New hopes for historic St Patrick’s Michelago
The little church lies almost hidden amid the trees with motorists whizzing past on the Monaro Highway barely having a chance to give thought to the rich heritage that lies within.
It was the first Mass for the year at St Patrick’s Michelago last Saturday celebrated by Queanbeyan parish priest, Fr Tony Percy.
It was also the first time Fr Percy had ever stepped through the doors of the 115-year-old church that has seen countless numbers of clergy and the faithful worship inside its walls since it was dedicated and blessed in 1907.
With their Mazda’s and Suzuki’s now parked on the grass where the horses and sulkies once did, some of today’s parishioners are descendants of yesterday’s pioneering families who have worshipped at the historic church.
Clare and Ted Kell participated in last Saturday’s celebration and told the Catholic Voice they had been married in the church 53 years ago.
Likewise, Trish and John Tarlinton proudly declared they had received the sacraments and had been married at St Patrick’s as far back as 1967.
With his family’s own pioneering links to the Canberra region, the church’s caretaker, Michael Scanlon, believes “St Patrick’s is one of the most beautiful churches in the Archdiocese”.
“The two churches and even the presbytery are of major historical value in the area,” he said. “They’re landmarks.”
Sitting in a picturesque valley between the Tinderry and Clear Ranges, the church is a stone’s throw north of the village of Michelago (pop 560) in the rolling hills of the Snowy-Monaro district to Canberra’s south.
The first St Patrick’s at Michelago was built in 1865 and it’s still there at the rear of the current church, showing its age but hinting at its secrets and its stories.
The second St Patrick’s was built in 1907 from bricks made on the site from local red clay. Mr Scanlon marvels at the gem under his wing.
“Even though there is some damage and some deterioration, the actual interiors and the exteriors of the church are quite beautiful and are structurally sound, ” he said.
The Catholic Voice ran a story on St Patrick’s Michelago in 2007 and highlighted its magnificent stained glass windows depicting the Rosary’s sorrowful and joyful mysteries.
At a meeting with parishioners following the Mass, Fr Percy said he was struck by the beauty of the church, adding that its quiet, rural setting would be a good focal point for a retreat centre.
Agreeing with Fr Percy’s suggestion, Michael Scanlon told the Catholic Voice he believed a church should be relevant, it had to live on during the week after the liturgy had finished the previous weekend.
“I see the little church here as a way of bringing back a spiritual aspect to the community,” he said.
Pauline Jackson is another with long-time links to the church, now living in Queanbeyan but growing up in Michelago.
Did it still play an important part in her life, she was asked?
“Absolutely!”, she said, a sentiment that was widely shared at the ‘little church amid the trees’ last Saturday.