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A Brief History of the Toowoomba Diocese


Mary of the Southern Cross: Patron of the Toowoomba Diocese

The title of Mary of the Southern Cross is one that acknowledges that God has ever been watching over this Great Southern Land of the Holy Spirit. The Southern Cross, a sign of hope, has hung in our sky since before any person walked this ancient land. Mary was one of the few who stood before the Cross of Christ and is therefore well qualified to be honoured with the title of Mary of the Southern Cross. As a rural diocese the night sky dazzles with a spectacular view of the stars making the use of the Southern Cross even more appropriate. The Southern Cross is also a pointer of direction just as Mary was a pointer to her Son, the Way, at Cana.

Feast Day

The Feast of Mary of the Southern Cross is relatively new. In 1960 the new church in Inglewood was blessed under the title of Our Lady of the Southern Cross but no feast day was established.

In 1997 the Diocesan Liturgical Commission (DLC) undertook a search to discover whether a Patron had been established for the Diocese. The Ordo (the book that sets out the celebrations for a diocese, region or country) began acknowledging Diocesan Patrons in the 1980’s, but nothing was listed for Toowoomba. Searches of the archives of the Diocese, the Apostolic Nunciature and the appropriate congregation in Rome failed to find record of the establishment of a Patron.

The DLC then proposed that we seek the approval of the Holy See for Mary, under the title of the Southern Cross, to be established as our Patron. The DLC sought comment from across the diocese explaining the history of the title and setting forth reasons why it was thought to be an appropriate choice for the diocesan patron.

The choice was overwhelmingly in favour of Mary of the Southern Cross. After seeking approval, on 14th November 1998 the Holy Father issued a Bull formally recognising the title of the Blessed Virgin Mary under the title of Our Lady of the Southern Cross.

The first celebration of the Feast of Mary of the Southern Cross, as the Diocese has chosen to refer to it, took place on 1 September 1999. A day of solemnity across the Diocese, the date is significant to our Diocese for many reasons.  It is the anniversary of the taking possession of the Cathedral by our first bishop, James Byrne.  It is also eight days before the Feast of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary and therefore would create an octave, it is the first day of Spring, and no other feast is celebrated in Australia on this day.

The Patronal Feast is a day on which we especially pray for the whole Toowoomba Diocese and recall that it is through the diocese that we are brought into communion with the universal Church. This Feast is especially ours and is an opportunity to renew our bonds as a diocese.

Mary of the Southern Cross Portrait

A painting was commissioned by competition to find a suitable image of Diocesan Patron, Mary of the Southern Cross and was sponsored by the Knights of the Southern Cross. Artist Jan Williamson won the competition.

A Word from the Artist: Jan Williamson’s life sized portrait in oils depicts Mary as a rural woman standing with the child Jesus in what might be considered a wheat field. The infant Jesus is dressed in a romper suit, as any child today might be. Mary is wearing a simple brown dress.

Mary’s face is serene, yet possessing of a great strength. It could be the face of an Aboriginal woman, or even the face of a European migrant. It is a face that might be described as universal.

Behind the picture of Mary the shadow of the cross can be seen. It is as if her shadow and the shadow of the cross are one. The colours of the painting are reminiscent of the outback olive greens and ochre reds.