Our Lady of Mercy and St. Philip Neri, Melbourne 1906 – 2006
On May 12th, the parishioners of Our Lady of Mercy and St. Philip Neri in Melbourne celebrated the centenary of their parish’s foundation.
Bishop Malcolm presided over the celebrations, which began outside the Melbourne Tea Rooms, the original Catholic chapel. After the hymn, ‘The Church’s One foundation’, the bishop gave a short welcome address and stressed the importance of the parish to the religious life of Melbourne. A prayer followed and the procession to the church began.
The Melbourne Town Band provided the music for the outdoor section of the liturgy and led the procession with great panache up Church Street from the Tea Rooms to the church. As the procession reached the church the newly hung church bell pealed exultantly.
The church was beautifully decorated for the occasion with floral displays, not only from the parish but also with flower arrangements donated by all the other four Christian churches in Melbourne.
Bishop Malcolm celebrated Mass, a truly ecumenical affair with ministers and parishioners from the Melbourne Anglican, Methodist, United Reformed and Baptist congregations present. Parish priest, Fr. Anthony Axe, welcomed three of his predecessors who concelebrated at the Mass. They were Fr. Anthony Pateman, now at the Infant of Prague, Syston, Fr. Philip O’Dowd, parish priest of St. Hugh’s, Lincoln and Canon Anthony Dolan from St. Mary the Immaculate, Grantham. Fr. Anthony Axe preached on this occasion and mentioned the importance of celebration in the life of Melbourne in general and in this parish in particular.
Thanks to the altar servers who turned out in force, and to Henry Wilkins, the church organist, the liturgy was very special.
The ceremonies were followed by a reception in the parish hall and garden during which a cake, inscribed with the names of all the parish priests from 1906 to the present day, was cut.
As a permanent reminder of the centenary, several parish projects were instigated.
The church bell, silent for twenty-five years and inconspicuously hanging at the apex of the church facade, was refurbished by Mr. Bob Smith, owner of the local Bell Foundry. While the scaffolding was erected for the painting of the church’s exterior woodwork, the opportunity was taken to remove the bell. It was grit-blasted to bring out the original patina of the brass and an electronic clapper fitted.
Situated above the high altar, the crucifix was given in 1908 by the Rev. Francis Richmond and was obtained from the terracotta works at Measham. The cross on which the figure is mounted is the one which was used for the ceremony of the blessing of the foundation stone on July 19thy, 1907. The gilt rays were added by Lord Walter Kerr in 1913. With the passage of time, in this case ninety-six years, the gilt had dulled and darkened, causing the crucifix to merge into the background. Lord Walter’s descendant, Lord Ralph, arranged for the rays to be covered with gold leaf. A local craftswoman was commissioned to do the work of restoring the rays and retouching the figure of Christ. It now shines out above the high altar, once more a notable feature of the church.