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Flying the flag at Kingston


The simple but unique St Therese’s Church at Kingston SE is the pride and joy of the coastal town’s tiny Catholic community.

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With only about a dozen regular worshippers and nearly 100km from the next Mass centre, the church is served by the Mount Gambier parish which provides a priest for Mass twice a month when it can.

The tight-knit community is determined to do all they can to keep their much-loved church going.

They no longer need a cleaning roster, sharing the jobs amongst themselves and opening up for anyone who might need to get inside.

“We’re pretty close to each other, we’re always in contact and if someone has passed away we let each other know and help their family,” said Lyn O’Halloran who has been a parishioner at Kingston for nearly 50 years.

At the recent funeral of 93-year-old Pat Armfield, Lyn and her fellow parishioners were on hand to set up and pack away extra chairs, organise the music and assist Fr Olek Stirrat.

With eight children in the Armfield family, the small church was overflowing with relatives and friends. “It was amazing, I think it’s the most people we’ve ever had,” Lyn said.

The original church.

Opened in December 2009 by the late Archbishop Philip Wilson, the weatherboard church was a long time coming for parishioners who previously worshipped in a former army hut relocated from Warradale Camp in 1947.

For the next 60 years parishioners harboured a desire to have a ‘real’ church.  Plans and discussions progressed under the guidance of committee chairman Peter Redden and in 2009 proceeds from the sale of land and buildings enabled the new church to be built on land acquired in MacDonnell Street.

The church, designed by an architect from Mount Gambier, features pillars made from ‘paddock stone’ and stained glass windows illustrating the story of St Therese.

“When we were planning the new church I said I’d really like it to have stained glass windows,” Lyn said.

“We didn’t have enough funds but Peter Redden said ‘Lyn if you want leadlight windows you are going to have them’ and we applied for a grant from the council.

“A local artist read a book on St Therese to help her create the lead light design.

“It’s a very simple church but it’s so beautiful and it means a lot to us.”

Lyn said the building was also important to other people in the town, especially in “times of need” and at Easter and Christmas when there was an influx of tourists to the town.

She would love to see the church decorated at Christmas to attract visitors and is more than happy to unlock the church for any people passing through.

When John O’Farrell, who grew up in Kingston with his three sisters, returned to the town last year he was warmly welcomed by the St Therese community.

“Lyn was gracious enough to bring me about three or four jars of fig jam when she heard it was my favourite,” said 87-year-old John, whose family has had a long association with the Kingston Catholic community.

His mother lived in the presbytery after she was widowed and John and his wife Estelle were married in the old church by the then parish priest Fr Leo Cronin in 1958. His older sister Mary Banks, 90, helped at last month’s funeral and used to conduct liturgy of the word before her eyesight deteriorated. Younger sister Margaret Pinkerton is also an active parishioner.

“It’s a beaut little church,” John said.

“But our numbers are shrinking and we’re on the outer edge of the parish set-up…we just have to stick together and do what we can.

“We’re flying the flag in our little part of the world.”

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