St Nicholas Cathedral in Queensland celebrates its centennial

On May 27-28, 2023, Brisbane celebrated the 100th anniversary of the first Orthodox parish in Australia. Hundreds of parishioners of this and other Orthodox churches from different cities of Australia and invited high-ranking guests gathered at St Nicholas Church in Brisbane on the occasion of the centenary of the parish. The service was attended by three bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and about 70 clergy. Orthodox Christians of Brisbane had never seen such a large-scale event.

The first festive service was held on Saturday evening, and on Sunday morning Divine Liturgy was served, led by His Eminence Archbishop Gabriel of Montreal and Canada, His Grace Bishop George of Australia and New Zealand and His Grace Bishop Luke of Syracuse (USA). The Russian Orthodox Male Choir of the diocese under the direction of Nektary Kotlaroff sang, having specially gathered for this celebration. This choir is well known and loved in the Russian community in Australia. Its choristers sing in various Russian churches in Sydney, Brisbane, Canberra.

After the completion of the Liturgy, the consecration of the bronze relief of the icon "Two Nicholases" took place in the courtyard of the church. This unique icon and bas-relief have a close connection with this temple. At the time of its foundation, the parishioners wanted to build a memorial church in honor of the innocently-murdered Tsar Nicholas II, but then he had not yet been canonized as a saint, and the temple was named after St Nicholas the Wonderworker - the patron saint of the tsar. And when the Russian Tsar was recognized as a saint, St Petersburg icon painters, at the request of parishioners, created an icon in 2016 on which there are faces of St Nicholas and Tsar Nicholas the Passion-Bearer, holding St Nicholas Cathedral in their hands. Later, the Moscow medal artist Gennady Ivanovich Provotorov made a bronze bas-relief of the icon, which will now be located on the territory of the parish.

On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the parish, a letter was received from New York from the Synod of Bishops of ROCOR with congratulations:

"Archpriest Gabriel Makarov, his pious wife and the whole family, predecessors of Archpriest Gabriel in rectorship, clergy, parish elders, members of the parish council, sisters, singers, parishioners and worshippers of St Nicholas Cathedral in Brisbane (Australia) ... in connection with the upcoming great and joyful anniversary of the 100th anniversary of the parish. With a kind heart and archpastoral love, we express to all of you the deepest gratitude of the Council of Bishops and invoke God's blessing upon you, prayerfully wishing you all good health, good spirits, and every good haste in your parish life and the labors of the righteous for the glory of God and for the good of the Diocese of Australia and New Zealand of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. To the deceased leaders of the parish - eternal and blessed memory and repose with the saints!"

This letter was signed by His Eminence Metropolitan Nicholas and 12 hierarchs.

The festive banquet, held at the Brisbane Greek Club, was attended by about five hundred people. There was also a presentation of the book by V. Smolina "The First in Australia", prepared for the 100th anniversary of St Nicholas parish, and certificates of honor were presented to the rector, Fr Gabriel and active and long-term parishioners of St Nicholas Cathedral. The audience was shown an interesting video created by L. Larkina, capturing the history of the cathedral over the past century.

Greetings to the clergy and parishioners of the cathedral were made by the archpastors of ROCOR and Russian diplomats. Archbishop Gabriel recalled that in 1923, the first refugees after the Russian Civil War, the Cossacks, arrived in Australia. "First of all, these people did not even think about their well-being, but about creating a parish, a church where they could come and bring their children ... Soon a small house was bought, a Russian school and a library were created," said Bishop Gabriel.

In the 1930s, a Knight of St George of the First World War, Priest Valentin Antoniev, decided to build a real temple. Dr Maria Kravchenko, the granddaughter of Fr Valentin, who was born here in Australia, worked for many years as a lecturer in the Russian department of the University of Queensland. "The main goal of my grandfather was to build a church in the Russian Orthodox style. To raise funds for the construction, evenings and lectures were organized, the women of the parish sold homemade baked goods and jam on the street. The Cossacks of Ataman Tolstov sacrificed a lot. People who could not sacrifice money participated in the construction. So in 1936 a Russian church was built. And my grandfather served in this church for many years, almost until his death in 1964," said Dr Kravchenko.

Through the efforts of past and present generations, the parish grew. A new church hall, a baptismal building and a church kiosk were built, where icons, books and other church supplies can be purchased. The whole life of this large parish is built on the help of volunteers. On the day of the anniversary, many of them were awarded diplomas of the diocese. Among those awarded for "exceptionally diligent, gratuitous and long-term work in the cathedral parish council and sisterhood" were Alexei Mikhailovich and Elena Vsevolodovna Dyatlov, Maria Innokentyevna Tyukavkina, Larisa Fedorovna Osachi, Elena Vladimirovna Milwood, Marfa Danilovna Okulova. The work of Matushka Irina Vladimirovna Makarova over the course of four decades were also noted.

For 25 years Marfa Okulova has been working as the elder sister of the parish. She spoke about the preparation of the holiday. "Everyone calls me Musya," the elder sister of the parish said. “Of course, we were busy, there was a lot of work, but I wasn’t alone, a lot of girls help me in the kitchen. Nadia Pakhomova decorated the temple with flowers, Larisa Osachi cleans the temple regularly. Everyone has their own job." People do not believe that they are doing something special, because they are doing something for their home parish, with which many people have their whole lives connected.”

They do not forget the great historical and cultural work in the parish: they publish books, hold concerts and make reports. In preparation for the anniversary of the temple, a charity music concert, a spiritual concert, a creative meeting dedicated to the famous Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, who toured in Australia in the mid-1920s and performed for the Russian residents of Brisbane, were held here.

Konstantin Veniaminovich Drozdovsky, Victoria Vadimovna Smolina, and Lyudmila Leonidovna Larkina were awarded for their hard work in "preserving historical information about the past and present achievements of the Russian Orthodox Diaspora."

In the cathedral parish, both immigrants of the first waves and those who arrived not so long ago work together. Mikhail Suprunovich was in the parish since an early age. Vladimir Kuzmin was secretary in the parish council, and on these holidays he helped park cars--hundreds of people gathered for the services, and almost all came by car. Mikhail said that in the 1960s, his parents created the largest library of Russian books in the southern hemisphere at the cathedral, and his father, Nikolai Dmitrievich, was a librarian in it for more than 40 years. Alexander Mikhailov is from a new wave of visitors, he has been working as the warden of the parish for the last 9 years.

All parishioners are united by the rector, Fr Gabriel, not only a sincere priest who respects all who come to church, but also an excellent organizer. Everyone knows their own tasks, and together they created a well-functioning community.

Photos may be viewed here and here.

Vladimir Kuzmin



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