The following posts will be extracts from the book Death of a Catholic Parish presented here to tell only a part of the whole story. Hopefully this will interest you enough to get the book and read it all for yourself (Disclaimer). If not we hope and pray that it will at least prompt you to sign the NEW petition for the restoration of this Parish, and the preservation of others like it, this is the whole purpose of this site. This is our goal and nothing more. It is not all about the building.

We also hope that you subscribe to follow our posts via email and spread the word far and wide.

Only through the sacrifice, prayer, support and action of like minded faithful Catholics will it be done. Then hopefully through this site many others may come to understand what has been happening not just to this Parish but in Catholic Parishes all over Australia for the past 40 odd years. Maybe through this site there may be a re-ignition of the faith at St Josephs Benalla which will then spread like wild fire all across the country. We hope and pray. There has never been a story like this one published into a book. Now a piece of history. Lets hope we can all learn from it.

We encourage you to comment on any of these posts by clicking on the Leave a comment link on the right hand side of each post just under the heading, or at the bottom of each post. You can use your name if you wish or you can leave the name field and email address fields all blank and remain anonymous by just typing your comment and clicking the Post comment button. All comments will be held for moderation until approved by the administrators.


Death of a Catholic Parish – INTRODUCTION – WIND OF CHANGE page 10

The Catholic Jewel

Situated about 220 kilometers north-east of Melbourne, Be­nalla is known in the secular realm as The Rose City for the pic­turesque setting of its famous Art Centre amidst rose gardens by the Broken River. Despite its small population of around 9,000, the city boasts an international reputation as a premier gliding locale. In the Catholic world, building on the unswerv­ing faith of it’s Irish ancestors, St. Joseph’s parish had won for itself an epithet as “the jewel” of the Sandhurst diocese.


In his introduction to the historical booklet published in 1976 to celebrate the parish centenary, Monsignor Michael O’Reilly, parish priest since 1971, referred proudly to ” … a loyal and closely knit Catholic community who still retain a strong tradition of faith, deep spirituality, personal and family prayer and devotion to the Mass and Sacraments.”

This is not to say that St. Joseph’s was a parish version of The Brady Bunch. Like all parishes, it had its share of dis­agreements and petty bickering and it was not untouched by the post-conciliar tumult. During the 1970s-80s, with newchurch in-services, conferences and retreats producing a standard Jekyll and Hyde transformation of the local convent, the newchurch version of Catholic education cast its unholy shadow across St. Joseph’s primary school and F.C.J. College. Following the fa­miliar skirmishes and regulation dismissal of parental concerns by the Bishop, some informed parents withdrew their children in favour of either state or home-schooling.

Self-centred, feelings-based newchurch programs like Mar­riage Encounter and RENEW also gnawed away, rat-like, at the orthodox foundations of the parish, indubitably sowing seeds of discontent among those who gravitate toward pick-and-choose, cafeteria-Catholicism like moths to a flame.

But these things pretty much simmered below the surface and it was only the arrival of Benalla’s first thoroughly “modern” cleric that acted to reinforce, at the workaday pastoral level, the principles upon which such programs were based — personal autonomy and supremacy of conscience.

Yet despite this encroachment of the new church, it is fair to say that St. Joseph’s parish, under the gentle guidance of its faithful, orthodox pastor, coped far better than most. Through­out the 1980s, therefore, Monsignor O’Reilly’s earlier assessment in the 1976 centenary booklet held true:

We are weathering the present religious turbulence rea­sonably well. Avoiding undue conservatism on the one hand and unregulated experimentation on the other. The Catholic Community through fidelity to Christian values has won for itself a respected place in the wider local society.

Continue reading

It’s not all about the building



  1. This is a very interesting site. I am aware of this kind of thing happening time and again but I have never seen it documented into a book. I will be following this site with interest and will also pray for this intention.

  2. I have also heard of altars and churches being remodelled etc, but I think this is the first book that has actually written about it. What a gem. Also what a wonderful tool to illustrate what damage this kind of modern thinking does to people and their faith. I would love to get a copy of my own. Where can I order it?

  3. I know of this church and from what I have seen it has been restored, possibly not to its former High Altars, but it has its orientation correctly placed after the wreck-o-vation

    • from what I have read this site is not on about returning the church to it’s “high altar days”. It’s about getting it back to a CATHOLIC parish first with a parish priest that wears a collar and blacks, you know someone who looks like a priest. and just before the comments start rolling in this is not old hat, but very current and in fact the new trend. So if you think this kind of thing is old fashioned you need to get with it. I think the Bishop dresses like a cleric so what is the issue?
      As far a the building goes, it really doesn’t matter. What matters is what is done in the church. How is the Mass said, what is the sermon about, is it all about community and the people or is it all about God? But if we do look at the restoration of the building from the pictures it looks like the altar is round, still not in the old sanctuary and the seats are arranged in a semi circle?? So until the altar is back where it belongs and the seats arranged correctly, there is still some work to be done. And what about the confessional?? Do we still need one?

  4. Pieter. This web page is not about the Church building. I suggest you read all the post that have been made and you will come to understand what the “Team Ministry” did to lead the Laity away from their Catholic Faith.

  5. This site could be a terrific resource to show people not what could happen when you move away from the holiness of the Mass and bring in all kinds of strange things. Music is a big issue for me and I just cringe when they have a band at mass. A guitar just does not belong in a church.

  6. We had a Deacon in our Parish actually wearing his collar. I said it was great to see. He said he didn’t often wear it because of the abuse he copped from other clerics. He said I have no idea what goes on in these peoples minds. He said a Policeman wears an uniform. So why shouldn’t they? He also said that he wears it when he goes onto schools for publicity reasons.

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