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St Thomas More College’s chapel blessed and officially opened

Bishop Ken Howell blesses the altar inside St Thomas More College’s newly
refurbished chapel

AN old church that found a new home at St Thomas More College, Sunnybank, has been blessed and officially opened.

Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Church, Old Cooranga North, which sat between Kingaroy and Jandowae about 240kms west of Brisbane, faithfully served the parishioners at Cooranga from 1938 to 2013.  

The old church made an epic 380km journey from Old Cooranga to its new home at Sunnybank on the back of two trucks with a fleet of pilot and other vehicles guiding the way. 

It would serve as a spiritual centre for the college and the Sunnybank community. 

Bishop Ken Howell blessed and officially opened the newly refurbished St Thomas More Chapel during the college’s annual Romero House Mass.

He encouraged the students to make use of their new prayer and worship space.

“The encounter with God is at the heart of any Church building,” he told the students.

“The space and its layout, its decorations, keep us in contact with the divine; wherever there is beauty there is God.”

Principal Les Conroy said it was a wonderful feeling to finally witness the blessing of the chapel after an eight-month journey of restoration.

“It’s been a long journey to get to this point,” he said.

“We’ve had to refurbish an 80-year-old building to modern building codes, include disability access and get all certifications up-to-date.

“We even found two snakes who had made the journey from Cooranga North inside the walls.

“They were found alive and well when we pulled off the cladding.”

While the exterior looked the same as it did in 1938, it had received a fresh coat of paint and some new garden beds.

Inside had been modernized with a new stained-glass window depicting St Thomas More took pride of place behind the altar.

On one wall, behind a pane of glass, was a preserved section of the original hand-painted wall panelling and stencilling.

Mr Conroy said the chapel would be a fantastic community asset that would be used by students and community groups. 

He said the college also invited about 80 parishioners from Cooranga North to celebrate the very first Mass in the newly blessed chapel.

“We thought it was important to have them here for the historic occasion as they were the last to celebrate it in the old location.

“We wanted them to be the first to celebrate in its new location.

Former principal Peter Elmore, who returned to the college to witness the blessing and official opening of the chapel, said it was a great story to tell and one that would continue to grow.

He said it was fantastic to see what was started in July 2016, with the initial purchase of the building, finally come to fruition.

“The college’s done an absolutely amazing job in bringing the old chapel back to life,” he said.

The students will gain a sense of being connected to something much older, a great connection back to the families from Cooranga North

“From my perspective, I didn’t want to see this old Church lost forever; now it’s on a new journey alongside the faith journeys of young people here at St Thomas More.”

Mr Conroy said it had not only been a long journey for the chapel, but also for the college community.  

“Our staff and students have been very supportive and pretty excited by the whole project.

“We’ve even incorporated a new bell, which was struck in Italy, and began a new tradition for Year 7 students to welcome them to the college.

“As each student make their way to the bell tower, they pull on the chain, and as the chimes ring out across the parish the students make a commitment to become “God’s Servant First”.

He said the tradition also would see college staff commit to teach, challenge and transform the lives of each student until they graduated in Year 12 when they rang the bell once again as they began a new journey to go out and make a difference in the world.

Brisbane Catholic Education Office

243 Gladstone Road, Dutton Park Q 4102

GPO Box 1201 Brisbane 4001 Australia

Phone: (07) 3033 7000

Fax: (07) 3844 5101