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  • Writer's pictureJack Ward

Willaura Church rises to the heavens

Published in The Ararat Advocate, Ararat's local weekly newspaper published by West Vic News Pty Ltd.

Willaura’s St Patrick's Catholic Church is in the midst of a major renovation to secure its longevity, rising several feet off the ground and providing a point of conversation in the small community.

Artist Di Cook and her husband Matthew Harris, bought the church five years ago and have been trying to find the right company to re-stump the 110-year-old building ever since.

PHOTO: Supplied (Ararat Advocate)

That process has finally occurred thanks to Horsham based company, A & B Pope Relevelling.

“We actually lifted it about six feet off the ground which is really spectacular. I was amazed, just the level of expertise that they used to lift it,” Ms Cook said.

“We've kept our distance from each other but cars have pulled up and said that they’re overjoyed for us, but they're even [happier] for the town itself.”

Ms Cook calls her purchase of the church “heaven-sent, it was meant to be.” She fell in love with the place of worship and its heavenly glow after initially considering it to be too hard.

“I got a call to say, you need to have another look at it. When (my father and I) got out there, both he and I fell in love with it because the sun was coming through the windows,” she said.

“I ended up buying it on the spot so I think it was… out of my control.”

The journey to preserve the church hasn’t been an easy one for Ms Cook and Mr Harris. The duo has spent years trying to find the right company to undertake the restumping with the right technique, whilst also navigating government regulations.

“I actually had to write a few letters because there's planning and heritage overlay. I had to write a letter and say that we're almost ready to just walk away and let the birds fly through,” Ms Cook said.

“Because it's not a conventional building, it has a lot of other challenges.”

Ms Cook has been overwhelmed by the Horsham team’s professionalism and positivity during such trying times. She will now tackle the electrics, plumbing and painting.

“I’d like to use it for the community in some sense. I want to do art workshops from Gypsy caravans that would be carved, and beautifully decorated and dotted along the side of the church. I'd also like to have a gallery,” she said.

“Just to bring the town alive and have a place where people could gather.”

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