Church at Kialla

"The New Rush - 1880-1980"

from Chuch History Centenary Productions


A visitor to Kialla and Caniambo districts these days may be pardoned for wondering why that area was chosen for the first Mass to be held in the Shepparton district. However, a glance at the old Parish Plans and the population statistics of that era will soon reveal the reason. Plans show that the vast majority of settlers were of Irish origin and so it was not surprising that even a creek in the area was named Irish Creek. Population figures in Ray West’s book “Those were the Days” show the Parish of Kialla had 1000 inhabitants in 1879 while Shepparton’s population was nearly as big a Mooroopna’s, which was 500. A creamery, store and two schools, Catholic and State, give an indication of a busy community of pioneers and the names Pattison, Kennedy, O’Brien, Kerrins, Quinlan, Clampett, Ahern, Murphy, Treahy, Herir and many others, are still remembered today. It is not surprising then that the necessity for a church soon became evident and a local resident named Broderick contracted to construct the new edifice. His first task was to build a stable and gig shed, very necessary in those days, on part of the site and he installed his family in these buildings, while completing the church. The great day for the opening of the church arrived and Catholics and their friends from many miles around arrived for the big occasion. Father Kennedy, who was to officiate, went to Mr Broderick for the key to the new church, and it is understood that the following conversation took place. - Father Kennedy: “Have you the key to the church Mr Broderick?” Mr Broderick replied: “Have you got the money Father?” Father Kennedy: “Not at the moment”. Mr Broderick replied: “Well Father, no money no key! ”. As Mr Broderick remained adamant, Father went back to his flock who were patiently waiting for the church to open and after surveying the scene for a few minutes, decided to take action.

He walked around the church looking at the doors of the building, followed closely by a large crowd who were a little over- awed at the turn of events. Father finally chose the door of the sacristy as the best means of entry and turning to the crowd said “I will use the key I brought from Ireland” and gave the door a couple of hefty thrusts with his shoulder backed by approximately sixteen stone in weight and the opening of the first church at Kialla had been accomplished! One old parishioner stated later that the door to the sacristy was never properly locked from that day on. Many sporting and social efforts to raise money to help pay for all the expenses required to build and maintain the church were held either at the church or on land adjacent to he church, and in the “Shepparton News” of November 6th 1879 we read of a “Grand Concert in aid of the funds of the Catholic Chapel, Kialla, will be held there in on Wednesday 26th November, 1879. Doors open 7.30pm. Chair to be taken at 8.00pm. Ball on grounds adjoining, Supper and Refreshments provided. Singles 5/- (50 cents) Double 7/6 (75 cents)”

In The Advocate on September 27th, 1879, we are advised that Father Kennedy presided at a meeting in the Chapel at Kialla “re establishment of a branch of the Catholic Education Defence Association”. Exact date of the opening of the Kialla church is not known, but it would have been shortly before or shortly after St. Brendan’s Shepparton in 1879.”

.... The Kialla church remained in the parish up until 1933, when it was transferred to the new parish of Mooroopna, and then in 1955 it was given over to St. Mels.

Karramomus South church-school built in 1872, Barmah east and Mundoona built in 1877 were the only other church buildings in the new parish which was decribed by an early historian a little later as "one of the most important ecclesiastical districts in the Sandhurst diocese". The parish extended from Miepoll in the south to the Murray in the north, Pine Lodge and Youammite in the east and the Goulburn river in the west.

... Bishop Crane was kept busy keeping up wqith Father Kennedy's activities and during May, 1880 we learn that he administered the Holy Sacrament of Confirmation at Sheparton on the 8th, and blessed the new church at Kialla on the 15th, and then on the 29th opened and blessed a new church at Strathmerton. When blessing the Kialla church he described it as “one of the handsomest wooden chapels in the colony”. The address in reply was read by Patrick Hehir, (Caniambo) and signed by Messrs. Michael Hannan, Patrick Quinlan, James Devan, Patrick Kerrins, John Keady, Thos O'Brien, Thos Murphy, Timothy O'Brien, Andrew Pattison and John Dugga. Confirmation of approximately 50 children followed the opening ceremonies.