A plan to resurrect one of Maitland’s oldest Catholic dwellings is inching closer to fruition with the launch of an appeal to raise money for the multi-million dollar project.
The Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle is on a mission to raise funds for the refurbishment of St John’s Cathedral as part of plan to restore the eastern end of High Street into a cathedral precinct.
The church revival will form stage one of a vision to recreate the precinct for the 2016 sesquicentenary of the diocese.
“Old St John’s Church was built in 1846, the first cathedral when the Diocese was established,” diocesan head Bishop Bill Wright said.
“Now it is fenced off and looking sadly abandoned ... my predecessors, the dead bishops of Maitland are buried under it, and it should be a sacred place.
“This is a piece of our heritage; I have it in my imagination that, like St Francis, I’ll see to the repairs of an ancient church.”
During the 1920s the church was used as a school building and in the 1950s part of the church was transformed into a classroom.
“The project is, as far as possible, to restore the church from the outside,” Bishop Wright said.
“Hopefully, when done, it will look like it should within the Maitland landscape.
“Not only is this building a fairly important part of the story of the diocese, but it’s also an important part of the Maitland story.”
The foundation stone of the first permanent church of St John the Baptist was laid in 1840 at Campbells Hill.
The church was moved to central Maitland in 1844 and opened for use in 1846.
The tower was added in 1862 and the church was declared a cathedral four years later.
The chapel closed in 2010 because of falling sandstone and has stood vacant since.
The St John’s Fund-raising Appeal will be launched on Sunday afternoon at the cathedral.