New stained glass window ‘gifted’ to St Finbar’s

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When glass artist Patti Robinson was commissioned by the late Fr Brian Larkey to design the large stained glass window in St Finbar’s Church, Glenbrook, she did not envisage that 25 years would pass before she would finish the work, or that its completion would be made possible by a gift in the Will from the former parish priest.

Patti shared her recollections at the recent blessing of the window at St Finbar’s. When she  visited St Finbar’s in the mid-1990s to be briefed for the window design, the new church was finished, except for this feature. Fr Larkey, ever the enthusiastic builder-aesthetic, urged Patti to draw inspiration from the surrounding Blue Mountains.

“He took me for a bushwalk into old growth forest, to feel the presence of these massive trees,” Patti said. “The ideas began to flow – the large tree that stretches to the sky. The yellow and red passion coming from heaven; and down along the side windows, the deep Marian blue of the constant, unconditional love of Mary; and in the water, fishermen’s nets catching the souls of men.”

A section of stained glass window dedicated to Mother Mary in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel at St Finbar’s Parish, Glenbrook. Image: Diocese of Parramatta.

But the vision languished for decades even as St Finbar’s became a landmark in the area and favourite gathering place – its magnificent historic pipe organ the centrepiece for many liturgical celebrations and concert programs.

When Fr Larkey died in 2015, his successor as St Finbar’s parish priest, Fr Jolly Chacko MS, learned about the late priest’s legacy gift to finish the large window. Patti Robinson was asked if she would proceed with the original commission. Reacquainting herself with the powerful designs she’d drawn to match Fr Larkey’s vision all those years ago, she agreed.

Working with her daughter Kath, the artist completed the window’s intricate design for installation last year.

Today, the window is an inspirational feature in the Church’s Blessed Sacrament Chapel, its form sweeping from floor to ceiling on the north-facing wall. Depicted in symbolic panels of glass is a vision of the risen Christ as a backlit towering giant with uplifted arms, His face transformed into the Holy Eucharist shining as bright as the sun itself.

Among the parishioners who gathered at Mass on Sunday 18 August for the blessing were many whose labours of love and hard work had built this beautiful church.

Surviving members of the church building project committee during the dedication of the stained glass windows in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel at St Finbar’s Parish, Glenbrook. Image: Diocese of Parramatta.

“We are grateful to all of our parishioners who have donated religious artworks and to those who have generously given their time, talent and financial assistance throughout the years,” Fr Jolly told Catholic Outlook. “Our parish is blessed to have been the recipient of many significant gifts.”

At the blessing, Fr Jolly took the opportunity to recognise surviving members of the church building project committee: Stan Callaghan, Frank Fitzpatrick, Marie Hurley, Shirley Konza, and Margaret Richards. Thanks was also given to Judy Burrett for her diligence as parish secretary during that time.

One person not to be forgotten on this special day was the late Fr Brian Larkey. On behalf of the Larkey Family, Fr Brian’s brother Jim Larkey, and his wife Sue, accepted a certificate of appreciation for their outstanding support throughout the years.

Jim Larkey recalled Brian arriving as Glenbrook’s parish priest as a watershed moment in the parish’s life. “The parishioners had worked for a long time with the expectations of building a permanent church in sandstone. As a priest, my brother Brian was always looking to rejuvenate the parishes he worked in. When he saw all the preparation for building the church which the parishioners had put in, he was immediately enthusiastic. It was a case of the right priest in the right place at the right time.”