Pennies to…Heaven?

30 Apr 2008

By The Record

By Matthew Biddle
St Bernadette’s parish in Port Kennedy has raised more than $5000 to fund the building of its new church by collecting five-cent pieces.

IT ALL ADDS UP: Parishioners Mary Coton (left), Betty Burgoyne (centre) and parish priest Fr Gavin Gomez (right) with more than $50 worth of five-cent pieces which will go towards the new church. Photo: Matthew Biddle

The small parish has been offering Mass in a school hall for the past
13 years but within months will have its own brand new church.
To help pay for the new church, parishioners have been taking home
small containers, filling them with five-cent pieces and returning them
to the parish since May 2006.
Parish priest, Fr Gavin Gomez, described the amount raised by the five-cent piece collection as “astonishing”.
“This will certainly help and to pay some of the costs of the new church,” he said.
“Maybe it will buy four chalices, it might go towards paying for the
altar, but certainly we’ll spread it around and use it wisely for the
Parishioner Betty Burgoyne, who organised the collection, said she
never expected the simple fundraising initiative to raise so much money.
“I don’t think anybody did really, everybody’s quite amazed,” she said.
“I think it’s been absolutely magnificent … for a small parish it’s been wonderful.”
Mrs Burgoyne said a number of small jars and containers are left at the
back of the church for parishioners to collect and fill with coins if
they wish to.
“People seem to like the film canisters because they soon get full and
they can bring them back quickly, and I think the children enjoy that
too,” she said.
The fundraising campaign started brightly and has steadily gained
momentum as parishioners have started to make a conscious effort to
save their little coins.
Mrs Burgoyne said there had been no distinct pattern in the weekly collection amounts, but rather a fluctuation.
“Every now and then we get a big surge … but it comes and goes, some
weeks we only get a few dollars, and some weeks we get quite a lot,”
she said.
Mary Coton, who is responsible for counting and banking the money, said it’s been a massive task but one she’s enjoyed.
Mrs Coton said most weeks it takes about half an hour to count the money, before it’s placed in a deposit bag and banked.
Each weekend the parishioners are informed of the collection’s progress
by a detailed graph which appears in the parish bulletin.
The smallest collection was just $7.30, while the largest was a phenomenal $253.55.
One parishioner had been collecting five-cent pieces for a number of years and produced $36 worth of the tiny coins.
Fr Gavin said many people simply disregard the smallest Australian coin but the collection had certainly proved their value.
“You always find them lying around in cars, or gathering dust on shelves, or falling out of your pocket on the road,” he said.
“It’s ingenious really, to collect all of these five-cent pieces and put them to a good cause, it’s wonderful.”
Although the majority of the money raised has been from five-cent pieces, other coins have also been collected occasionally.
But there have still been almost 100,000 five-cent pieces collected by the parish.
That’s enough coins to make a trail 18 kilometres long.
Fr Gavin said what the parish has achieved by collecting such an
incredible amount of money from the smallest denomination has biblical
“It’s like the multiplication of the loaves, you start off with
something little and next thing you know there’s 100,000 of these
five-cent pieces, it’s wonderful,” he said.
The new church for St Bernadette’s parish will be officially opened on June 8.