Cute church divides (and unites) a community

For sale: Cute church which divides (and unites) a community

Property
Michael Carey and the church. Picture: Paul Melville

Michael Carey and the church. Picture: Paul Melville

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Here's the saga of a tiny country church which is loved, but not supported.

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It is a parable of our times.

Everybody seems to love the local church in country Australia - but not enough people worship there to make it financially viable.

So it is in Wee Jasper.

The intimate Our Lady of the Rosary Church is being assessed by the archdiocese for sale because so few people attend mass there - but the rest of the community is annoyed that a tiny village will lose its focus.

"It's a cute little church but it needs someone to love it," Helen Delahunty, financial administrator of the Catholic Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn, said.

"Sadness is not going to fix things."

She calculates the church needs $30,000 in repairs just for starters. The guttering is off the roof and more work needs to be done.

"We are good citizens. We don't want it to fall apart. This is the heartache of country parishes."

She says the Catholic Church's angst in Wee Jasper is echoed by Presbyterians, Anglicans, Baptists and the whole range of denominations faced with declining congregations right across country Australia.

The worshippers aren't there.

It's not so much that Wee Jasper's population is smaller than it was when the church was opened on September 13, 1954.

Sadness is not going to fix things. - Helen Delahunty

It's just that time's moved on, according to Michael Carey, who was born in Wee Jasper and got married in the church.

For the last 15 years, he's been the mower of its lawn, a task he took over from his uncle.

His sister used to help in communion. His father and grandfather helped build the tiny church, fashioning the cement bricks made on-site. His mother used to do the cleaning and arrange flowers there.

The types of people living in Wee Jasper and the rest of country Australia have changed.

When he was a boy, there were workers on the big properties. Today, the labour-saving quad bike rules.

"These days, properties are run by the owner who may have one off-sider," Mr Carey said.

Houses are owned by weekend visitors from Canberra, Sydney and Wollongong.

People commute to Canberra and watch television instead of engaging more fully with the local community.

Our Lady of the Rosary Church, Wee Jasper. Picture: Supplied

Our Lady of the Rosary Church, Wee Jasper. Picture: Supplied

When he was a boy in Wee Jasper school, there were 16 pupils. Today there are three.

The church in Wee Jasper has been closed since the pandemic, but before that only a handful attended mass.

But the prospect of its sale has met opposition from local people.

Although Our Lady of the Rosary is a Catholic Church, other denominations have used it now and again.

"The foundation stone says it was "built by the united effort of the people of this district".

"It is with great sadness that we heard about the proposed sale of the church, not directly from the Catholic Church itself, but from valuers assessing the sale of the property and associated land, "Mel Reynolds, the secretary of the Wee Jasper Community Association, wrote to the parish priest, Father Peter My.

"Given the Wee Jasper community's involvement with the church, we found this to be both insensitive and a little disrespectful."

Father My apologised for the way others in the community learnt of the proposed sale, but promised to keep people fully informed in future.

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The story Cute church divides (and unites) a community first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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