heart coincided with the time that the Vatican introduced changes to the Mass liturgy. Young wrote to the church’s architects:

“At last a new structure of the Mass liturgy has been determined by Rome and we must take the points of reference established in it to determine the allocation of the altar, the presiding priest’s chair, the lectern and the tabernacle”.

The architects, “Tandy, Pryor and Rogers” were briefed to design a church to “conform to the modern approach to worship” and to seat 600-700 people. These concepts are embodied in the design of Sacred Heart with the altar table becoming the focal point of the new building. Furthermore the building’s irregular octagon shape with pews in a semi circle around the altar created a space where the furtherest seat is less 15 metres from the altar. The building also incorporated other features such as “a cry-room for mothers and babies”.

The building project was completed within a period of 30 months from the time of the establishment of a building committee in June 1968 to the church’s blessing by Archbishop Guildford Young on 6 December 1970. Fifty years later the church is still a striking modern and functional building but it is also symbolic of the monumental changes brought to Catholicism in the era of the Second Vatican Council. 

* Photographs of the church are my own.

                                   Archbishop  Sir Guilford Young - source: Archdiocese of Hobart

                          Mr E. 'Alf' Smart - member of the Building Committee - Photo: The Examiner

                                                 Father Tim Murphy - photo: The Standard


The Standard, Friday 19 January, 1969, page 5
The Examiner, Tuesday 13 May 1969, page 3
The Standard, Friday 11 December 1970, page 11
The New Standard, October 1989, page 2

* Thank you to Paul Mannion for his insight and help with this article.


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