CHRIST THE LIGHT CATHOLIC PARISH – Past, Present and Future
All will have seen the bluestone church that is St Joseph’s on the eastern side of Plenty Road about half way between Hazel Glen Drive and Bridge Inn Road.
The first Mass in the district was in 1857 in a private home (since demolished) on Yan Yean Road on the hill that is north of the Doreen Store. Mass was celebrated subsequently for the district - twice yearly - at the Ryan family home in Yan Yean to meet the needs of the growing (largely Irish) Catholic population, especially among the workers at the reservoir.
In 1874, a meeting was held and a decision taken to build a church, fundraising commenced, and the land where the church is located was purchased. The church history brings out a very important point.
While this was a Catholic initiative, the whole community contributed in various ways, and showed a sense of shared community at that time. Reports at the time noted “all sections of the Upper Plenty, irrespective of creed or country, have promised aid with a liberal spirit”, and “the generous aid of our Protestant neighbours.” A subsequent example of this early ecumenism was the donation of the organ sometime after 1928 by Leslie Clark of Chapel Lane, Doreen. Mr Clark was not a Catholic.
With limited resources, progress was slow but steady, and building commenced in 1879. The distinguished church architect, Mr T. A. Kelly designed the church in “decorated Gothic style”. Much of the work was by voluntary labour from the reservoir workers. Fund raising continued. And with a final surge it was completed and opened on 23 February 1884.
Down the years it served the rural community. Mass was on a monthly basis until the 1980s. The needs were simple. Electricity only came in 1981. And a toilet was only added in the 1990s. Our forebears were tough!
More change has occurred in the past decade than in the previous 120 years. With the coming of urban Melbourne, the church community has grown substantially.
In 2006 we moved from one Mass on Sunday to two, and in 2012 this was extended to three (with one being at the Nazareth Centre at St Joseph’s School). The church is small, and cannot cope with big congregations as occurs at occasions such as Christmas (1200 celebrated Mass this Christmas). These large Masses necessarily are held at the Nazareth Centre. There are now also weekday Masses at the church.
It is over five years now since a new parish was established. Previously we had been part of the Epping-Mernda-Whittlesea parish. Given the growth of the area, a new parish comprising Mernda-Whittlesea-Kinglake has been formed. This includes Doreen and surrounding areas.