Our Lady of Victories Centenary Celebrations

Wednesday 19 June 2013

Laura Meli
ONE HUNDRED years ago an estimated 45,000 people flocked to the site of Our Lady of Victories to witness Archbishop Carr lay the foundation stone. On Sunday 2 June, the feast of Corpus Christi, Archbishop Denis Hart concelebrated mass at Our Lady of Victories Basilica with 22 other priests from the Archdiocese of Melbourne to honour this momentous occasion.

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Those gathered at the altar included Fr Michael Morgan, current parish priest, Monsignor Brian Walsh, the immediate past parish priest who was instrumental in having the church declared a Basilica in 1996, and Fr Michael FitzPatrick who had been an assistant priest at Our Lady of Victories during the 1960s. Also present were Fr Brendan Hayes and Fr Bob Matthews who grew up in the parish and Fr Karmel Borg, whose family have been parishioners since migrating from Malta in the 1950s.

The basilica was filled to capacity with five hundred people gathered for the celebration. During his homily, Archbishop Denis Hart acclaimed the fittingness of celebrating the centenary of Our Lady of Victories on the Feast of Corpus Christi. Our Lady essentially draws us into her son, and as Archbishop Hart recognised, “this church has always been a place of prayer, a magnet to draw people to God.” The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian, and the life of this parish continues to draw people into this mystical body of Christ through its celebration of the holy liturgy.

Archbishop Denis Hart gave special recognition to Mary Hurley who was born on 2 April 1913, thus sharing in the 100th year celebration with this basilica. Mary has been a faithful and active parishioner of Our Lady of Victories parish for the past 47 years.  Also in attendance was Gavin Williamson, husband of the late Patricia Dinneen, grand-daughter of Robert Harper who built the basilica, as well as descendants of the Glennon and Castle families who were among many major benefactors at the time who donated the basilica’s magnificent stained glass windows and other sacred objects.

Many past and present members of the parish attended as well as visitors from across the Archdiocese of Melbourne. Fr Michael encouraged his parishioners in his bulletin message, to “savour fully the spiritual and social dimensions of this day, drawing strength and inspiration from the century of our forebears to continue living fully the Christian life.”

Following the mass, parishioners and visitors gathered in the school hall to continue the parish celebrations. The walls of the school were lined with collections of old and new photographs. Black and white prints drew one back a hundred years ago into the vast crowds who gathered for the laying of the foundation stone in 1913 and the official opening in 1918. Wedding photos on the steps of the Basilica spanned across every single decade, and special moments in time were captured, including the attendance at a Debutante Ball in 1948 of erstwhile Prime Minister and future President of Ireland, √Čamon de Valera. The photos gave a sense of the vibrant life of the parish over the last hundred years and a taste of hope for the future. The celebrations were a testament to what Archbishop Denis Hart had noted was “the rich tapestry of the Eucharistic, sacramental, and family life for which Camberwell has always been noted.”

Read more about the history of Our Lady of Victories, Camberwell here