Saint Peter’s Catholic Church


Not only Pambula’s oldest house of worship but also the earliest remaining Catholic Church still in use in the Bega Valley Shire, St Peters stands as a reminder of the devotion of the district’s early Catholic pioneers.

From the earliest days of European settlement, local Catholics relied on young itinerant Irish priests travelling on horseback to bring sacraments to the isolated community. From 1844 Father Kavanagh of Queanbeyan visited Pambula as part of his widespread parish. Known as the ‘apostle of the Monaro’, he rode an estimated 64,000 km over ten years ministering to his flock.

In 1867 work commenced on the existing St. Peter’s Church, costing a total of £333. It was officially opened in 1868 and by 1871, extensions to the church were planned with fundraisers such as “…a grand pic-nic to Panbula Heads and a concert in the evening on a scale never before attempted here…” organised to fund a porch and sacristy.

In 1886, Father James Grace moved to Pambula, the first Catholic priest to live in the town. In the absence of a Presbytery, he boarded with – guess who? – John Behl and his family at the Forest Oak (now known as Covington’s.) You’ll visit this property later on your tour.

Mother Mary Mackillop, founder of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, and Australia’s first saint, visited Pambula in 1901 to judge the feasibility for a Catholic primary school and convent to be built on the land surrounding St Peter’s. Despite having a viable number of scholars, the Catholic school continued to operate from Eden.