The original church, although structurally sound, was deemed too small for the rapidly growing congregation and closed on November 7 1897 after which time Mass was held in a school room.
The new Saints Peter and Paul was built in just 343 days at ‘Church Hill West’, a site set aside by Colonel William Light for a Catholic church in his plan of Gawlertown. It was opened and blessed 125 years ago on October 16 1898.
“With Catholics greatly outnumbered by other influential established churches of Britain, it could only have been the Holy Spirit who enlightened Light to make provision for a Catholic church,” said parishioner Michelle Calleja.
The double anniversary celebration on the weekend of October 14/15 included light refreshments after the 6.30pm Vigil and 8am Masses. The main event was on Sunday, commencing with the 10am Mass celebrated by parish priest Fr Jose Pazheparambil SDB and concelebrated by other Salesian priests Fr Germano Baiguini, Fr Nick Castelyns and Fr Chris Ford Salesians have been overseeing the parish since 1996.
With more than 250 people attending, the celebration was a great success thanks to the tireless efforts of Parish Pastoral Council chairperson John Veira and member Edwin Cedamon, ably supported by Guida Vieira, parish secretary, and other members of the PPC and parish community.
Karen Redman, a parishioner of more than 50 years, attended in dual roles as Gawler mayor and long serving musician. She was joined by Michelle in the singing at Mass and Mayor Redman then opened the day’s musical entertainment. Together with Frs Jose and Germano she cut the birthday cake which featured a wafer portrait of the church. Commemorative iced biscuits baked by long-devoted parishioner, Mary Mann, were generously distributed to all.
At noon the rarely used church bell rang, and all people stood up for the Angelus prayer, recalling the forgotten Catholic tradition.
“It was indeed a moment of quiet ecstasy, a moment of blessing of the flock and the food,” said Fr Jose.
Parishioners and visitors took a self-guided tour of the historic church with its precious relics, antiques and pictorial charts prepared by Lauren Bennett.
Fr Jose encouraged people to take a short drive to Gawler for weekday or weekend Mass and take in the “splendour” of the Romanesque building featuring unique hand-shaped bricks, elaborate cast iron detailing and local bluestone, towering eight-sided twin turrets over 21m high (equivalent to four storeys), ornate stained glass leadlight windows and exposed timber ceiling.
Fr Germano, parish priest from 2001-2019, managed the exterior restoration, interior painting and laying of new carpets in 2016.
“We are indebted to our pioneering priests and parishioners, we give thanks to those who sought to fundraise for this new church for the Catholics of Gawlertown,” Fr Jose said.
“Years of fundraising activities of juvenile balls, concerts, bazaars, picnics, sport meetings, endless baking and sewing, the many local businesses and individuals for their generous donations and scores of people maintained to its present beauty.”
Michelle also praised the “determined, unwavering commitment from the ‘New Church Committee’ who fulfilled this ambition with selfless, loving duty and honour”.Jump to next article