Plan for café in chapel upsets locals

The entrance to the Villa Maria chapel, Fortitude Valley (Catherine Toomey)

Concerned Catholics and community members are questioning the decision of an aged care provider to refurbish a portion of a heritage-listed chapel in Brisbane, The Catholic Leader reports.

Catholic Healthcare, an aged care provider in Queensland and NSW, is undertaking an expansion and refurbishment of Villa Maria residential age care home in Fortitude Valley.

The project will include refurbishing the St Gabriel’s wing, occupied by 50 residents, and the St Stanislaus wing, which is not in use, to develop a total of 125 aged care places.

This will require a reduction of the popular chapel to create a gathering space “for people to gather after Mass, funerals and other religious celebrations”.

The new space, which had been marked up on early drawings as a café, would be divided by a wall “treated for acoustic separation” to ensure privacy between the operational spaces and the chapel.

Catholic Healthcare said members of the community had raised concerns about the proposal, but said it would not be a commercial café and would only be available for use by residents and visitors who used the chapel.

Construction work will not restrict the use of the chapel, and on-site contractors have been asked to ensure privacy and minimal disturbance to residents.

The chapel is used regularly for Masses, including weekend worship, and is part of the former Villa Maria Hostel, which was classified as a State Heritage building on September 18, 2008.

A Catholic Healthcare spokesman said the organisation had developed their plans in consultation with the Brisbane Archdiocesan Liturgical Committee on chapels.

Peter Bond, an altar server at Villa Maria, said he and other Catholics were disappointed that any part of the consecrated church would be turned into a space not intended for worship.

Mr Bond said he had been notified of early drawings of the refurbishment that included plans for a café to be built at the entrance of the chapel.

“We want it to be left intact and for the Mass,” Mr Bond said. “The life of the Church is the Eucharist and not a cup of coffee.”


Community outrage over plans to overhaul heritage-listed Brisbane chapel (The Catholic Leader)

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