Charleville Parish History:
FROM THE BIG WATERHOLE Murweh
…near restful waters he leads me, to revive my drooping spirit… ps23
The Feast of the Assumption of Mary, defined by Pope Pius XII in 1950, rose out of the faith of the people of God.? In a similar way the faith community of Charleville, named in honour of the Assumption of Mary, rose and grew from the faith of the people of the Charleville area.
Through the initiative, faith, dedication, commitment and leadership of two people ? Louis and Mary Janetzky – a small group of 23 Catholics gathered in their hotel one Saturday evening in 1866 to pray the Rosary.? The next morning they were to gather again for the celebration of Mass which took place in the hotel parlour.
The first leaders of the faith community were therefore, lay people – the Janetzky family who with their daughter, Louise, and Miss Isabel Crozier kept the faith alive by teaching the children Catechism and preparing them for the Sacrament of Confirmation until the Sisters of Mercy arrived in 1913.? The Sisters set up St Mary’s School and Convent which was opened and blessed on January 26th, 1913.
The first resident priest, Fr M Morris, arrived in 1883. Five years later in 1887 the first church was built and called St Joseph?s.
The faith of the community continued to grow within the culture of a western country community which is continually challenged by the adverse conditions of the seasons, isolation, and whose lives are dictated by sunlight rather than time.
In 1915 the first Presbytery was destroyed by fire.? Subsequently a new Church, the first to be named St Mary of the Assumption, and Presbytery were built on the present site where the Church now stands.? Within a short time after extensions had been added to both buildings in 1959 disaster struck.? A fire destroyed both buildings.? However, through their depth of faith and determination, the parishioners, assisted by many faith communities throughout the diocese and beyond, rose from the ashes to build the second St Mary?s of the Assumption Church and Presbytery which were opened and blessed in 1961.? The Courier Mail recorded the event as, “One of the most elaborate country churches in Queensland was blessed and opened yesterday amid pomp and colourful ceremonial”.
It was not only fire that tested the faith of the Catholic community of St Mary’s. On a number of occasions floods have threatened or destroyed the Church, Presbytery and School, the 1990 flood being the biggest devastation of these facilities.? Once again the faith community rallied and rose from the mud to restore these buildings to enable the faith to grow and be celebrated.
One could say the faith community of Charleville had a Baptism of fire in its infancy ? there was a dying, and rising from the ashes.? In biblical terms fire is associated with the Holy Spirit, and no doubt the Holy Spirit has strengthened and guided St Mary?s faith community on its journey.? Water, another Baptismal symbol, was to plunge this community, with its hopes and dreams, into despair.? However, it continues to rise and take on life anew in the example and determination of its founders.
In spite of fire, flood, and drought St Mary?s of the Assumption faith community has continued to hope and dream and to journey together in faith, determined to meet the new challenges of what it means to be Church (the people of God) in the West of Queensland.
On the occasion of the centenary of the Parish in 1983 it was recorded by the diocesan archivist of the time, Br Leo Ansell, that ?the town may have passed it peak in growth, but as the parish enters its second century, its people, aided by their Priests as always, will not falter in their task of handing on the faith of their fathers?.
As Peter Kearney in his song, The Story We Share would say: ?It?s the story of dying and rising again ? friendship found in the wine and the bread, round fire that glows at the end of the day, we share the news and sing the blues away.?
Augathella Community History:
Augathella – place of water
Augathella is a rural community.? It had its beginnings in 1864 when the first catholic family of Sam and Mary Brassington settled on this part of the Warrego River.? Many other Catholic pioneering families followed them here.? Augathella became a part of the Charleville Parish in 1879.? In 1893 Catherine Burns purchased a block of land on which was an old cemetery.? Here a small wooden church was built about 1895 called St Patrick?s.? This church served the community until the 9th May, 1954 when the present church buildings were opened.? Augathella became a parish in 1944 with its first resident priest being Fr Simon O?Dea.
In 1928 Archbishop Duhig opened a hostel type boarding school in Augathella, this being his final visit to this area before the new diocese of Toowoomba began in 1929.? The convent school, run by the Sisters of St Joseph, became a focal point for town and district as it drew children from all denominations, from properties and the town.? Eventually the boarding section closed and a new school was built in the 1970’s and a house was provided for the Sisters to live in.? The Sisters remained until 1979.? The school stayed open until 1981 with a lay principal.? The ?old convent? was sold but it remained a symbol of connection within the community, to other religious denominations and, in particular, to the past.? When it was burnt down it was the cause of grief for the whole Augathella community.
Change is part of being a rural community and in adapting to change St Patrick’s has proven to be tenacious in holding onto the faith of its pioneer ancestors.? This is symbolized by the way that the old cemetery near the church buildings and the town cemetery are often visited by people whose relatives are buried there.? They are both places where loss and grief are expressed and prayers of hope for the future are made.
The people of Augathella are adaptable in the face of the loss of wealth from the wool industry, the loss of young families and teenagers to regional cities, and the vicissitudes of climate.? St Patrick’s is no less adaptable since the loss of a resident priest in 1988.? An injection of enthusiasm came in 2002 when a Sister of St Joseph came to the community as the resident Parish Pastoral Associate.? Since her departure the community’s flexibility has been shown by their acceptance of their own local leadership while remaining connected to the Charleville parish.
St Patrick’s community continues to provide social occasions for the town community to gather with fetes, other fundraising events and St Paddy’s monthly morning teas.? The church building is a sign of faith to the whole community.? It reminds us of, and calls us to worship our wonderful life-giving God.? In the spirit of our pioneers we walk into the future while trying to be flexible in the face of diminishing membership and rapid, relentless change that is part of rural life.
Churches and Mass Times
St Patrick’s Church, Augathella
Sacred Heart Church, Morven
St Mary’s Church, Charleville