St. Augustine’s Church
Religion first came to the Wodonga area with travelling clergymen who ministered without such visible signs of faith as fine churches, Father Charles Lovat, for instance, arrived from Yass in November 1843 and said mass in the Huon family home, Belvoir, on the elevated site where Cambourne now stands.
But Wodonga’s Roman Catholics eventually built what seems to have been the town’s first church, on land granted in 1854. In 1860 there were reported to be great complaints and dissatisfaction about the lack of a Protestant church in Wodonga. ‘We certainly think our Roman Catholic friends have set us an example in this matter, and we should do well to follow it’, an Albury Banner writer observed.
On October 4th, 1860 Bishop Goold visited Wodonga and consecrated St. Francis Chapel, which was erected on the site of the present St Augustine’s Church. Bishop Goold noted in his diary… “St. Francis Chapel dedicated today, Wodonga. Celebrated Mass at 10am. The Catholic population here is small. School building good. Weatherboard situation.”
The Parish of Wodonga was separated from Chiltern in 1899 and the first Parish Priest was father James Ryan. The present St. Augustine’s was blessed and opened on 27 April 1902 during his pastorship.
When Father Ryan was transferred to Elmore in 1906 Father David Tobin became pastor until he went to Euroa in 1908. His successor was Father Francis Flynn who stayed in charge for twenty-nine years. During that time the church was extended. The marble altar was built in 1918-19 and the beautiful stained-glass windows were donated at about the same time.
1893 Time Capsule Discovered for the Second Time
The Mercy Sisters came to Wodonga on February 6, 1892 and the following year built the convent that served the nuns until relatively recently. Since the Mercy order no longer staff Saint Augustine’s Primary School, the convent is being remodelled to become the Priests’ residence. When completing structural work for the renovations, the building firm unearthed a time capsule with information dating back to the original construction in 1893. This time capsule included copies of The Wodonga and Towong Sentinel, the Albury Daily News, the Albury Banner, and the Albury Border Post. In addition to the newspapers, the capsule included medals, coins (vintage 1893 and earlier), and a Gordon and Gordon Tender Sheet, all in a glass jar which had been buried behind the foundation stone of the former convent. The Grade 6 students from adjoining St Augustine’s Primary School were intrigued with the contents. A student, Rhiannon Eckert said “It’s like you’ve uncovered something from the dinosaur age, because we’ve never been there before.
It turns out that this was history repeating itself as the time capsule had previously been discovered in 1958 when extensions were being added to the Convent of Mercy. Two of the 1958 building team were present when the time capsule was rediscovered. Steve Tinta (70) and Norm O’Neill (87) remember discovering the 1893 capsule when they were removing some foundations and came across the capsule of which none of the sisters at the time were aware. The Mother Superior at the time, Mother Adrian said that she had gone to school at the convent, but during the whole of her long association which the school and convent, no one had known about the jar under the foundation stone. The nuns added some 1958 items to the contents of the capsule and it was reburied.
The 1893 and 1958 time capsule will be reburied when the conversion into the Priest’s residence is complete. (The above details were summarised with permission, from articles in the Border Morning Mail of February 6, 1958 and the Border Mail of February 13, 2009)