1876 _ November –
Until 1874 the entire colony of Victoria was under the care of the arch diocese of Melbourne. The suffragen Dioceses of Ballarat and Sandhurst came into being. Sandhurst was then served by seven priests and the four parishes forming the new diocese were Bendigo, Echuca, Wangaratta and Beechworth. In 1876, two years later, the parishes of Chiltern, Benalla and Nagambie were established.
1855 – From Beechworth, a potential Federal Capital, Fr Patrick Smyth came to Benalla to build its first Church/School in 1855. The 1st mass offered in Benalla was on the site of what was later to become the “Liverpool Arms” hotel
1858 – St Joseph’s School established.
1866 – First St Joseph’s church built.
1876 – Benalla remained under the guidance of Wangaratta until 1876 when Fr John Scanlon, the assistant priest of Beechworth, became the 1st pastor with headquarters in Benalla. His health deteriorated and at an early age of 33, he died in January 1880. Our Lady’s altar in St Joseph’s was erected in his memory.
The old Presbytery in Benalla – “Vaucluse” along the Mansfield road was replaced in 1900 on the present site adjacent to the church in Arundel Street. Dean Owen Davey undertook the building of a new church with prophetic vision and confidence in the future growth of Benalla in 1907, a spacious church, much larger than the needs of the time required. Sadly, he died in January 1908 aged 67, and his church was blessed and opened free of debt in June of that year, costing in total 9000 pounds. So in Benalla is a church of unsurpassed beauty, an architectural gem.
In 1919 the beautiful stained glass window was added. In 1936 a Parish Hall was erected. In 1974 this was replaced with an imaginative and intelligently planned hall at a total cost of $150,000
In 1971 the sanctuary was modified to meet the liturgical requirements for the Mass to be celebrated facing the congregation. The table of the old marble altar was retained but the rest of the Marble was new and in keeping with the dignity of the church. A new pipe organ was installed and the floor was carpeted.
We need to then add to this history timeline,
In 1989 a team of “progressive” clerics was assigned to St. Joseph’s church and quickly decided that it needed “updating”. They also abolished devotions and encouraged all kinds of liturgical abuse.
During the controversy the church was gutted by an unexplained fire. The pressed metal ceiling and roof were destroyed by fire in 1989; the ceiling has been replicated and the slate roof with terracotta capping has since been replaced with grey Colorbond corrugated roofing.
The renovation carried out afterwards finished off what the fire couldn’t.