When we reflect on our own story, we do so largely through the memories of our members and parish archives
The development of the Roma Parish
Roma residents were visited by our first Catholic minister (Rev Fr William McGinty) exactly 150 years ago (1854). He was part of the Sydney archdiocese and stationed at Ipswich, (which then included Lismore, Armidale, Tamworth, Warwick, Toowoomba, Drayton and Windorah). He kept in touch with his widely scattered flock by journeys undertaken either on horseback or on foot.
When Roma became part of the Brisbane Archdiocese (1861), our first presbytery was built (1866), we officially became a parish (1872), our first church was erected (All Saints- 1873) and the Sisters of Mercy arrived and commenced St John’s Convent School (1881). A larger church was required to cater for the increased numbers (1893 – renamed Sacred Heart Church), a magnificent convent and extra school buildings were opened (1911) and the second presbytery was blessed in 1924.
Roma at this time was one of the larger prosperous towns in Queensland and this infrastructure boom in the parish during these 75 years was a result of the tremendous drive by both clergy and religious in the district.
When Roma became part of the Toowoomba Diocese in 1929, the ‘building’ phase of our parish waned. The De la Salle Brothers conducted a boys intermediate high school in the grounds of St John’s Convent School (1932-41), our third church was opened (1962-renamed All Saints) and our third presbytery and function centre (Justin King Centre) opened in 1993.
Culture Rituals Symbols Local Stories
From a single trunk has spread the branches and twigs of Christian tradition here in Roma. If we dig into the roots of our local history we find we are indebted to the early Catholic congregation who lobbied hard with Brisbane’s Bishop Quinn to provide us with a resident priest and a community of nuns. Five Sisters of Mercy arrived in 1881 and since then have provided spiritual guidance, role modelling, visitations, educational and cultural enhancement opportunities to families and parishioners in our district. We now continue to share the fruits of this ‘trunk’ and its 123 years growth of branches and twigs.
Our tree (we see ourselves as a bottle tree) maintains several strong and supportive branches which have stood the test of time and weathered many storms. Our older generation of parishioners are the repository of wisdom and have a strong faith commitment that influences the younger generations. They can be seen at daily mass, devotions and most parish events. They ‘live’ out their faith by visiting the sick and elderly, running the St Vincent de Paul store, providing religious instruction in state schools, conducting St Patrick’s Day concerts, fundraising or assisting with evangelising (e.g. PACT, Outreach, RCIA). They continue to be an integral and supportive part of our parish activities.
Our celebration of Catholic rituals (e.g. births, marriages, sacraments, ordinations, school masses) remains steadfast and a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. In 1981 the whole district joined in the centenary celebrations for the Sisters of Mercy. This year we commemorate 150 years of Catholic tradition in Roma.
Some branches of our tree have ceased to exist, have broken with age or have been damaged but our desire to ‘gather’ or come together as a parish community is as strong as it was many decades ago. Some traditions may have ceased (e.g. Catholic Tennis, Sacred Heart Sodality, Holy Angels, Cursillo, Antioch, etc), others continue through the decades (e.g. CWL, Deb balls, St Vincent de Paul), but the need to support and affirm one another remains strong even today. Names change, participants change, but new events and activities evolve and take on a somewhat ritualistic flavour which enhance the growth of our parish tree (e.g. Moonlight Fair, Parish Picnic, cuppas after mass, etc).
Our vibrant catholic school and parish continue to work well together. Strong efforts are made to link the church going people with the school children and their families. This partnership is the key to our future. Twigs and leaves fall from our branches or may be blown away never to return, but we become excited when new and fresh growth can be found on our branches. Our school numbers and personnel, our parishioners and our congregation ebbs and flows all the time but we continue to survive because of the strong roots and the well nourished trunk of our catholic tree and our faith in God.
Our group membership has changed over the past 150 years but our ‘culture’ persists. We perceive ourselves as experimental, faithful, inclusive, dynamic and welcoming. We embrace ecumenism and lay leadership and our church is a ‘community’ church which is accessible to all.
What’s our future? We are aware of the age of our attending congregation and we have worked hard to ensure that every Catholic in our area is aware of the openness and inclusiveness within our community. Through a network of relationships forged through personal communication every Catholic in our district is aware and invited to be part of their community. We hope that every person within our community, of any age, is welcome and enthusiastic to remain or renew their participation in the myriad of events, activities and rituals which we engage in.
Roma is part of the Brisbane Archdiocese
1850-60s Visiting priests – Fr McGinty (1854-62), Fr Larkin (1863-66), Fr Hodebourg (1866-69) Bishop Quinn visits.
1866 First Presbytery built
1872 All Saints Parish becomes official.
Rev F Dunham (1873-81) become first Parish Priest and Fr Denis Fouhy his assistant.
1873 First Catholic Church built. Named All Saints.
1880 Bishop Quinn visits again and promises a resident priest and a community of nuns.
1881 St John’s Convent School opened
1888 Archbishop Dunne in Roma.
1893 Second Catholic Church built. Named Sacred Heart Church.
1911 New convent and school building opened.
1924 Second Presbytery built
1929 Bishop Byrnes
1929 Roma no longer under the jurisdiction of Archbishop Duhig of Brisbane. Bishop Byrnes of Toowoomba visits Roma for First Confirmation
1932-41 De la Salle Brothers conducted a boys intermediate high school
1938 Bishop Basil Roper
1942 8 boarders from All Hallows in Brisbane arrived for a full year
1953 Bishop William Brennan
1962 The present All Saints Church opened
1976 Bishop Edward Kelly
1981 Centenary celebrations to mark 100 years of the Sisters of Ms First lay principal of St John’s Convent school
1993 Bishop William Morris
1993 Thins (and present) presbytery opened
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