Mary Delaney for The New Daily says: Saving St Brigid’s, by Regina Lane, has a number of interconnected themes. At one level it is a David and Goliath story about a group of passionate and determined locals who are determined to save their parish church in spite of the intransigence of Catholic Church officials. It is also about the ties that bind: family, home, religion and community. Above all it is the personal story of a young, idealistic woman who must make her own way in the world, guided but not contained by her formative experiences.
Regina Lane grew up in Killarney, southwest Victoria, second youngest of the ten children of Loretta and Michael Lane, potato farmers, community stalwarts, and proud Irish Catholics. She writes with pride and passion about her family and the role the local Catholic Church played in their lives. It was central. The Lane family had been baptised, married and buried there for five generations and the author’s great grandfather had declared at its opening, in 1914, that their intention was ‘to build a legacy for their children’.
This legacy and what could be construed from its meaning formed the basis of the fight to save St Brigid’s and is the main theme of this book. Falling numbers in the congregation and upkeep and maintenance issues led to the declaration by the then parish priest that the church would be closed down. What follows is a blow by blow description of meetings, tactics and bitter feuds between the ‘friends of St Brigid’s’, the Lane family and the Catholic hierarchy. Lane spares nobody’s feelings when she describes the hostility, deception and undercover deals that went on. More poignant is the description of how her parents were forced to reassess their attitude to the church they loved and suffer the pain of exclusion from their own community.
The efforts to save St Brigid’s took place when the author was undergoing her own period of self reflection and discovery. Work, study and travel are all covered in some detail but the reader gets the impression that the fight against injustice will never be far from Regina Lane’s agenda.
The St Brigid’s community has a vision for the future. It is not sacramental, not even Catholic but it aims to bring people together to celebrate, sing, educate and mentor. It hopes to meet a need in society and to do so in an inclusive way. It could be a blueprint for future groups who have lost their traditional meeting place. It may even offer a sense of church for those who no longer find what they are looking for in organised religion. What is certain, however, is that people who believe strongly enough and who are prepared to fight hard enough can prevail. The saving of St Brigid’s has demonstrated this and Regina Lane’s excellent book does justice to the epic nature of this struggle.