A devastating blow for St Thomas Aquinas Church community

Parish priest Fr Tom Thornton surveys the damage.

Parishioners of St Thomas Aquinas church Charnwood are devastated after the church was ransacked between 1.15pm and 5pm on Tuesday.

Vandals pushed over the altar and ambo, and smashed statues.

“It’s devastating,” parish priest Fr Tom Thornton said.

“It seems to be very opportunistic. I feel sorry for the people who built the parish – whose home it has been for a long time. I’m particularly thinking of them and how they must feel about their church in this state.”

Children at the adjacent St Aquinas Primary School are disappointed as the Year 6 graduation Mass was planned to be celebrated in the church tomorrow.

Forensic police

The church was designed in 1989 by architect Romaldo Giurgola at the same time as he worked on Parliament House. The church’s design won the RAIA’s Canberra Medallion in 1990.

Inaugural priest and stalwart of the parish Fr Neville Drinkwater installed many valuable artefacts in his 30 years there.

“The altar was an ancient piece of hand-carved timber Fr Drinkwater had specially designed and built along with the ambo and the presidential chair. They were all done at the same time,” Fr Tom said.

“The crucifix which we had in front of the ambo was hand-carved. But, unfortunately, that’s now been smashed, so I don’t know how it will be replaced.

“It’s a nice peaceful, simple church. It’s just a great shame. I don’t understand what you would gain by coming in and trashing the place.”

Leah Taylor, St Thomas Aquinas Primary School Principal (left) with REC Skye McPadden

As police forensics collected evidence, parishioners gathered for Mass at the parish centre.

“I don’t know how long it will take to get the church back in shape enough to celebrate Mass again,” Fr Tom said.

Primary School principal Leah Taylor said St Matthews Page had offered their church for the graduation Mass, which was “wonderful”.

“I think that’s what happens in this Archdiocese – everyone looks out for one another and chips in.”

She was proud many Year 6 students were keen to help in the clean-up.

“I’ve worked at several schools, and, you know, there are some that have got a close link to the parish and the church, and this is one of them,” she said. 

Fr Tom said the parish would probably need to install security cameras and security screens across all windows, “which will be of significant cost to the church”.




Wordpress (8)
  • Colleen reed 2 years

    How very sad. This was my school for 16 years and my church for us all.  I know it will rise again with such wonderful parishioners. Colleen Reed

  • Paul Burt 2 years

    Dreadful and gratuitously destructive. Perhaps there could be a prayer vigil for those responsible that their hostility to the Church might change

  • A bridges 2 years

    We should also pray for those who did this.

  • Carmel Price & family 2 years

    We often attended Mass there when visiting family &were made feel very welcome by the community and Priests We pray that all will be restored as soon as possible & that the culprits caught

  • Ann Clementine 2 years

    My heartfelt sympathy to the priest and parishioners of St Thomas Aquinas Church. I recall my first experience of this sacred space when we first moved to Canberra back in 1991. I had just delivered our children to their respective schools- St Francis Xavier, the older 3 and St Thomas, the younger 4. I was overcome with a sense of loneliness- alone, as my husband was at his new workplace. From the carpark I walked over to the church. The door was open and walking into the church it was as if I was enfolded in loving embrace. I was home! Such a sun-filled spacious simple place, yet warm and holy in all it’s beauty. What a gift is a church…what a gift is God IN His Church. I will always hold that comfort memory in my heart. Lord bring healing to those who have so cruelly invaded this sacred space.

  • Sue Orchison 2 years

    Very sad.

  • Robert Gresham 2 years

    My kids went there and as a retired police officer I cannot believe what these people get from these type of crimes what satisfaction or do that have some hate for religion.

  • Judy 2 years

    I,ve read this Tom!  How are you! I,m sure you,ll come out on top….I wouldn’t like to be in the offenders shoes when you catch up with them and knowing you, you will.  My prayers wouldn,t be of much help but you stay strong  Judy