……………Continued from the book pages 12 & 13
Significantly, both this external respect and the continued unity within the parish were grounded in an object of common pride — the magnificent and historic parish church.
St. Joseph’s church, a pro-cathedral, was planned and built under the inspiration and direction of Dean Owen Davy, parish priest of Benalla from 1880-1908, who died only four months before its completion. The pictures included herein provide some idea of its impressive size and beauty but the following report given in The Independent of June 9, 1908 after the opening of the church, captures its wider spiritual, historical and community import in an era normally marked by calumny and discrimination against Catholics:
Last Sunday the opening of the new Roman Catholic Church was performed [by His Lordship Bishop Reville] in the presence of a great gathering The beautiful structure inside and out, was greatly admired, and must ever remain as a momento of enterprise and generosity on the part of the Catholics and a credit to Benalla and district independent of sect.
The church is designed in a type of Romanesque, with a somewhat florid treatment and up-to-dateness … The building gives an effect at once imposing and beautiful.
The interior of the church is a tribute to the taste of the architects … the chancel arch with its compound mouldings supported by clustered columns and side altars form a picture of beauty seldom seen in the provinces. The chief work of art,. however, is the altar, which will evoke a tribute to the work of the late Archdeacon Davy whose gift it was. The cost is estimated at one thousand pounds, the altar being made of pure marble of Australian origin … ..the building is a monument of beauty for the town and a fitting commemoration of the highly esteemed pastor whose life work it may be said to have been.
Dean Davy’s remains were eventually re-interred beneath the Sacred Heart altar.
At the laying of the foundation stone in July, 1907, Archbishop Carr of Melbourne had told parishioners that “they could leave no more precious legacy to their children than the faith expressed in every brick in the building.,, 2 And by the grace of God that legacy had endured for over three-quarters of a century, as had the Catholic notion of worship — expressed by Fr. Mahoney at the church opening on 7 June, 1908 as “……..not for man but for God.” 3