Milestone celebrations for Cathedral and Archdiocese
On February 5th 1973 the Church of Saint Christopher, Forrest, became the Cathedral and the Mother Church of the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn. On February 5th 2023 we mark our 50th Anniversary.
The story of our humble Cathedral, however, begins much earlier, on a warm 27th of February, 1928. On this day the Parish School of Saint Christopher’s was the first building to emerge, with Father Patrick Haydon appointed the first parish priest. Over the following decade, the school would also serve as the church and community hall, for the growing Catholic Community. In 1938 the building of Saint Christopher’s church, through the generosity of much of the Catholic Community, was finally begun. The following year, on June 4, Saint Christopher’s was officially opened by Archbishop John Panico, Apostolic Delegate.
Canberra means ‘meeting place’ in the Ngunnawal language; and was so named the growing Capital, as it was somewhere that many travellers would pass through. Placing the new Church and parish community of Canberra under the patronage of Saint Christopher, the patron saint of travellers seemed a suitable and obvious choice.
On February 5th 1948, when the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn was formally established, the parish church of Saint Christopher, with its location, size and beauty, proved an appropriate choice to become the new ‘Mother Church’ of the people of Canberra and Goulburn.
Saint Christopher’s was extended, and on the Silver Jubilee of the Archdiocese (1973), Archbishop Thomas Cahill († 16 April 1978) consecrated the extensions and Saint Christopher’s became the Cathedral of the Archdiocese.
On this day the Archbishop anointed the walls with the Oil of Sacred Chrism, where the marble crosses and candles now stand – and which burn brightly on June 4th each year – setting this building aside as holy, where the living stones who gather within, come to worship and give glory to God (1 Peter 2:4-6).
On Sunday, February 5, we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Cathedral’s dedication. We celebrate this anniversary with particular joy and thanksgiving. For this Cathedral has long been the physical representation of the community of faith which regularly gathers within, and the place where the Mysteries of our faith take place.
Saint Christopher’s is the Eucharistic heart and the steadfast sign of the unity of our Local Church of Canberra and Goulburn. She is our Mother Church and the home of all in the Archdiocese. Observing the dedication celebrates the mystery and magnificence of the Living Church; the people of God in pilgrimage, together, toward the New Jerusalem.
We pray for all who have gathered over the last 50 years (and more), to worship within the walls of this parish Church and Cathedral. In moments of great sorrow and fear, as well as immense joy and awe. In public celebrations, and private. May every pilgrim who visits this place, go forth having experienced the gentle presence and the merciful Heart of the God who walks among us. And may we continue to invoke the intercession and protection of Saint Christopher as we continue along the pilgrim way.