It was a joyous day of celebration at St Mary’s, Maffra, as the community, along with Bishop Greg Benette, gathered to commemorate 100 years since the blessing of the church on May 4th, 1924. Here is a reflection on the day from parishioner Christa Dwyer, who played a significant role in organizing the celebration. 


One hundred years seems such a long time, yet it passes so quickly. The older I get, the more I realises how fickle and short life is and how quickly those who form the fabric of our lives are gone. Some pass from life and others, especially the young, grow and leave for larger cities or towns. Hence, the faith blows across the land and the Communion of Saints reshapes itself day after day after day. It is God’s beautiful plan for His creation.

Reflecting on the Centenary of the St. Mary’s Church building in Maffra, I can’t help but recall so many words of Scripture that breeze through my thoughts, hymns that sing in my memory and images of people and events, recent and long since gone that I see in my mind’s eye. Above all, it’s the sea of the faithful, the waters of grace that flow from one central place to scatter seeds that grow wherever they land, that touch my heart.

When the Gibneys, the McLeans and others donated lands and funds so long ago, they had no idea as to how the tapestry of St. Mary’s would look one hundred years later. The stories and memories woven into history by God’s grace and the faithfulness and works of His people are an immeasurable, infinite, life giving treasure.


On gazing at the photos of the priests, sisters and the faithful who have come and gone, I try to imagine their joys and struggles. I consider Father Peter Kilduff, killed in a car accident while driving to Dargo for Mass on Ascension Thursday in 1927, homesick for his home in Ireland but responding to God’s call in a far away land. Not so different from our own Father Edwin Ogbuka, far away from his home in Nigeria when his own father died just days ago but committed to stay with his people to celebrate the centenary and fulfil his immediate obligations. I wonder how proud Father Francis Ruth would have been of the grounds he developed and how beautiful they are for us today. I smile as I imagine the joy Monsignor Callanan would have felt had he known that children would play around his grave every Sunday after Mass and I feel a pang of nostalgia seeing Father Frank Young and Sister Mary Fermio on a photo, proudly carrying the World Youth Day Cross in the church grounds in 2007.

I see the Josephite sisters and some of the students they taught and I wonder at all the decisions they had to make about classes and students and all manner of necessary works they undertook to nourish the faith in the young and support the needs of families and community. I recall in my own life, Sister Mary Fermio who knew exactly how to help and offer care through flood, fire and grief.

A centenary celebration is a special time – the old become young through their memories and pictures. The young capture the journey of the old in a new light. Those who have gone to God return to us in the beauty of what they have given and the depths of what we see in the faces and places of historic and recent pictures. 

Scripture comes to life –
“But of this one thing be not ignorant, my beloved, that one day with the Lord is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” (2 Peter 3:8. Douay Rheims Bible). 

Each life is unique and special - each life a thread in the tapestry of God’s love. Each story is woven into the masterpiece of creation. Even the gravestones show their value, as do the buildings erected with love and purpose. Already, three days have passed since the celebration. The present is already past. How great is our God, how mighty His deeds. 

On our special day, people came to Maffra from distant and local places. Many McLean descendants attended to honour their ancestors. Father Alister McLean, the ninety one year old great grandson of the benefactor, Allan McLean, concelebrated the Mass together with Parish Priest Father Edwin Ogbuka and the Principal Celebrant, the Reverend Bishop of Sale, Greg Bennet.

How beautiful was that Mass! At that moment in time, all present were drawn to that central, sacred place - heaven’s Altar on high, united with all who struggled, lived and died in Christ. How wonderful the luncheon afterwards, bringing together the old and the young, community groups, people from other faiths and a councillor from the Wellington Shire. People reconnecting and sharing their special memories.

With ANZAC day having been three days earlier, it was a stark reminder to me that every generation carries its cross but leaves a legacy for others.

The Prophecy of Malachias 1:11 sums it up so eloquently;

“For from the rising of the sun even to the going down, my name is great among the Gentiles, and in every place there is sacrifice, and there is offered to my name a clean oblation: for my name is great among the Gentiles, saith the Lord of hosts.”

So, the day has come and gone. New memories have been forged and pictures taken. Stories shared and new connections made. Yes, the trials and struggles remain, but hopefully, in time to come, the future will celebrate and acknowledge that which we are striving to nourish today. 

And, in heaven the Mass of that day has been absorbed into the one Universal and Eternal Sacrifice of Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour.