Bishop of Lismore Geoffrey Jarrett at the closing mass of St Dominic’s Catholic Church at Harwood.
Bishop of Lismore Geoffrey Jarrett at the closing mass of St Dominic’s Catholic Church at Harwood.

Church shuts to tears

TEARS welled up in the eyes of many faithful parishioners at yesterday's morning service as more than a century of mass, marriages and mourning came to a close at St Dominic's Catholic Church, Harwood.

After succumbing to financial pressure and a decline in parishioners, a decision was made by the Lismore diocese last year to close the iconic local church.

Constructed on land donated to the diocese in River St, opposite the mighty Clarence River, the first weatherboard incarnation of St Dominic's Harwood was built in 1908.

Levelled by a cyclone in 1914, a massive community effort saw the church rebuilt the same year, before it was replaced by the current building in 1966, the same year the current Harwood Bridge opened.

The Sisters of Mercy occupied a convent adjacent to the church from 1928 until 1957, educating many of those who attended yesterday's mass.

Faithful parishioner of more than 60 years, Rex Wiseman, emotionally reflected on what the church meant to him.

“Our kids were raised in here. They even learned to walk in here,” he said tearing up.

“Sister Coleman taught my dad here at Harwood, me here at Harwood and my children at Grafton.”

Regrettably, Mr Wiseman said the cost had factor forced the church to close.

“The maintenance and the shortage of priests caused the closure,” he said.

Father Peter Padsungay, who has been a minister of the Lismore diocese for three months at Yamba, Maclean and Iluka, said it was a sad day for the parish.

“It is really very sad, especially for those who have been faithful and coming here,” he said.

Father Padsungay said that for the past two years, regular mass had not been held at the church.

“Because of the depopulation of the area, we don't have any more new members to keep it going,” he said.

Lismore diocese Bishop Geoffrey Jarrett addressed about 80 Catholic faithful who were there for the last mass.

“It is a very sad event for me,” he said. “It cuts against the grain entirely for me as a bishop to preside over the last mass here.”

At the end of the mass, the emotion of the day was written all over the faces of members of the congregation, who assisted in carrying the sacred vessels, altar cross, candles, liturgical books and alter cloths from the holy building for the last time.

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