The Catholic community of Lawson in the Blue Mountains is rolling out a series of celebrations to mark the 90th birthday of their parish.
The first of the celebrations took place on September 9 when students from the Our Lady of the Nativity Catholic Primary School took part in a Mass celebrating the feast of Our Lady’s birthday (September 8). The students presented a song at the conclusion of the liturgy to mark the event.
Then, on October 21, the anniversary celebrations continued with the commemoration of the laying of the foundation stone at Our Lady of the Nativity church on that day in 1928.
A Mass was followed by morning tea, a display of historical photos, and the taking of an official 90th anniversary photo of parishioners.
Chair of the Parish Management Team Leonard Blahut says it might be a surprise to some that the parish is holding anniversary events just 10 years out from the centenary, but it was seen as a good opportunity galvanise the parish community and provide both opportunities for celebration and formation.
“It’s always a good thing to celebrate your history and at the same time look to the future,” says Leonard.
“It’s a small community in Lawson and there is a kind of special bond or energy. The people are very generous, especially when it comes to appeals and that kind of thing. And we’re hoping to use these anniversary commemorations to help people keep growing in their faith and moving forward, from ‘maintenance to mission’ as some of the current literature says.”
The Catholics of Lawson were originally part of the Katoomba parish and started working towards having their own church in the 1890s, and in 1903, Cardinal Patrick Moran blessed and opened a small wooden building dedicated to Our Lady Help of Christians.
Early in 1928, Mr Richard Meagher offered his Lawson property ‘Durham Lodge’ as the site for a new church, which was to be a memorial to his wife Alice, who died in 1923. It was her idea to use the property for religious purposes, including a church.
The Foundation Stone of the new church was blessed and laid by His Eminence Cardinal Bonaventura Ceretti, Apostolic Delegate to Australia, on October 21, 1928. The completed church was blessed by Archbishop Michael Kelly on April 7, 1929 and Lawson became a separate parish with Fr Patrick Conway as the first parish priest.
A parish school began operating at the same time and was staffed by the Sisters of the Good Samaritan.
More recently, the church was restored and refurbished after it was damaged by fire in May 2015.
The 90th anniversary of the blessing of the foundation stone featured a display of photos from the big day in 1928, curated and presented by parishioner Allan Walsh.
“Over the years I’ve been involved in collecting some of these photos,” Allan says. “Now, they just seem to come my way. I haven’t got all the history, but I’ve got some of it and it’s good to be able to show them on these occasions.”
The celebrations at Lawson continued on Sunday November 11 when Bishop Vincent Long presided at the parish’s 90th anniversary Mass.
And in April next year parishioners will bring out their dancing shoes for a ‘Back to Our Lady of the Nativity Lawson 90th Anniversary Ball’.
This will be followed by a Mass the following day, concelebrated by many of the priests who have been part of the Our Lady of the Nativity Lawson community over the years.
Parish Priest Fr Paul Slyney says the anniversary commemorations are a great opportunity for celebration in the small parish.
“It’s a lovely community,” he says. “We always say that Lawson is the best-kept secret in the Diocese. People own their parish and really care for it.”
Leonard says two spiritual initiatives have emerged from the anniversary celebrations. They are a plan to establish a simple grotto bordering the Church grounds and the primary school precinct to provide a prayerful, quiet place for the students.
The second is the decision to hold Taize prayer evenings once a month in the Good Samaritan Chapel.