Called to worship God in Darwin’s cathedral

9 stained glass

By SARAH SPARKS

It was the church bells ringing in the heart of central Darwin that first captured my attention soon after arrival in Darwin – or Garramilla to the traditional custodians of the land, the Larrakia people.

The panoramic vista from my upper floor apartment at ‘H on Mitchell’ looked out to the prominent majestic 103-foot steeple of St Mary’s Star of the Sea Cathedral.

When you hear such a call, you walk to Mass.

The stone-clad cathedral built in the 1960s has an exquisite street frontage of colourful stained glass windows high above the entrance doors.

Aboriginal motifs decorate the interior main window behind the altar. It frames a radiating star above the Madonna and Child with an expanse of sky, three seabirds, fishes, and waves in blue.

Other glass panels on the west of the building depict the emblems of Australian and American armed forces to reflect its special War Memorial Cathedral status and character.

Because during the Second World War, the first St Mary’s church was the seat of the garrison of the military chaplaincy for Australian troops in the city. Japanese forces fired at the church.

The first stone laid for the cathedral was taken from “Rum Jungle”, a quarried area named after a thief who stole 750 ounces of gold from miners after getting them drunk with rum.

Even more fascinating is the fact that it was also the first uranium mine in the Northern Territory.

   The interior of the cathedral with large fans in the ceiling

The inside of the cathedral showcases artwork by Czech artist, Karel Kupka, of the Aboriginal Madonna, high on the east transept wall, high out of harm’s way. A few years ago, she was stolen, then returned when a ransom scheme was foiled.

The altar cross is gilded in pure gold and the priest’s seats are upholstered in crocodile skin.

High above, very large fans of epic proportions dominate the ceiling, pushing cool air down on the big intergenerational congregation. There are enough pews to seat 1000.

Both sides of the cathedral were open on that 35 degree day of worship. Bishop Charles Gauci, the bishop of Darwin, celebrated Mass to a full house.

His enchanting homily spoke of mystic, St Catherine of Sienna and ”the reckless love of God”. His homily wisdom I carry with me, often reflecting on his metaphor of the sea and ”the weeds that choke.”

The bishop reminded us all that life can feel as if it is churned by big waves, yet underneath there is calmness. ”Remember, if you’re anchored in God’s love – you can face anything.”

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