A Hospital for Sinners – A Training Ground for Saints


Beginning with Vatican 11 in 1962 the Church underwent a remarkable period of self-appraisement and transformation. The physical and liturgical changes compelled individuals to rethink their faith and the way they participated in the rituals and life of the local Church. Declining clerical numbers in this period forced the closure of smaller churches.

When Father David O’Meara was transferred in 1963 to Charters Towers he was replaced by Father Peter Kerwick as parish priest of St. Pius X Parish. In that year the boundary of the two parishes changed with the main streets of Lannercost and Herbert being the boundary.

Father Ferlazzo developed a master plan for Abergowrie College that involved building new brick buildings and expanding the farming operations of the College The school itself, developed a high reputation as an educational and boarding facility. Extensions to the College occurred regularly in the next decades.

The dire need for a residence for elderly citizens in the district led to the establishment of the Canossa Home for the Aged run by the Canossian Sisters of Trebonne. It was opened in 1966 initially housing 20 people in four separate buildings which included a convent, administrative section and infirmary. The Home was extended in 1973 with facilities built to cater for 52 aged people. And then in 1982 the Hospice section of the Canossa Home for the Aged was opened and blessed. With the extension of the Chapel at the Home it was made suitable for general use as a Sunday Mass venue and came into use for such after Easter 1983. The former Trebonne School/Church was consequently boarded up and demolished.

One of the original little churches, The Our Lady, Star of the Sea at Lucinda, was no longer large enough for the growing Lucinda congregation and was rebuilt with the help of the Transfiled (Qld.) Pty. Ltd., the major contractor with the Lucinda Bulk Terminal construction. The new church, now called St. Rita’s Church, opened in 1966.

While school visitation was done by the priests in the days when there many assistant priests, as clergy numbers declined the laity had to assume this role and a centre for the training of catechists was inaugurated in Ingham and became a vital parish responsibility.

Bishop Ryan was replaced by Bishop Leonard Faulkner in 1967. In the same year as he became Bishop, the beginning of the closures that were to become all too familiar in the following years, occurred. The closing of the boarding facilities of the Halifax Convent Boarding School, St. Teresa’s was the first. Two years later a new St. Peter’s School was built on the site of the former church/school and opened in 1969. Meanwhile the old St. Anthony’s Church at Bemerside continued to be maintained and altered to conform with Vatican 11 rulings, until 1982 when the building was considered beyond repair and demolished. A new St. Anthony’s Church was constructed on the same site.

Due to a shortage of clergy rationalization began. As a separate parish priest for St. Teresa’s Parish, Abergowrie, was no longer sustainable, Long Pocket and Lannercost Churches were surrendered to St. Patrick’s Parish. In 1970 Pius X Parish and St. Patrick’s Parish were rejoined at the request of the third parish priest of Pius X Parish, Father Sarsfield Carroll.
And then began the closing of the small bush churches! First to close were those at Cordelia and Lannercost. Numbers attending had declined as the years passed and as more people acquired cars the larger churches became more accessible for Mass attendance.

While a Parish Church Committee may have been in existence for some time, since August 1945 perhaps when the first mention of one is made, it was not until 1972 that a Parish Council was elected and commissioned at the instigation of Bishop Faulkner. Eventually that Parish Council would begin a process of setting up various committees to handle the parish affairs of the time: adult education, visitation and welcoming, Religious Education (Catholic and State Schools), catechists, school leavers, Marian devotion, liturgy, Altar Boys and councillors.

The next closure was of St. Francis Xavier School, Victoria Estate in 1970. At the other end of the district in Trebonne however, a new Canossa Convent school building was opened in 1971 with a further extension added in 1986.

The Abbott Street site continued to undergo change. The first presbytery was demolished. Then in 1985 Jackson’s house across the road from Lourdes Convent was acquired as a new convent with the former convent being rebuilt into a Parish Centre/Presbytery.. Meanwhile a series of redevelopments of Lourdes Primary School was undertaken and the first Lourdes building opened in 1933, was dismantled. The enrolment of boys at that school increased with the cessation of the education of primary school boys at Cardinal Gilroy College in 1988. Meanwhile in 1973 Santa Maria College secondary girl students moved to the Cardinal Gilroy College grounds into new buildings expressly built. By 1986 more construction had been carried at Gilroy Santa Maria College as it was now called in readiness for the introduction of Years 11 and 12.
In 1974, parish bulletins began to be printed and a parish office was established with a parish secretary employed for the first time.

When Father Mullins was transferred to Mundingburra Parish, Townsville, in 1975, Father John Holyoak came to Ingham to be the eleventh parish priest. He was assisted by two priests. During his time significant changes to rites and rulings came into effect including the abolition of abstinence from meat on Fridays, lay men could read the Epistle from the pulpit, and third Rite Reconciliation was introduced. In 1978 Bishop Faulkner appointed the religious brothers and sisters of the parish as extra-ordinary Ministers of the Eucharist. Finally in 1983 the first lay Ministers of the Eucharist were commissioned.
The Sisters of Mercy withdrew from Halifax at the end of the school year of 1976 and as of 1977 the school was staffed entirely by lay-teachers. This occurred as a result of shortage of religious. Then the Capuchins withdrew from Halifax in December 1979. The Friars were no longer fulfilling a specific and needful role. Their withdrawal was followed in 1986 by the withdrawal of the Christian Brothers from St. Teresa’s College, Abergowrie. This was said to be due to the shortage of Christian Brothers.

The Long Pocket and the Hawkins Creek churches were the next small churches to close, victims of the necessity to curtail the places where Mass would be said as the availability of priests diminished. With the demolition of the Sisters of Mercy holiday house at Forrest Beach in 1980 Masses had to be conducted at the State School. The holiday house had acted as parish Mass centre and venue for youth weekends for many years.

Father Denis Ryan became the parish priest of St. Peter’s Parish. On the sudden death of Father Ryan in 1983, Father Jones ended up becoming Administrator of that parish and its last parish priest. In that same year, Bishop Faulkner was transferred to Adelaide and Bishop Raymond Benjamin became the new bishop of Townsville. In 1985 Father Tindaro Ferlazzo became the twelfth parish priest of St. Patrick’s Parish with one assistant priest.