“Introibo Ad Altare Dei” (“I will go into the Altar of God”). Thus did Father Patrick Loughnan begin the first Mass celebrated in Ashburton on Sunday 11 December 1927.

The setting was the Ashburton Hall located on the corner of High Street and Johnston Street, just west of the shopping centre. The site is now a Shell Service Station. At the time, Ashburton formed part of the Parish of Glen Iris.

Image“Introibo Ad Altare Dei” (“I will go into the Altar of God”). Thus did Father Patrick Loughnan begin the first Mass celebrated in Ashburton on Sunday 11 December 1927.

The setting was the Ashburton Hall located on the corner of High Street and Johnston Street, just west of the shopping centre. The site is now a Shell Service Station. At the time, Ashburton formed part of the Parish of Glen Iris.

The Ashburton Hall was used for community gatherings, so had to be set up and dismantled after the Mass to be used for a Presbyterian service. There was an attendance of only 72 at the first Mass.

As the population grew it was decided to build a church/school/hall on ground donated by an anonymous person on the east side of the railway line, on the fringe of the Ashburton Forest. Fr Loughnan was invited to fence off what land he needed. A committee was established and donations sought. The church was completed in time for the first Mass to be celebrated on Christmas morning 1932.

The church was given the name St Michael. This was perhaps named after a Salesian priest, Fr Michael Maiocco who travelled from Sunbury each weekend to celebrate Mass for the outpost of Ashburton. He was a very popular man, with many talents and a reputedly disarming smile. Also, Fr Loughan had a great devotion to St Michael, so perhaps it was a combination of the two influences.

On 26 April 1946 Ashburton was created a parish, entrusted to the care of Father John Ryan who had been an army chaplain. As the parish grew he had to buy more land from the government to meet the growing demands. There was much done by the parishioners and school parents in the way of fund-raising and fun-raising. The community was thriving.

The school was opened in 1946 with Sheila Evans as the teacher of 23 pupils. Every Sunday the classroom was converted back to a church. In 1948-49 a new building was erected and the Presentation order had taken over the running of the school.

By 1950 there were 400 families in the parish and in 1952 the presbytery was built. There was now a priest-in-residence. A larger church was needed.

Fr Ryan oversaw the building of the present church, but tragically, 2 months before its completion he suffered a sudden heart attack and was found dead in his study.

On Sunday 15 May 1955 Archbishop Daniel Mannix blessed and opened the church. The first Mass in the new church was celebrated the next day - the Requiem for the repose of the soul of Father Ryan.

Fr John Connellan was then appointed parish priest, inheriting a 50 000 pounds mortgage!

In June 1969 a review of the parish showed there were 801 families and 385 pupils at the school.

Fr Connellan left the parish in 1972 and was replaced by Fr Phillip Smith who was a very well-respected and loved pastor to the community until his retirement in 1998. Fr Smith oversaw many innovations, both materially and spiritually at St Michael’s. His main building project was probably the Community Centre which was opened in 1978 and is still a very valuable resource – for the school, parish and the wider community.

Fr Bill Attard arrived at St Michael’s in 1998 and has been a major force in the many refurbishment and renovations to the school and parish buildings and grounds. We have recently completed a refurbishment of the front of the church and will soon commence the establishment of a memorial garden to commemorate our loved ones. This will be dedicated on 15 May 2005 - the 50th Anniversary of the building of the present church.

The parish of St Michael’s is renowned for its hospitality and its vibrant community life. It has been a feature of our parish since its inception and is still very much evident in our parish life today. Today’s parish originally established on the fringe of the Ashburton Forest is a great tribute to the dedication, hard work and commitment of its past and present pastors and parishioners.