From the director

The influence of sacred space on the minds, spirits and lives of those who celebrate liturgy is often underestimated, though the capacity of beauty to affect the spirit is universally recognised.

Through sense-experience of thoughtfully created space, worthy art, dignified vessels, light, and beauty in natural and created forms, meaning is mediated, religious imaginations are stoked, and prevailing and prospective worldviews potentially are shaped.

The impact and importance of the architecture, art, and artefacts that constitute our built and created heritage is explored in this newsletter in articles by Rev. Dr. Stephen Hackett MSC and Assoc. Prof. Ursula de Jong. A valuable opportunity to investigate further the ideas raised here is approaching, in the upcoming National Liturgical Architecture Symposium co-hosted by the National Liturgical Architecture and Art Board and the ACU Centre for Liturgy, to be held February 6-8, 2019 at ACU’s Melbourne Campus. I encourage you to attend this symposium which will provide a captivating opportunity to reflect on how the spaces in which we celebrate, and the heritage of artistic artefacts and liturgical articles used in our celebrations, inform and shape our religious experience and imaginations. With best wishes for Advent, Christmas time and a blessed new year ahead.

Professor Clare V. Johnson
Director, ACU Centre for Liturgy
Professor of Liturgical Studies & Sacramental Theology, Faculty of Theology & Philosophy

From our board of advisors

Architecture has been shaping me all my life, but in the last decade it has also been shaping my research.

In the United States of America, Adé Bethune is known as the artist from the Catholic Worker newspaper, whose illustrations still grace its pages more than a decade after her 2002 death. She was far more than an illustrator – it has been said that her work served to “redefine the character of modern religious art.” As teacher, liturgical design consultant and critic, writer and editor, entrepreneur, social activist and pioneering designer of affordable housing in Newport County, Rhode Island, Bethune lived the works of mercy in a Gospel-centred life worth emulating. Researching Adé’s life and work over the past seven years, immersing myself in her writing and visiting the churches she helped to design even in the Philippines, has led me to write her biography so that others can learn about her and from her. The upcoming national Church architecture symposium co-hosted by the ACU Centre for Liturgy will provide a fascinating opportunity to consider the way architecture and art shapes us all.

Julia Upton

Dr Julia Upton, RSM
Provost Emerita, Distinguished Professor of Theology, St. John’s University (New York)





News and recent events

National Church Architecture Symposium 6-8 February 2019

The National Liturgical Architecture and Art Board and the ACU Centre for Liturgy are delighted to present a symposium titled: Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also – Catholic liturgical heritage: architecture, art, artefacts at ACU’s Melbourne Campus, 6-8 February 2019. All those with an interest in designing, caring for and renewing our places of worship will find in this symposium an unmatched opportunity to engage in dialogue about the history, heritage value, liturgical appropriateness and merit of Australian church architecture and art. This gathering is for all scholars, architects, clergy, liturgists, theologians, artists, teachers, students and parishioners with an interest in topics including: archaeology as an aid to understanding heritage significance of churches; refurbishing school chapels; commissioning religious art for churches; re-ordering of re-ordered churches; the place and nature of the confessional space in our churches; location and heritage issues related to the organ and music ministry. The symposium will feature keynote speakers: leading American liturgical design consultant Richard Vosko and British heritage expert Sophie Andreae alongside local experts, and will include workshops, case-studies and problem-based learning sessions on current and recent church renewals, new churches and chapels, and heritage projects.

For more information, and to register for the symposium, please visit:

Speaking Awesome Words: Lector Ministry Training

speaking awesome words

Lectors bring the living Word of God to the liturgical assembly. Proclaiming God’s Word well requires specialised training, careful preparation and practice. The ACU Centre for Liturgy’s two-hour interactive Lector training session will benefit both experienced and beginning Lectors by focusing on techniques for effective proclamation informed by relevant aspects of theology, scripture, history, liturgy and spirituality, and by including ample time for practice. Through their ministry, Lectors work with the Holy Spirit to plant the Word of God in the hearts of the assembly. God’s Word is transformative; come and be transformed! Contact us for further information and to schedule a training session at your parish or school.

Workshops and professional development

Professor Johnson presented an intensive learning weekend for participants in the Diocese of Bathurst Ministry Formation Program in late August. She was the principal presenter for the first day of Sydney Catholic Schools’ new “Leading in Liturgy” professional development program on Sept. 6 (with a second day on Nov. 19), and facilitated a professional development day: “Linking Liturgy and Life” for Sydney Catholic Schools secondary teachers on Sept. 14. She taught a new masters-level unit on Theology of Marriage and Holy Orders Sept. 24-28 for ACU’s Faculty of Theology and Philosophy; led a short course on Preparing and Celebrating Catholic Funerals in the Diocese of Sale (Oct. 13 & Nov. 10); and was keynote speaker at the Faith Leadership Seminar, Diocese of Lismore, Oct. 19.

Dr McFarland presented a lecture “On Liturgical Theology” as part of the ACU / Catholic Institute of Sydney Adult Formation Series on Oct. 2. In his work within the Faculty of Theology and Philosophy, he taught undergraduate liturgy units in Strathfield, North Sydney, Canberra, and nationally (online), as well as an online postgraduate unit on the Sacraments of Initiation. Jason led a day-long course on Preparing and Celebrating Catholic Funerals in Brisbane on Sept. 22.

Liturgy spotlight

Our young ancient country (and even younger churches)


All too often, people remark that they prefer a church that looks like a church. In our Australian context, they are generally referring to churches built in the 19th century and first half of the 20th century, when churches were designed to look like churches from centuries earlier.

The revival architecture of these churches, often described as neo-gothic or neo-byzantine or neo-classical, and so forth, represents an era when Catholics and their architects looked back to times of greater certainty when designing their churches, yet in fact the tradition of the Church has been to look forward, taking a lead in the architecture and the arts that serve the People of God and the celebration of the liturgy.

We are in a sense quite young and our history is relatively recent. We need to look beyond Australia’s shores to discover the rich heritage of Christian liturgical architecture and art. Of course, Australia is an ancient land. Its first peoples lived here at least 65,000 years ago. Australia’s indigenous legacy prompts us to recall the vast sweep of human history, the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit and human yearning for God, the unfolding story of salvation which always brings us to Jesus Christ, and the inculturation of the Gospel that has given sensory expression to the faith, life and mission of the Church down through the generations.

People have probably always been interested in what has gone before; the past strengthens our sense of identity and orients us as we look to the future.

In our day, interest in the past has been heightened by a new appreciation of what is often called our cultural patrimony or heritage. Within the Church, the Vatican II Constitution on the Liturgy and numerous other pronouncements affirm the treasury of sacred architecture and art that manifest Christian faith and Catholic tradition, highlighting the importance of preserving this patrimony and allowing it to evangelise today. In the Australian context, the Burra Charter likewise affirms the value and significance of the buildings and objects that have come down to us from the past, together with the story and meaning they carry.

The National Liturgical Architecture and Art Board, an advisory body to the Bishops Commission for Liturgy of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, has a threefold mandate: liturgical architecture, art and cultural heritage. Following from a symposium held three years ago, ‘God is in the detail: Making architecture and art for Catholic worship’, and the publication of the document, ‘And when churches are to be built …’, another symposium and document are currently being prepared. The forthcoming symposium will be all about the ways in which we care for and build upon the rich heritage that has come to us from the past. It is hoped that the new document, ‘Fit for sacred use’: Stewardship and renewal of places of worship, will be approved in time to be published and launched during the symposium. This new volume deals in particular with the Church’s liturgical cultural heritage, such as church buildings, artworks, liturgical vessels, books and vesture.

A digital inventory-catalogue is also under development. It will assist Church communities to identify, record, insure and securely store items of significant liturgical and heritage value. The inventory-catalogue, still to be named, will help ensure that our Catholic liturgical heritage is preserved, its story told, and its contribution to the life and mission of the Church today and into the future assured.

Rev Dr Stephen Hackett

Rev Dr Stephen Hackett
MSC, is the General Secretary of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and chairs the National Liturgical Architecture and Art Board. His academic research interests include liturgical architecture and the liturgical arts.


Sharing good practice

Valuing our shared heritage

newsletter3building In Australia, Catholic Church buildings speak of a rich multilayered heritage across time. But what is our heritage? Heritage literally means “that which we have inherited” and it encompasses intangible heritage such as customs and memories, tangible heritage such as buildings and landscapes, moveable heritage such as artefacts and collections, as well as archaeological sites, relics and indigenous heritage.

Parish communities should be encouraged to understand their own heritage in context, as part of the larger history of the Church locally and globally, and as connected to civic heritage and architectural history. A local connection, such as membership of a faith community, is key to engaging with heritage. Parish communities need to come together to share their stories. Every public acknowledgement of heritage is a chance to reinforce its meaning, value, diversity and breadth.

Cultural heritage speaks about place, history, identity and memory. Churches are places where the parish community gathers to encounter God. Continuity of use allows the community to respect the associations and meanings of the church building. Through a sense of commitment and belonging, people come to care for their place, for what constitutes the temporal goods of the Church, and learn how and what to conserve that is of cultural significance, and how to maintain in continuous protective care that which is most important.

Cultural significance changes over time and with use. Culture, however, is more than what we have inherited from the past; it is also a living, dynamic and participatory present reality. Memory brings the past into the present, making real today that which has provided meaning and direction before. Change and evolution are very much part of the lived life of the Church. The Second Vatican Council sought to facilitate the full, conscious and active participation of all the people. Existing churches were reordered, and new churches were designed with new spatial considerations to foster such participation.

In considering what constitutes our heritage, parish communities should ask themselves: What do we value? What are our treasures? Telling and recording stories, documenting and cataloguing objects, photographing the church now and making comparisons with historic photos, are all stimulating ways of bringing generations together to cherish memories and to plan for the future, to conserve heritage and maintain what is culturally significant.

Dr Ursula de Jong

Dr Ursula de Jong
is Associate Professor in the School of Architecture and Built Environment at Deakin University and a member National Liturgical Architecture and Art Board. She is a full international member of the International Council on Monuments and Sites and a founding member of the Society of Architectural Historians, Australia and New Zealand.



Engage our expertise

Improve liturgical celebrations in your parish

The ACU Centre for Liturgy provides specialised training and formation workshops for parish ministers and liturgical musicians on a variety of topics.

Deepen your understanding of the liturgy as a Catholic educator

We tailor workshops and professional development sessions to the specific needs of schools and Catholic education offices.

Develop your skills as a presider at liturgy

We provide specialised professional development sessions for clergy on a range of topics from presidential singing to the art of presiding at worship, and the craft of preaching.

Bring our experts to you

Our academics and specialists are available to deliver keynote addresses, public lectures, and conference workshops on topics of interest to your organization.

You can find information about bookings and fees on our website.

Study liturgy and sacramental theology

Through ACU’s Faculty of Theology and Philosophy, we offer academic courses in liturgical studies and sacramental theology, and we supervise Higher Degree Research students in liturgy, sacramental theology and the sacred arts.

The Liturgy Nexus

The Liturgy Nexus is an online network for professional Catholic liturgists and those working in areas related to liturgy, sacraments and the sacred arts. It is a subscription-based, closed network for conversation on liturgical issues, resource sharing and problem solving.

Apply on the Centre for Liturgy website to join the conversation. Membership is granted to applicants who meet the eligibility criteria. The membership fee is $30.00 per year (not pro-rated), and can be renewed on or before March 1 each year.

Support our work in rural and low-income parishes

Tax deductable donations can be made via the Give Now portal on our website:

ACU is a not-for-profit institution and gifts of $2 or more are tax deductible. You can be assured that 100% of your gift will be applied directly to our essential formative education work in areas of need. The Centre also accepts endowments, pledges, bequests, and gifts in kind. Please contact us for more information.


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