New church replaces church destroyed by arson

Archbishop Peter A Comensoli places relics of two saints in the altar at the new church in Bannockburn (Melbourne Catholic)

After fire destroyed a historic Catholic church in Bannockburn, Victoria, in October 2015, parishioner Patricia was asked by a reporter if the church would be rebuilt. “Of course,” she replied. Source: Melbourne Catholic.

On Sunday, August 7, Patricia’s confidence and faith were rewarded as she joined many others from Meredith Parish as Melbourne Archbishop Peter A Comensoli dedicated the new St Mary of the Cross MacKillop Church.

The new church was built on the site of the destroyed St John the Evangelist Church but renamed in honour of Australia’s first saint.

The loss of St John the Evangelist as a result of an arson attack was heartbreaking for Patricia, a parishioner for more than 50 years. The old weatherboard church had stood in Bannockburn since 1901 and was where her husband Jim and all her children had received their first sacraments.

The new church - designed by architect Sandy Law - was funded through an insurance payout, bequests and the tireless fundraising of the community. The first Mass in the church was celebrated by former parish priest Fr Charles Balnaves in November 2019, before the pandemic, and the parish has patiently waited for the dedication throughout the lockdowns and upheaval of the past two years.

Parish priest Fr Joseph Panackal paid tribute to parishioners’ steadfast faith during the time of rebuilding and waiting. “Although we had this difficult period, we still stayed strong as a community,” he said. “This is because the church is not the building we sit in, but rather the people in it.”

Relics from St Mary MacKillop and St Anthony of Padua were interred it the new church’s altar as part of the dedication ceremony.


Archbishop dedicates St Mary of the Cross MacKillop Church, Bannockburn (Melbourne Archdiocese) 

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