Faith and forgiveness at heart of church gathering
DESPITE losing their church to fire last week, some of the parishioners of St Mary's Catholic Church have gathered and offered "forgiveness and understanding" for the man who allegedly started the blaze.
Parish Priest Father Peter Tonti-Filippini, said their regular 9am Sunday mass couldn't be held at the razed St Mary's Catholic Church and so the congregation moved to the closest parish church, St Patrick's Catholic Church.
Father Tonti-Filippini said it had a service with the bishop, who was in Brisbane to perform a baptism for his cousin, and made the trip up early this morning.
After today's mass the group watched a video of the fire and shared stories about the church.
Yesterday, hundreds of people attended a separate meeting where the community "spoke beautifully" about their memories of St Mary's Catholic Church.
"There were lots of memories, lots of stories, lots of characters, but the one story that really came through very strongly was the guy who (allegedly) perpetrated this crime has mental illness," Father Tonti-Filippini said.
"So one of the longstanding parishioners, generations, said 'we need to offer forgiveness and understanding for him and also his family'."
Father Tonti-Filippini said parishioners' faith was strong despite the fire.
He said their scripture told them that a church was not about a building but about people.
"You can appreciate that these buildings here were built with money and hard yards from the parishioners themselves," he said.
"They didn't get the money from anywhere else, and that includes the school back in those days.
"There was no state funding, no government federal funding at all - every dollar, every cent was by the parishioners of this parish who built the school."
After the community shared their stories of the church yesterday, they held a "hopes and dreams" discussion about the future of the church site.
Father Tonti-Filippini said there were many creative ideas but it was still too early to determine what would happen in the long term.
Jeffrey Michael Baker was remanded in custody after he appeared in Bundaberg Magistrates Court last week charged with arson and the serious assault of a police officer.