First Chapel of St Therese of Lisieux celebrates centenary anniversary

19 Oct 2023

By Contributor

By Ali Biddiscombe

Fr Greg Burke, main celebrant with Fr Brian Lucas, Fr Nelson Po and Fr Nino Vinciguerra concelebrating behind him. Photo: Supplied.

St Therese of Lisieux Chapel at the Catholic Pastoral Centre in Highgate has this month celebrated the centenary of its consecration with a special Mass on Sunday 2 October.

The Mass was organised by Catholic Mission in partnership with the Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions and the Catholic Pastoral Centre.

Morley Parish Priest and celebrant Father Greg Burke OCD, Carmelite Friars WA Prior, led the Mass assisted by National Director for Catholic Mission Father Brian Lucas, Coordinator of the Parish Renewal Program and CEWA Chaplain Fr Nino Vinciguerra and Applecross Parish Priest, Fr Nelson Po.

The commemorative Mass was also attended by 42 including members of the Fellowship of St Therese of Lisieux who were affirmed for their on-going support for the Missions in the spirit of St Therese of Lisieux.

The centenary Mass marked the anniversary of the first chapel in Australia to be dedicated to St Therese of Lisieux and part of the Convent for the Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions, now known as the Catholic Pastoral Centre.

St Therese of Lisieux was a Carmelite sister whose spirituality inspired many religious congregations but particularly the sisters of Our Lady of the Missions whose Convent chapel in Highgate was dedicated to her.

She was proclaimed the Universal Patron of the Missions in 1927 by Pope Pius XI and became the Patron Saint of Catholic Mission.

Sr Marie Therese Ryder RNDM delivering her reflection on St Therese alongside Fr Brian Lucas and Fr Greg Burke OCD. Photo: Supplied.

Two special speakers were invited to present the history of the chapel and a reflection on St Therese at the celebratory Mass.

Sr Shelley Barlow RNDM set the scene and gave important historical context to this commemorative Mass with her opening talk on the history of the Chapel.

Sr Marie Therese Ryder RNDM then gave a moving and inspirational reflection on the spirituality of St Therese of Lisieux.

In her reflections, Sr Shelley asked the congregation to imagine being in the chapel in 1923.

She said the total cost of construction in the 1922 budget was 17,000 pounds but extra funds were needed to finalise the build in July 1923.

Sr Shelley said the records gave an account of an impressive ceremony both outside and inside the chapel with prayers of dedication at the chapel door, and the Litany of the Saints sung before the high altar at the consecration.

“Every sister of Our Lady of the Missions made her religious profession in this chapel, most were missioned within Australia, but others were missioned overseas,” she said.

Afternoon tea with members of the Fellowship of St Therese of Lisieux after the commemorative centenary Mass. Photo: Supplied.

She said the Chapel continues to be a sacred place of prayer by past and present staff and students of Sacred Heart Primary School and by members of the Sacred Heart Parish.

Sister Ryder also shared her thoughts during the special mass of Sister Therese’s spiritual journey.

“St Therese has been an important person on my life since my secondary school days here in Highgate and over the years I have continued to deepen my understanding of her life and her relationship with God,” she said.

“It is something of a mystery to many people as to what it is that makes Therese saintly considering the apparent ordinariness and restricted milieu of her short life.

“St Therese possessed an authentically missionary heart. She longed to bring the message of God’s love to others.”

Sister Ryder used the voice of St Therese to portray this mission.

“In the beginning when I first entered Carmel, I tried very hard to be perfect, to become a saint but then I was given the grace to see that I had it back to front, that what is important is knowing, receiving God’s love – holiness consists in letting God be the God that Jesus revealed – the God of love.”

“St Therese teaches us that to focus on extraordinary things is to miss the point… holiness or faithfulness to our calling, consists in letting the energy, the power, the dynamism of God’s love be alive,” she said.