I haven’t posted on this blog for a long time now, but I feel moved to share these thoughts following a Memorandum that was posted recently on the noticeboard at Villa Maria, Fortitude Valley.   The memo is dated 27 December 2017, and a copy was passed to me yesterday.   It is addressed to the “Residents, Relatives, staff, VM community friends” and as the first paragraph says, “including those who have been regular visitors to our resident chapel.”  The memo is intended for many of us, therefore, and deserves to be seen by all concerned.  As the memo will probably be counted as “community communication/consultation” at some point, this is further reason to see that it is shared with all concerned.

I share these thoughts as a concerned Catholic, and in support of the lay faithful who are upset at the proposed building works to be undertaken in the original chapel at Villa Maria.   Villa Maria is a spiritual gem of our Archdiocese.  As someone who was “born and bred” in Brisbane, I – along with many others – feel a strong connection to this place of prayer.  Father Julian Tenison Woods co-founded the Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in 1874, and the Sisters have been in Spring Hill since 1881 and on the present site since 1900.  The older building, which contains the chapel which is the subject of this post, was constructed from 1927 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Villa_Maria_Hostel).

It is noteworthy that Catholic Healthcare explicitly states in the memorandum that it has abandoned the plans for a café adjacent to the chapel.  This is good news.  However, what remains perplexing, as per the drawing, is that approximately one third of the people’s nave of the chapel is still to be turned into a “gathering space” and to be partitioned off from the remains of the chapel by glass screens.  What is also not mentioned, and what exists in the documentation for building approvals (as seen already on the internet), is the demolition work to be undertaken to turn the choir loft into a dining room.

The burning question in this debacle is this: why is it not possible to create the additional dining and lounge facilities for the residents in some other part of the building, or in the courtyard spaces around the chapel?  At least one other Brisbane architect has spent many hours to work out how all the extra facilities for the residents can be incorporated, without having to do anything at all to the chapel.  Why are these suggestions not being taken on board?  Why is one of our historic and beautiful sacred spaces going to be permanently disfigured by relegating parts of it to secular use, when there is absolutely no need to do so?  Catholic Healthcare plan to increase the number of residents at Villa Maria, so surely more space should be needed in the chapel, not less.

Catholic Healthcare (http://www.catholichealthcare.com.au/), the organisation that has the lease on the old building at Villa Maria, is owned – as I understand it – by the Catholic Bishops of Lismore, Wollongong, Bathurst, and Parramatta, together with the Sisters of Saint Joseph.  A win-win solution exists to this situation, with the addition of extra facilities for the residents, and also the preservation of the old chapel, retaining its unique character as it presently is, as a sacred space which has been in continuous use as a place of worship and prayer for close to a century, and remains so to this day.  Please help save this historic and special place, as it is, for the present and for the future.

We implore the above-named bishops to intervene, and to help steer the situation to a happy conclusion for all involved.

Other updates on Villa Maria have been seen here: https://twitter.com/Bl_LongoSociety

Villa Maria Memo 2017 12 27 p.1

 

 

 

 

 

 

Villa Maria Memo 2017 12 27 p.2