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Uncovering history of Catholic faith in Clare Valley


A book delving into the history of the Catholic faith in the Clare Valley will be launched next month.

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Entitled Two Churches – St Michael’s 1849 -2019: The Catholic Faithful of the Clare Valley, the book has been produced by Clare parishioner Gerald Lally after several years of research.

Featuring more than 300 photographs, the book covers the origins of the Catholic community in the region and the construction of the two St Michael’s churches in the town.

As outlined in the publication, the first official Catholic Mass in the Clare Valley was held in the barn of Patrick and Sarah (Naulty) Butler at Armagh in 1844. The original St Michael’s Church was blessed and opened on May 6 1849 by Bishop Murphy.

The town’s first school was conducted in St Michael’s Church from 1849, until several other private schools opened in the town. This building is now part of St Joseph’s School in Clare.

In the 1860s, Clare was still the most northern settlement in the colony of South Australia and its population increased as new pastoral lands were established, and it became the main business centre for the outlying properties.

With the number of Catholics also increasing, it soon became apparent that a bigger church was needed to accommodate the growing congregation. Construction of the second St Michael’s Church began in 1873, however it was another decade before it was blessed and opened by Bishop Reynolds.

In addition to the history of the churches, the book also covers the contribution made by the predominately Irish Catholic pioneering families who settled in Clare and Armagh from 1842 to 1920.

One chapter covers ‘Weddings through the Decades’, including photographs from 1903-2000, and another looks at first communions and confirmations. Other topics include the history of various church groups, some dating back to the 1860s, St Michael’s Cemetery and local members of several religious orders.

“It is not only Clare and Armagh that I touch on, but there are small chapters on Bumburnie/Blyth, Polish Hill River, Sevenhill, Undalya/Auburn and Mintaro,” Mr Lally said.

“It is really a history of the Catholic faith in the Clare Valley.

“Recording our local histories in detail is important for people to look back on and experience in a way, the lives of those who have gone before us and see just how far we have all come.”

A thanksgiving Mass will be held at St Michael’s Church, Clare, at 11am on Sunday October 27, followed by a pooled lunch and book launch in the afternoon. Past and present members of the region’s Catholic community are invited to attend.

For more information about the book contact Gerald Lally on 0457 020 680.


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