HUNDREDS of people will make the pilgrimage to Crossley this weekend as the iconic church of St Brigid’s celebrates its long-awaited centenary.
It’s a milestone many thought St Brigid’s would never reach, but in what can only be described as an exciting build-up, organisers have prepared the festivities for a celebration finally coming to fruition.
Tomorrow marks the 100th year since the inaugural Mass was held at the famous hilltop steeple back in 1914 and parishioners will return for a special commemorative service.
It’s certainly fair to say those who have supported the church and hall over the years are ecstatic about the celebrations.
Dennis Bushell is chairman of the Friends of St Brigid’s Association (FOSBA) and says the hard work makes it all worthwhile. “It is very exciting, but it’s also been a hell of a lot of work,” Mr Bushell said.
“We’ve got two full sittings for our meal. We have 300 booked for our meal on Saturday night alone.”
Off the back of troubles beginning in 2006 when the church was decommissioned and closed, the fact it’s become a part of the community again is seen as a blessing. “Being a bricklayer by trade, architecturally, you can’t knock that building down. It’s got to be saved,” Mr Bushell said. “I appreciate the sacrifice and hard work our ancestors went to. They had to build it all by hand, and it’s certainly a massive job even with modern technology.
“More the significance of it for me was that the people back in the old days went to such an effort to build it, surely we could go to the effort to save it.”
It’s been a huge effort preparing for the weekend’s celebrations, with working bees becoming more frequent.
Significant renovations have restored the Crossley hall to its former glory without compromising its heritage.
“When we actually purchased the whole precinct, we needed a 200-litre garbage bin in the hall when it rained, the roof was that decrepit. And a lot of people in the community thought the hall was probably too far gone, but we’ve been able to put a new roof on the hall to stop it leaking,” Mr Bushell said.
“New heating, new kitchen, airconditioners, first-class lighting system, sound system.
“What we’ve also tried to do is retain its character, so we haven’t gone too silly on it. (We’re) continuing to improve it.”
A $500 donation from Port Fairy’s new Bendigo Community Bank on Tuesday was a good way to lead into this weekend’s events.
Centenary celebrations will kick off on Friday and will continue throughout the weekend at the St Brigid’s precinct in Crossley.