Dirranbandi Community History:
From about the year 1919 concerned residents formed a Committee to build a Catholic Church in Dirranbandi. Members of that committee included Messrs PJ McCarthy, JR Hickey, J Cleary, J. Corkery, and B Mulholland. Dirranbandi was then part of the parish of Goondiwindi established in 1891 under Father Herbert who came to Dirranbandi once or twice a year .
The coming of the railway to Dirranbandi in 1913 meant that he could make the journey by train. Mass was said in Mrs Hickeys shop. In 1925 the Catholic Church in Dirranbandi was built by J Lather and M. Crowe. In the early 1930’s St George became a parish, and Dirranbandi was then included in that parish. Father P J Skelly was the parish priest, and he journeyed to Dirranbandi once a month over unsealed roads, black mud unpassable after a few points of rain.
From the early years Mrs P J McCarthy housed the priests and Bishops when they visited Dirranbandi in her home, Bantry Villa. Over the years Archbishop Duhig, Bishops Byrne and Roper Visited Dirranbandi for Confirmation of the children and were housed by Mrs McCarthy. Mrs McCarthy was also one of the early catechists preparing the local children for Communion and Confirmation. Also she encouraged other young people to become catechists under her guidance. Some remembered from the past were Winifred Moore, Audrey Sting, Mary Greer, Norma Seaton, Maureen Cahill, Margaret, & Myrle Waterson. Father Kelly was succeeded by Fr Tom McCormack of sheepdog fame then Fathers B Kane, Mick Skehan, Pat Campbell , John Battersby J Murphy, G. Mattiaziand J O?Niell assisted in various capacities during ensuing years.
During these years, Mass was also celebrated at outlying country homesteads such as Yamma, Noondoo, Clyde, Kyena, Old Woolerina, and later Nindy Thana and Pooloomoodool. With Mass being celebrated only monthly at this stage, the services of members of the Catholic Women?s Guild were greatly needed in the smooth running of the Church. Over the years many wonderful women have worked in this organisation some being Mrs L McCarthy, J White, D Nolan, G Hadenfeldt, J Hickey, F Greer, W Waterson, J Rile, L Cahill, E Hadenfeldt, B Tydd, J Hegarty, J McCarthy, M Guest, U Crawley, M Bowman, Tracey J Kelly, M.Moody, Pat Twidale, M Hetherington, M Bowen, S Greer, P Howard, G McEwan, V Judge.,M Hutchinson, B Orazio, M Hadenfeldt, E Hoath, L Pola, K & A Sevil, Jacki Murphy, B Johnson and present President G. Hourn
About the time of the wool boom in the fifties The Dirranbandi Convent was built, and the Sisters of St Joseph arrived to staff the school. The building was a great achievement by a dedicated committee of local people aided by Father Stan Skehan. Some hardworking committee members remembered being Mrs L F Cahill, Mr J W McCarthy, Jack & Les Dwyer, Wing Brodie aided and abetted by members of the Hegarty, Hadenfeldt, Hoath, Guest, Tydd, Judge , Bowman ,Waterson and practically all members of the Catholic community. Margaret Waterson (now Hutchinson) was the first Secretary. The School was opened and blessed by Bishop Brennan in June 1956. [the opening was delayed due to heavy rain and impassable roads].
In 1957 Dirranbandi was made St Therese’s parish on its own, and Father S Skehan was the first parish priest, followed in 1958 by Father P D Kelly. In 1967 Father Kelly was transferred to Charleville and Father John Bennett arrived from Quilpie in his stead. Father Bennett was a wonderful priest and we were so fortunate to have his untiring efforts for seventeen years. During his time in Dirranbandi he celebrated the Silver Jubilee of his priest hood. We felt as though we owned him, and great was the regret when his mother’s health decline necessitated his transfer to Clifton, which proved to be his last parish. Time however brings many changes.
In 1977, the Sisters of St Joseph withdrew from Dirranbandi and St Joseph’s Convent became a boarding hostel for some time. Mrs Enid Hoath was the cook at the Convent for many years. We all deeply regretted the departure of the Sisters who for twenty years had taught our children. Once again, catechists were needed to assist Father Bennett in the preparation of the children for the sacraments. Some were Bonny Orazio, Glad McEwan, Pat Twidale, Denise Cole, Mavis Hadenfeldt. Father Jim Cronin attended to the parish from St George for a number of years. Later Sister Diane Phillips who had taught some of our children at St Joseph’s Convent as Sister Ruth returned in the 1990’s to undertake pastoral duties in the parish. Bro. Ed Collins of the St John of God Brothers lived in the presbytery and undertook pastoral care in the diocese for some years also.
The diocese decided eventually to sell the convent buildings. The site is now the Dirranbandi Hostel and Caravan Park. St Therese’s across the street is still our parish Church, but we are now part of Balonne Catholic Parish, St George. Father Jack Peard is our parish priest, and he has a large parish to cover, Bollon, Dirranbandi, Hebei, and St. George. The drought and the subsequent loss of income in the cotton industry has caused the population of our town to decline and we still rely on the dedicated few to assist Father Peard in upholding the Catholic tradition in this part of the parish. We pray that with better seasons our rural industries will again thrive, to the benefit of us all.
M J Hutchinson for Dirranbandi Catholic Women’s Guild.
Churches and Mass Times
St Theresa’s Church, Dirranbandi
Immaculate Heart of Mary, Bollon
St Patrick’s Church, St George