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You are here: Home About Us Churches History St Ignatius' Church A Church on the Hill - 1867 - 1894
A Church on the Hill - 1867 - 1894 PDF Print E-mail
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A Church on the Hill
1853 - 1866
1867 - 1894
1895 - 1927
1928 - Present
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Laying of the Foundation Stone

On 4 August 1867, the first Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Polding, OSB blessed and laid the foundation stone of the church, in the absence of Dr Goold, Bishop of Melbourne, who was then visiting in Europe.

It was an event which gave profound pleasure and satisfaction to the Catholics of Richmond. A collection by these people made on that occasion towards the building of the church realized £700 - a large sum of money in those days and especially since the givers were people of humble means.

Blessing of a Church: Stage 1

Work on the foundations was completed by March 1868 and in the following July, the building of the body of the church began. In less than two years it was completed and on Sunday 13 March 1870, the ceremonial opening of the completed sections of the church (the nave [central space in a church], aisles, and part of the tower) was performed.

By 11:00am, more than 1000 people had packed the new church so that there was not even standing room to be found: 2000 attended outside. The Vicar General of the diocese, Very Reverend Dr Fitzpatrick assisted by deacon and subdeacon, first blessed the church, and then celebrated High Mass. Peter Lalor, the leader of the Eureka Rebellion, and by now a much more sedate Member of Parliament took up the collection. The St Francis' Band was hired for the opening ceremony and the singing was performed by a combined choir which included members of a visiting Italian Opera Company. The cost of the building up to that date, including the site and furniture was £12000.

Completion of the Church is Stalled

In 1872, the present St Ignatius' Church presbytery was built. It was considered the finest in Melbourne at the time and afforded great views out to the Dandenong Ranges from its balcony.

In 1872 also, the government passed the Education Act. This provided for free, secular and compulsory education and it cut all government aid to private schools. This created a financial crisis for the church in Victoria. Bishop Goold responded by bringing teaching orders to Melbourne, and for a while the Christian Brothers ran the boys' school at Richmond.

Some years seem to have elapsed before the next stage of the building was undertaken, probably owing to these financial problems.

Father Dalton Leaves

In 1878, Fr Dalton was transferred to Sydney after 12 years of untiring labour in Richmond. Before his departure, which took place on 21 April 1878, he was presented with a farewell testimonial by the parishioners in St Ignatius' Church which was crowded to excess.

An illuminated address, a purse containing 250 sovereigns, and a chalice was presented to Fr Dalton. The address, which was read by Mr S V Winter, expressed in moving words, the sorrow of the Catholics in Richmond at losing their father and friend who by his zeal, prudence, foresight, and business tact, had done so much for the parish and people of Richmond. Fr Dalton, deeply affected, thanked his friends for their affectionate farewell and their generous cooperation during the 12 years he had been among them.

On the day of his departure for Sydney on the ship Ly-ee-Moon, a large number of his friends assembled on the pier to wish him "God Speed" and "a ringing cheer was sent after him as the steamer bore him over the waters".

Father Mulhall Takes Charge

Fr Joseph Mulhall - Parish Priest 1878-1893.  Photographer: Unknown.To Fr Joseph Mulhall, who succeeded Fr Dalton as Parish Priest of Richmond, fell the task of completing the building of the church which had been so splendidly begun. Fr Mulhall arrived in Melbourne in 1867 and later went to Richmond where he remained until his death in 1897. He was Parish Priest for 15 years from 1878 to 1893.

The Faithful Companions of Jesus in Richmond

In 1882, Fr Mulhall brought the nuns of the Society of the Faithful Companions of Jesus (FCJ) to Richmond. They established Vaucluse Convent and at once took charge of the Girls' School, which in a short time had an attendance of 400 girls. Soon after that, they opened their well-known secondary school at the Vaucluse.

Blessing of a Church: Stage 2

On 26 April 1885, Archbishop Goold blessed the foundation stone of the transept (either of the two wings at right angles to the nave of a church layout shaped like a cross).

On 5 August 1888, the transept was solemnly opened and blessed by the new Archbishop of Melbourne, Dr Carr. The cost of this section was £21000.

The Church Is Completed - But No Spire

St Ignatius' Church with spire still to be built.  Photographer: Unknown.By 1892, after endless fundraising and with tremendous effort, the church was completed except for its spire, bringing the total cost from the beginning to £42000.

Girls' and infants' education was in the hands of the FCJ Sisters, and lay teachers under Jesuit leadership conducted boys' education. By now Victoria was in the grip of economic depression, and the first great period of building drew to a close.

Blessing of a Church: Stage 3

The solemn blessing of the completed church minus the spire took place on 4 March 1894. It was performed by Archbishop Carr, assisted by Bishop Reville OSA, Coadjutor Bishop of Sydney. Father Dalton, now 80 years old, was specially invited from Sydney to see the complete realization of the project he had begun 27 years earlier.