Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (C) - 125 Anniversary of St Francis Xavier Church Beaconsfield

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Home > Archbishop > Homilies > Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (C) - 125 Anniversary of St Francis Xavier Church Beaconsfield

This celebration of 125 years takes us back to the beginnings of the presence of the Church here in the west Tamar. Gold was discovered here firstly in 1847, but it was with the discovery of a payable gold reef on the eastern slope of Cabbage Tree Hill in 1877 that the intensive mining of the area really began. As the town began to grow many Catholics were part of the population. There was a need for a pastoral presence and for a church for Mass.

In 1890 Archbishop Daniel Murphy blessed the foundation stone for this small wooden church dedicated to St Francis Xavier which was completed and ready for Mass on June 26, 1891. One hundred and twenty five years ago.

A priest came from Launceston once a fortnight to celebrate Mass. Priests would come from Launceston until 1951 when it was made a parish in its own right. The first Parish Priest was Fr Thomas McDonnell.

This continued until 1990 when Sr Mary Cleary MSS was appointed Parish Sister and the parish was serviced by Franciscan priests from Riverside. In 2002 it became part of the newly formed West Tamar Parish.

At the request of Dean Beechinor the Presentation Sisters from Launceston founded a convent here in 1899. There was great celebration as four sisters led by Mother Paul Boylston arrived by boat. School was held in the church during the week. Forty original students rapidly grew to 70 by the end of the year. By this time the town had grown to 6,500 in population.

The town’s fortunes rested with the gold mining. At one point Beaconsfield was the richest gold mining town in Tasmania. However water flooding problems led to the mine closing in 1914. Town numbers diminished though the Presentation Sisters school continued. These were years in which there was great poverty among the people. The school eventually closed in 1968, having educated 2000 students during its time.

The Catholic community can be proud of producing a number of vocations, particularly to the Sisters. There are at least five Presentation Sisters, one Sister of Mercy, and one Missionary Sister of Service. The stained glass window dedicated to the priests and religious who served in the parish reminds us of a history to be proud of. The stained glass windows also honour the memory of families who contributed to the spread of the faith in the area: Morgan, Connolly, Heerey, Manion and Casey.

In the 1990s new efforts were made to extract the gold that was available and the mine reopened.

In 2006 Beaconsfield became nationally and internationally known after a small earthquake led to a rock fall which resulted in one death and two men – Todd Russell and Brant Webb – being trapped underground. They were discovered alive but it took two weeks to rescue them. The mine closed in 2012.

Today we recall the Catholic history of this parish. We remember the priests, sisters and parishioners who have built up the parish community and served the spiritual needs of the West Tamar area.

The Gospel reading today begins with the words, “as the time drew near for him to be taken up to heaven Jesus resolutely took the road for Jerusalem”. St Luke was speaking about the culmination of the mission of Jesus which would take him to Calvary. Jesus, knowing full well what awaited him, “resolutely” took the road to Jerusalem. He made a fundamental decision to embrace his future. He was no doubt fearful about the experience, but he knew that this was his destiny.

This is a good example for us. We don’t know what our future as individuals or as communities will be, but we resolutely embrace our future. As Christians, as followers of Christ, we are determined to remain faithful to God and the call to be a Christian. We are going to be faithful to what God expects of us. We will not hold back. We will not sink into inactivity. We forge ahead inspired by Christ himself.

It was this sort of Christian determination that enabled this church to be built and for a Catholic community to be active here in the West Tamar.

Those who have gone before us and have left a legacy not just in buildings but in a living faith deserve our ongoing determination to preserve and pass on the faith to generations to come.

This is not a time to rest on what has been achieved before. We are called to be the means by which the Kingdom of God is established on earth. We are to be instruments of the work of God in world. Thus, we need to be people of great faith and of great determination.

Today we should consider what our challenges are. Certainly we face the challenge of handing on the Catholic faith to the next generation and securing the fidelity to the faith of the current generation, many of whom have drifted into a shallow sense of being not only Catholic but Christian. We need also to consider the important issues of our time. One of these is the efforts to redefine marriage and to impose a radical sexualisation on our children in the form of the Safe Schools program.

We cannot allow ourselves to simply drift into our future. We need to fashion our future. We need to engage in the New Evangelisation. We need to provide dedicated catechists to pass on the faith. We need to be active in the broader society expressing our deep convictions born of our Catholic faith and heritage on the issues of human sexuality and marriage. 

Let us work under the guidance of the Holy Spirit to be the means by which the work of Christ continues in the world. This is our mission as Catholics. It has been this spirit which enabled the Catholic Church to be an active presence here for 125 years. Let us build for the future.

Archbishop Julian Porteous
Sunday, 19 June 2016