ST JOSEPH’S Catholic Church in Orange has been the site of several key events for Marlene Farrell, who joined in the Catholic Parish of Orange’s 150th anniversary celebrations on the weekend.
“It’s a real milestone, it’s been a time to celebrate the history of the church over many years and all the hard work the priests, the nuns and parishioners have put in to keep the Catholic community alive,” Mrs Farrell said.
Although she was baptised in Carcoar in 1936, Mrs Farrell said St Joseph’s had played an important part in her life since she started school in Orange in 1941.
In that time she has seen many changes.
“I was married there in 1955, all my five children were baptised there, received their sacrament and had their first communion,” she said.
“My aunty was the housekeeper at the Catholic presbytery for many years and I used to sleep there at times.”
Mrs Farrell was also on the parish council for about 10 years and said it used to be a social hub, with the St Joseph’s tennis courts a site where many marriages were founded, including her own.
Since her early days at the church, Mrs Farrell said the community attitude towards Catholics had become more accepting and there had been many changes to the congregation, from a family-focused Australian and Irish congregation to a more multicultural gathering today.
“We had whole families come, the early mass was at 7am and then mass was at 9am,” she said.
“There were a lot of young people, the church was crowded for every mass we had, there was beautiful music, the choir was often asked to sing at weddings.
“At one time there was discrimination against Catholics in Orange. Employment options were limited because you were a Catholic.”
Mrs Farrell said discrimination had not been an issue for several decades, but other changes had seen fewer families attend regular mass.
“Everyone comes back for Christmas and first communion, but unfortunately they seem to come for special occasions rather than every week,” she said.
“At the moment we’ve got a lot of older people, but we are very multicultural now, there’s quite a lot of Africans and Fijians.
“It’s made it much richer, there’s quite a strong Indian community.”
As fewer Australians take up vocations Mrs Farrell said she had also seen more Indian and Vietnamese priests come to St Joseph’s.