St Brigid's church battle goes into print

PREMIER Denis Napthine will launch the story of the community battle to save Crossley’s historic Catholic church on Saturday.

The memoir, Saving St Brigid’s, by Regina Lane, was officially launched at last month’s Port Fairy Folk Festival.

The Premier has been a long-time supporter of The Friends of St Brigid’s and agreed to help out with a second launch event as part of this weekend’s Koroit Irish Festival.

Dr Napthine worked alongside Lane when she was elected as leader of the house to the Victorian Youth Parliament in 1999 when he was opposition leader.

Saving St Brigid’s traces Lane’s family migration from Ireland, after the famine, to Killarney. It tells the story of her family’s ongoing commitment to the faith and community life that surrounded the building, as well as the quest to save it from sale.

Lane grew up in Tower Hill and said St Brigid’s was her “second home” as a child.

She moved to Melbourne to study at 18 but happened to be living at home when the campaign to save the church began.

“It’s (the book) my personal family history and my own story of growing up in a very rich Irish Catholic culture — but not necessarily being very aware of that until ... St Brigid’s finally closed,” Lane said.

“Being there on that day at the last Mass I awakened to how strong and connected our community was and how much we were about to lose.”

Lane said “the penny dropped” of the importance of the Saving St Brigid’s campaign because she was working for the Catholic church at the time in social justice.

She learnt that her roots went beyond a childhood connection to the building.

“It was my great-grandfather, Dan Lane, that led the committee that built St Brigid’s,” she said. 

“He stood on that altar nearly 100 years ago with the statement ‘we wanted to build a church, we wanted to build a big one, one that we could proudly hand down to our children as a legacy’.

“If I had any motivation for writing this book it was the mere fact our ancestors’ intention was clear from one small statement. I felt some responsibility to my descendants to share our story.”

Response from readers across Australia had been positive, Lane said.

“The feedback has come from so many corners of Australia — I’m not even sure how some people got hold of the book.

“What I’ve most enjoyed about people’s feedback is how much people have identified with my family story and our immigration story. I couldn’t ask for anything more as a writer than to have that personal response.”

Part of the book sale proceeds go to the Friends of St Brigid’s to pay off the group’s $200,000 mortgage and keep the church and hall in community hands.

In June there will be a celebration to mark 100 years since its opening.

The launch event will take place on Saturday at 1.30pm at Sacred Stones, Commercial Road in Koroit, followed by a question and answer session.

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