They had outgrown their old church which overflowed with large families of seven, eight, even 12 children.
It was common for a family to take up an entire row and parishioners said they were “packed in like sardines” and forced to sit away from friends and family if they were late due to lack of seating.
Ahead of the church’s 50th anniversary in August, parishioners recalled driving from 30km out of town, with seven or eight children squashed into one car, up dirt tracks and sometimes not making it to Mass because they would get bogged.
It was “pretty tight” back then, parishioners said, but the old church held a lot of fond memories.
Since moving into the new St Mary’s Church they have made many more memories, with new families and new friends, all of which are about to be celebrated as the church hits 50 years.
Following the opening of the new church, located on Victoria Parade, a ministry team was developed to help with the running of the parish, the establishment of a liturgy team and the creation of the St Vincent de Paul Conference which is still going to this day.
Parishioners have undertaken various catering opportunities and fundraising events over the past 50 years, with some of the funds going towards the $60,211.90 cost of the new church.
A hall was also built alongside St Mary’s Church in 1997 which parishioners described as a “great success”.
“People have been able to gather there after Mass for morning tea and a chat,” said parishioner Margaret Cooper.
“Lunch is offered once a month and some funerals and birthdays are catered for in the hall as well.”
The creation of the new hall followed the sale of the old church site which had been used for various functions and Sunday school for some years after the relocation to St Mary’s. The old church is now a residential home.
Over the 50 year period the parish has had 10 resident priests and the much-loved Sr Liz Morris as Pastoral Director.
Father Neil Kelly was the first priest followed by Fathers Bill Modystack, Kevin O’Loughlin, Noel Molloy, Wlodzimierz Sobolewski, Antoni Chabraszewski, Kevin Horsell, John Vildzius, Peter Fountain and Sister Liz before Father Christopher Matala. During Sister Liz’s time as Pastoral Director Father Richard Morris and then Father Dean Marin parish priests of Mount Gambier and Dean of the South East Region were appointed Priest Moderators.
Current Vicar General Father Philip Marshall also spent time in the parish in 1982 during his last year in the seminary.
While in Bordertown he assisted in the running of the parish and helped with liturgies, prayer groups, baptisms and marriages. He also visited the sick and the elderly and worked with youth groups.
The parishioners proudly pointed out it was in Bordertown where he made the final decision to become a priest, being ordained on August 18 1984. Fr Marshall will return for the anniversary celebrations.
It’s not just the priests that have changed over time but the make-up of the parish as well.
Numbers attending church have fluctuated over the years. Families have decreased in size and the children who once attended have moved away.
But there has been an influx of Filipino families over the past 10 years.
“The first Filipino families started arriving to work at the meat works in 2009 and more followed in 2013,” said parishioner Denise Rowett.
“They have enriched the life of the Bordertown parish community with their participation in all aspects of the Mass and general running of the church.”
While there are many new faces within the parish community there are a number of parishioners who were there when the move was made from the old church to St Mary’s.
Parishioner Des McCarthy was on the original committee for the new church, the St Mary’s War Memorial Church Building Fund, and said he was there the day the decision was made to go ahead with the project.
“After Mass one Sunday the committee went around to Peter Nicholls’ (chairman) house and Father Kelly (Bordertown Catholic priest at the time) said ‘so are we going to go ahead with this or do we scrap it’,” said Des.
“I said ‘I’ll move to have it’ and someone seconded it and that was that.
“It was very exciting but we also dreaded that we were never going to be able to get it built because there was a bit of trouble when it first started.”
But the church was opened eventually, despite a false start due to flooding, and now next month parishioners both past and present are set to come from all over South Australia to celebrate 50 years.
The anniversary event will commence with afternoon tea at 2pm followed by a Vigil Mass at 6pm and dinner on August 17. All those interested are asked to RSVP by July 20 to Julie Piggott on 0417 867 582 or Cathy Hinge on 0408 586 299.