St Christopher's Cathedral Parish
(including St Peter Chanel's Church, Yarralumla)
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Parish Office, Ground floor, 55 Franklin Street Forrest ACT 2603, Australia
Most Rev. Christopher Prowse DD. STD.; Fr Trenton Van Reesch - Administrator; Fr Alexander Osborne - Assistant Priest
(02) 6239 9846
8.30am-12.15pm, 12.45pm-4.30pm Mon-Thurs. Office Closed Fri-Sun


History of the Parish

The Cathedral is the largest church in the national capital and the  premier church of the  Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn. The  word Cathedral is derived from the Greek  ‘kathedra’, meaning  throne or elevated seat.  The Cathedral is the church where the   Archbishop has his seat, where he presides, teaches and leads  worship for the whole  Catholic community. St Christopher's was  built as the first parish church of Canberra by the  first pastor,  Father Patrick Haydon, although the beginnings of Catholic life in  the district  stretch back to 1862, when the Diocese of Goulburn was founded.  On 30 January 1927, in   the time of Bishop John Barry,  there was a national Catholic pilgrimage to Canberra for the  laying of the  foundation stones of St Christopher’s Church and School by Archbishop Kelly  of Sydney and of the  Convent by Archbishop Mannix of Melbourne.

From Christmas 1927, the Catholic community of Canberra had begun to assemble for Mass  in the hall of  the new St. Christopher’s School.  On 26 February 1928, there was a second  national pilgrimage during  which  the new St Christopher’s School was blessed and opened.    On 27 February 1928, St  Christopher’s Parish was established with Father Patrick Haydon  appointed  first Parish Priest. On 28  January 1928, the Sisters of the Good Samaritan  arrived to staff the new school and classes began. The  event was attended by then Prime  Minister, Stanley Bruce. In1935, the first school principal, Mother  Dympna, died.  She was  commemorated in the marble altar of the church then being planned.  It is still  the altar of the  Cathedral, inscribed with a dedication to Mother Dympna.

1936 – 1939
In 1936, Father Haydon was appointed Dean of Canberra, and it is to him  that St  Christopher’s owes its existence. Following the Depression, Father  Haydon decided to build  a church for Canberra, and the foundation stone was  laid on 8 May 1938 by Archbishop  Gilroy of Sydney. The ceremony was  attended by the then Prime Minister, Joseph Lyons,  and the former Prime  Minister, James Scullin.  It was dedicated to St Christopher because it  was thought that Canberra (which  means "meeting place") would be a place to which many  travellers  would come. On 4 June 1939, the parish church of St Christopher was  officially  opened by the Apostolic Delegate, Archbishop Panico, in the  presence of the new Prime  Minister, Robert Menzies.  St Christopher's  striking Spanish Romanesque style was the work  of the Sydney  architect Clement Glancy.

1948- 1973
In 1940 Father Haydon was appointed Vicar General of the Diocese of  Goulburn, and on 16  March 1941 he was invested by the Apostolic  Delegate as Protonotary Apostolic, and the  parish celebrated its new Monsignor.  In 1947, the first  Ordination in Canberra took place.  Fr Vivian Morrison, son of the pioneering family of “Tralee”  Queanbeyan, who donated the  tower and bells of the extended Cathedral, was ordained to the  priesthood. The Archdiocese  of Canberra and Goulburn was formally established on 5 February 1948,  although the first  Archbishop, Dr Terence McGuire, continued to reside in Goulburn. On 19 April 1949,   Monsignor Haydon died.  He was described as “respected by all  churchmen as he has been  loved by his own flock".  A memorial to him  was added to the Parish in 1962 when the  Haydon Catholic Centre and  Library was opened on the Cathedral site.  In 1955, Archbishop  Eris  O’Brien took up residence in Canberra.  Archbishop Thomas Cahill  succeeded him in  1967 and under his direction, in March 1972 the  extension of St Christopher’s was  commenced to double its seating  capacity and to provide adequate liturgical space. This  work, which  retained the magnificent stained glass windows of the original church, was completed in February 1973 according to plans developed by Clement Glancy, son of the original  architect. The plans for the enlarged church included the bell tower, Blessed  Sacrament Chapel, large  sacristies and a crypt.   The extensions were consecrated by  Archbishop Cahill on 5 February 1973, the  Silver Jubilee of the Archdiocese, and the  extended St Christopher's became the Cathedral Church of the  Archdiocese of Canberra  and Goulburn.

1978 -2008
Archbishop Cahill died in 1978 and was succeeded by Archbishop Edward Clancy (1979- 1983) and  Archbishop Francis Carroll (1983-2006).  In June 2008, under the direction of  Archbishop Mark Coleridge,  the Cathedral was refurbished to mark the Diamond Jubilee of  the  Archdiocese. It is unlikely that any other church will ever claim the  distinction of having  four Prime Ministers as parishioners: Scullin,  Lyons, Forde and Chifley.  Yet it was the  unsung work of humble and  generous men and women which leaves us in possession of this   splendid place of worship.  A gift from the past to present and future  generations, St  Christopher’s Cathedral remains an enduring  testimony to a community united in faith under  one Shepherd, Jesus  Christ.

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