A Hospital for Sinners – A Training Ground for Saints


The 20 years between 1924 and 1944 was characterized by aggressive acquisition of Church lands and church building. Right Reverend Monsignor Grogan came to the parish as sixth parish priest in 1930 and it is to him that the initiative to establish little bush churches in the outlying areas is credited.

In 1924 Father Kelly ministered to an area comprising the present parishes of Ingham, Abergowrie, Halifax, Palm Island and Fantome Island. In 1929 Halifax was created a separate parish from Ingham with the pastoral responsibility of Palm Island. Its first parish priest was Father David O’Meara. St Peter’s Parish became the most northerly one in the Diocese of Townsville, created in 1930 with Terence McGuire as first bishop. Under the patronage of the Townsville Sisters of Mercy a convent day school and boarding school was opened in 1927 in Halifax.

Our Lady of Lourdes Convent school facilities were expanded when a large building was purchased and relocated to the school site for the new school year of 1933. Further development on the Abbott Street property took place when a new presbytery was opened in 1935.

The parish priest of St. Patrick’s Parish continued to conduct Mass services out in many areas of the district wherever it was possible: private home, school or shop. Due to a shortage of clergy even St. Peter’s Parish, Halifax had to be administered from Ingham between 1932 and 1944. In 1944 Father Terry Reynolds became the second parish priest of Halifax. A little old galvanized iron house located near the convent, was bought for use as a presbytery.

The program of building of small churches in the outlying parts of the parish embarked on my Dean Thomas Grogan, sixth parish priest of St. Patrick’s Parish, was to transform the lives of the farming families. It had been hoped that the building of these churches would increase church attendance by Italians but attendance continued to be poor and irregularl. Nevertheless, without the Italians’ financial support and even donation of land to the church, these churches would never have been built. In all nine were built, the first six in quick succession. The first was that of Our Lady of Pompeii at Lannercost. Four churches then opened in quick succession late in 1936. Santa Lucia at Four Mile to serve the Braemeadows/Four Mile communities and the Church of the Immacolata at Peacock Siding were both opened and blessed on the same day, Sunday September 20 1936. Two weeks later the fourth and the fifth of the little bush churches were blessed: the Churches of Saint Theresa at Toobanna and Saint Joseph at Bambaroo. In 1937 the church of the Star of the Sea was opened at Lucinda on land that had been donated by Margaret Schmid in 1931 for that purpose. Nine months later the Church of Saint Francis of Assisi at Cordelia was opened and blessed to become the sixth of the small churches opened.
Another school to be established in this period was that of St. Teresa’s College, Abergowrie in 1933. The founding of that school was initiated by Bishop McGuire. His aim was to provide rural education for the country boys of the diocese and to explore and reveal the possibilities of land use in north Queensland. The Christian Brothers agreed to staff the college.