Mass at Saint Peter’s Church, Epping, for the sesquicentenary of the church, on Sunday, 8th November 2015

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This is a day of rejoicing because this is the house of God and the gate of heaven. Today we come to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the laying of the foundation stone of Saint Peter’s Church by the then Bishop James Alipius Goold on 5th November 1865.

Melbourne had been a Diocese since 1848 and Mass had been celebrated in the area known as Darebin Creek as early as 1849 in the home of Alexander MacKillop, whose daughter Saint Mary of the Cross MacKillop founded the Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart.

A Catholic school had been here since about 1852. There was a wooden building erected the following year, which was later replaced by a bluestone school house.

On that day one hundred and fifty years ago Bishop Goold celebrated Mass in a marquee and then laid the foundation stone of Saint Peter’s church. Fifteen months later Bishop Goold opened the church on 13th January 1867. Not long ago I celebrated Mass in Saint Augustine’s, Keilor, for their 150 years, so your parish church is the second oldest Victorian Catholic church outside the inner Melbourne suburbs.

Saint Peter’s church, Saint Peter’s primary school, Saint Monica’s college and the new Mary of the Cross school and Mass centre at North Epping are all a reminder of the huge development which has taken place in your parish and which is a great credit to you and to the priests and parish leaders who have walked with you.

What we have to remember in significant anniversaries like this is that the faith planted in our hearts is the result of much prayer, hard work, dedication and commitment by people because they believe the love of Jesus Christ is the thing which surpasses everything else. To know and love Jesus sustains us in our life and leads us on to eternity.

By a strange coincidence I chose the name of Saint Peter at my Confirmation. I did it because of two factors which may be pertinent to you and to me. First, because Peter had a demonstrable love of Our Lord and because he professed ‘you are the Christ, the Son of the living God’. His unwavering and unshakeable faith led him onwards to God’s plan. The second reason why I chose Saint Peter was that he had failed and denied Our Lord and Our Lord forgave him. Our Lord shows us through Saint Peter that there is always room for forgiveness and hope in our lives and where love, determination and the use of our gifts carries us forward then our journey will be to eternal life.

Finally, Peter allowed himself to be guided by his faith and love in Our Lord. We have a new and strongly developing parish, which is placed in our hands, so that together we may treasure and keep and expand the faith that came from Saint Peter and the other apostles and we too may proclaim ‘you are the Christ, the Son of the living God’ and do that by our love, by our faith and by our good works.

+ Denis J. Hart,
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