The Shepparton Catholic church of St Mel’s Christ the King is about to enter a new era after a 50th anniversary facelift involving more than $300,000 of improvements to the building.
A new roof, a state-of-the-art sound and lighting system, and a “Way of the Cross” pictorial display are among new elements helping to lift the congregation’s spirits and comfort during restoration work carried out this year.
St Mel’s parish priest Fr Peter Taylor said he hoped the work would help people feel more connected to the church.
“We think it will enhance people’s sense of belonging to the church community here in the south of Shepparton, and also bring more connectedness and enhance their own faith and spirituality,” he said.
For half a century the stark, modernist brick building has sat on the corner of St Andrew’s Rd and Hamilton St in south Shepparton ministering to the spiritual and community needs of 3600 local Catholic parishioners.
However, successive storms and changing technology over the years has meant the congregation has battled a leaking roof and deteriorating sound and light systems under the vast interior space of the pitched ceiling.
“The sound was very basic, older people were finding it hard to hear services,” administration officer Ainsley Yandall Etuale said.
A new sound and lighting system can now be operated by the touch of a button on a computer.
New terracotta tiles imported from Spain are now replacing the old concrete tiles that have been in place for 50 years. The next stage will involve painting the lofty interior of the domed ceiling which has been discoloured by years of rainwater leaks.
Inside, the walls now display a new series of beautifully-made prints depicting the power and passion of Christ’s journey to the cross.
The project has been funded through the 2020 sale of a block of land owned by the church at Rafferty’s Rd in Kialla. Generous donations from Visy, the Shepparton RSL and private individuals have also helped cover the costs.
Fr Taylor, who took over as St Mel’s parish priest in 2019, said the whole project had been a consultation exercise involving the parish finance committee and pastoral council, and the Bendigo-based Catholic Sandhurst Diocese.
“I feel very humbled really this is now actually happening. I would never have thought that this would be something I would be involved in,” Fr Peter said.
The physically low-profile of the building has also been reflected in a generally lower community profile of the church down the years – which is something Fr Peter hopes will change once the improvements are completed.
“We’re hoping that this will mean a physical renewal and a spiritual renewal for families and a rediscovery of what the church means to people. We certainly feel there’s a real sense of vitality that will emerge as this project is finished,” he said.
“It’s a good time – for something positive to be seen to be happening for churches and for the Catholic church in particular.”
St Mel’s restoration team: L-R: Finance Committee chairman Danny Whyte, parish priest Fr Peter Taylor and administration officer Ainsley Yandall Etuale.