By guest writer Catherine Toomey.
An organic uprising is occurring across Brisbane upon the discovery of otherwise clandestine plans to repurpose part of Brisbane’s heritage Villa Maria Chapel into a café.
A prayer vigil has been organized for this Wednesday evening (6th December at 6:15pm) in protest and reparation outside the venue. Additionally, a handwritten petition has already attracted almost 1000 signatures in a matter of days.
Event spokesperson, Mr. Peter Bond, stipulated that the event is non-political and will be attended by not only concerned Catholics but many in the broader community who have concerns with the heritage impact of the proposal to put a café inside.
“It’s outrageous to imagine this sacred space being desecrated in such a way,” he said.
“Can you imagine one side of the chapel watching a Mass being presided over while on the other side of the glass divider, others are nonchalantly sipping on their lattes?”
The stately Spring Hill building is owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane but leased by Catholic Healthcare Australia and is attached to an aged care facility they manage. It operates alongside the original convent for the still-active Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, founded there in 1874 by Fr. Julian Tenison Woods of Mary Mackillop fame.
Bond said that the lack of dialogue with the community is highly disappointing and that he couldn’t understand why a good, alternative proposal for the site had been knocked back.
“This is one of THE most utilised heritage sites for Catholics in Brisbane,” he said. “Imagine if big business made such a decision to desecrate indigenous land or a Muslim mosque at this juncture?”
The decision to desecrate this sacred space comes after a similar scenario at St. Patrick’s Church in Fortitude Valley which has now been bravely reconsecrated by Fr. Peter Brannelly.
“We simply cannot be silent anymore and we hope our stand encourages our bishops, whom we dearly love, to gain the fortitude to stand alongside us in defense of our key sacred spaces,” said Peter. “There have been enough attacks on the Church and religious liberty of late.”
Sign the online petition here.