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Special gifts mark 100 years

Monday, 26th June, 2017

By Michael Murphy

An exchange of special gifts across the globe will help mark 100 years of the Wilcannia-Forbes Diocese in August.

Celebrations for the important milestone for Catholics in the region have a distinctive mining theme and will include a special mass at the Cathedral and reception at the Trades Hall.

Polish miners have crafted from coal a metre-high statue of Saint Barbara, the patron saint of mining, paying tribute to the long association of the Catholic Church with the miners of Broken Hill.

The artwork was blessed during a special ceremony in Poland with the miners who made it, and it will be installed at the front right-hand side of the Lane Street Cathedral during celebrations.

In Broken Hill, the Pace and Zammit families have donated a mineral artwork by artist Laurie Pace, depicting the Pope’s coat of arms, as a gift to the pontiff from the diocese.

Mr Pace also made two other works which he is donating, one for the Pope to promote the City of Broken Hill, and one of the Cathedral for the local parish.

Bishop of the Wilcannia-Forbes Diocese, Columba Macbeth-Green, got a preview of the pieces at Mr Pace’s Wilson Street gallery on Friday afternoon.

“I’m blown away, to be quite honest,” the bishop said. “I have never seen any artwork quite like this.

“It’s fantastic, just beautiful. I didn’t quite believe it until I saw it.”

Bishop Columba belongs to the Polish order - St Paul the First Hermit - and when he became the bishop of the local diocese three years ago, a party led by the head of the order came to Broken Hill to congratulate him.

“One of the secretaries had an association with the miners in Poland, and he was just amazed at all the mining history (in Broken Hill) and the cathedral in the middle of outback Australia,” the bishop said.

When he returned to Poland, the secretary recounted his travels to miners there and they decided to begin work on the statue of Saint Barbara to present as gift to Broken Hill.

“I just think it is great,” Bishop Columba said. “There’s a brotherhood among miners internationally.”

The Diocese of Wilcannia-Forbes includes 22 parishes in an area occupying half of the state of New South Wales.

It was formed in 1917 after parishes were merged with the Diocese of Wilcannia, which was formed in 1887.

Sacred Heart Parish committee member, Mary-Ann Zammit, said they hope the donation to the Pope would adorn the walls of the Vatican or the Pope’s personal office.

“It will be a one-off, he will never get another one like it,” she said.

“Being part of Broken Hill with the minerals, it is something significant from us to him, so hopefully he is going to like it,” she said.

Mr Pace, who began working in the Broken Hill mines as an 18-year-old, working various jobs underground and on the surface, began his mineral art career in 1983, the centenary of Broken Hill. 

“One of my work colleagues Bushy White was doing it so I thought I would like to have a go and see what it was like,” Mr Pace said.

“I source the minerals from everywhere. I’ve got a brother, Frank, who is a collector. He gives me a lot of stuff.”

The artworks have been framed by Award Picture Framing in Gypsum Street.

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