Having celebrated the Solemnity of St Joseph on 19 March, Catholic Outlook has profiled the small church of St Joseph’s, Megalong Valley.
Located in the picturesque Megalong Valley, in the Blue Mountains, St Joseph’s Catholic Church serves the needs of parishioners in the farthest reach of the Diocese of Parramatta.
St Joseph’s is one of three churches that form Sacred Heart Parish, Blackheath, under the care of parish administrator Fr Bob Sheridan.
“When I started here [in Blackheath] ten years ago, there were no Masses said in the valley. I had the choice to continue to not have Mass, but I brought Masses back,” Fr Bob explained.
“It is my intention to keep the scheduled Masses for the community of the Megalong Valley into the future.”
“There’d be a riot down there if Masses were to stop,” Fr Bob laughed.
The first St Joseph’s was constructed about 1902 across the Six Foot Track at its intersection with Megalong Road, next to the general cemetery. Father St Clair Joseph Bridge, the parish priest of Katoomba, had previously visited the valley on horseback, via the Six Foot Track, celebrating Mass in the homes of parishioners.
The first church was accidentally burnt down when the visiting priest was spending the night there before saying Mass. He awoke to find the church ablaze and although he was not able to save the building, he was able to salvage two leadlight windows, vestments and a wooden press cupboard before its destruction.
A new church, which is the present church was built on the same site of the first church by Steve Gibbins of Gibbins and Crouch, Blackheath builders. The church was moved to its current site in 1952, as it was felt to be more accessible to the majority of parishioners. The Ward family, who owned the old Megalong station, donated this small plot of land at the entry to the area now called Euroka, off Megalong Road.
“It’s a very special, little church,” Fr Bob said.
“It’s a church with a difference. We sometimes have parishioners arrive on horseback to Mass. It’s a different environment down in the Megalong Valley.
“The church is a much-needed presence for the people living in the Megalong Valley. It’s 15 kilometres from Blackheath and is one of the few buildings in the valley.”
Fr Bob has helped “reactivate” what was seen as a dormant church by celebrating Mass in St Joseph’s on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month.
There are often baptisms held in the church, and at least one wedding a year.
“One of my memories of St Joseph’s is from the last wedding we had there,” Fr Bob explained.
“On the Saturday afternoon, there were huge storms in the valley. The groom, the grooms party and most of the guests arrived at the church, but the bride got stuck coming down from Blackheath.
“A tree had fallen down and blocked the road. The SES came and removed the tree, but the bride was an hour-and-a-half late to the service.
“While they waited, all the guests were able to enjoy the rural setting, and we all got to know each other.”
Despite dividing his time between his three churches, Fr Bob said that St Joseph’s has a special place in his heart.
“A very personal and intimate relationship has developed between St Joseph’s, the community and I,” Fr Bob said.
“St Joseph’s is one of the essential elements of life for people living in the valley, and for that I’m truly grateful.”