- St Edward’s, Tamworth South
Church’s in Parish
- Mary Help of Christians
- Gowrie: St Brigid’s
- 72 Hillvue Road, South Tamworth
- 9 November 1961
Priests in Parish
|Fr E Meehan
|Fr F LeFevre
|Fr G Hayes
|Fr J Willis
Sr Maureen O’Connor
Sr Frances Flemming rsj, Sr Anne Harrison rsj
Sr Helen Saunders rsj
“A Rich Harvest” A history of South Tamworth
A table of contents has been added at the beginning to help you work your way through South Tamworth History. Unfortunately at this stage no photos have been added to this page.
Chapter One – 1954
- The Beginning of the Parish
- The First Mass in Tamworth (1844)
- First School
Chapter Two – 1961-1973
- Father Meehan appointed first Parish Priest
Chapter Three – 1973-1983
- Appointment of Fr F Le Fevre as Parish Priest
- A new Presbytery (1974)
- Account opened in 1977 for a New Church
- A New Church finally started (1982)
A parish means people. Without people there is no parish. This booklet is a tribute to the many who have given generously of their time, talent and money in bringing St. Edward’s parish to its present stage of growth.
St. Edward’s was proclaimed a parish in 1961 and immediately had to face the problems associated with any new, rapidly developing area – the provision of School accommodation, Convent, Presbytery, Church. The faith of the people was the driving force behind the achievements of the first Parish Priest, Father Meehan. That same faith is the reason why St. Edward’s now boasts its Church on the Hill.
Parishioners can look back with pride on challenges faced and met to enable their Church Complex to be built. When it was proposed in August, 1978, that school requirements demanded a New Church on a different site within five years, it seemed an “impossible dream”. That it is reality today reflects the commitment and total parish support given. The story of the faith of the people is entwined with the story of the Sisters of St. Joseph, who served the parish so well and won the hearts of the people. True to the spirit of their Foundress, Mary MacKillop, they made the best of inadequate facilities and worked wonders with the children.
As a parish we have much to thank the Sisters for and trust the Josephite presence will always be part of the faith growth of St. Edward’s. This history describes what I would call the remarkable achievements of the past twenty-one years. It is written in a personal vein which not only makes interesting reading, but highlights what can be achieved, even in a short space of years, with people working together in faith and trust.
The inscription on the Foundation Stone of the New Church Complex reads, “A House of Prayer for all the people”. May it be truly such so the glory of God will be further enhanced, and the faith of its parishioners deepened.
F J Le Fevre, Parish Priest
“This fine building will be the centre of the parochial life of South Tamworth. A building such as this is an asset not only to the Catholic community of Tamworth and to the city also, but even to the nation, as it is a stronghold of sound education and a bastion of Christian culture and Christian virtue”.
So said Bishop Edward Doody, Bishop of Armidale Diocese, speaking at the opening ceremony of the new South Tamworth Church/School on Sunday, 31st January, 1954. The building, known as St. Mary’s, and part of the parish of West Tamworth, was erected to accommodate the Catholics of the growing area of that Parish beyond the town boundary, in Peel Shire. A distinguished gathering at the ceremony included Tamworth’s District Inspector of Schools (Mr ACM Howard), Alderman WJ Scully (representing Tamworth City Council), Father Fay, Cssr. Father E Boyland of the Cistercian Order, the Vice-President of Peel Shire Council (Mr G Bailey), President of South Tamworth Progress Association (Mr J Thompson), Mr JB Regan representing the Catholic Laity of Tamworth, Monsignori and Priests of the Diocese and a large number of Tamworth and West Tamworth parishioners. Chairman was Mr Les Connors.
It was a great day for South Tamworth, a day that was the climax of years of planning, of parish community effort as the dream of a Church building in Robert Street at last became reality. On the same weekend that Catholics in South Tamworth were rejoicing at the opening of their Church/School all Australian eyes were turned towards Sydney. Queen Elizabeth II became the first British monarch to visit Australia when, with Prince Phillip, she sailed into Sydney Harbour on the “Gothic” on Australia Day, 1954, only a few months after her memorable Coronation. The world was a great place in 1953-54. Edmund Hilary had climbed the un-conquerable Mt Everest, the Korean War was ended, Roger Bannister ran the mile in under 4 minutes, Jonas Salk developed a polio vaccine, Vladimir Petrov and his wife were granted political asylum in Australia, Uranium was found at Mary Kathleen and Bauxite in Weipa. And the developing area of South Tamworth in Peel Shire had its own Church/School. This was only the second Catholic Church on the western side of the Peel apart from a small outstation timber building at Gowrie.
Indeed the area was settle almost 100 years before a Catholic church was erected in West Tamworth. All land west of the river was originally in the hands of the Australian Agricultural Company, who settled on their Peel Grant of 313.298 acres in 1834 in the area now known as Ebsworth Street opposite the Travelodge Motel. An English Company, with English employees, members of the Anglican faith, their religious needs were at first sparsely served. In 1836, Rev William Cowper, the Company’s Chaplain at its Stroud headquarters, made a 200 mile round trip on horseback to preach at Tamworth. This was the style of those times – a clergyman on the Hunter River could have a parish reaching as far north and northwest as he was prepared, and able, to travel. During the 1840’s stores, inns and dwelling houses appeared spasmodically across the river from the privately owned Company side as the small settlement on the Peel expanded. Tamworth was becoming a stopping place for teamsters and travellers. The eastern side was known as the “Government” side, and the two areas were quite separate districts even though at that time all official building – Post Office, Court House etc. – were on the west (“Company”) side. The first Mass celebrated in Tamworth was in 1844, Dean Hanly (“Parish Priest of Queensland” as he later called himself) was travelling from Moreton Bay to Sydney to attend the first Australian Synod.
It was at this Synod Our Lady, Help of Christians was chosen as Patroness of Australia. Dean Hanly travelled the inland route on horseback guessing the track, and covered the distance in a week! This quite rightly stands as one of the great authenticated horse rides in Australian history. The Dean stopped in Tamworth and said Mass in a room in Gannon’s Hotel near the corner of Ebsworth and Gipps Streets. Four years later, the mighty Dean Rigney on a visit from Singleton said Mass probably in the same spot. On 17th December, 1849 a Grant of land on the “Government” side was made to the Catholic Church; it comprised the section of White Street between Peel and Marius Streets. First resident priest in the area was Father Timothy McCarthy, appointed to Armidale in 1953. the first Catholic Church in Tamworth was built, naturally, on the White Street Grant and dedicated to St Nicholas of Tolentino. Described by Cardinal Moran as “a small wooden shanty” and opened in 1980. Catholics on the Company side wishing to attend Mass crossed the river by walking on trunks of large trees lying in the bed of the Peel with planks in appropriate spots to assist their crossing. The second St Nicholas’ erected in 1864, was a brick building alongside the earlier Church.
In 1877 building began on the third church, on the present site. It was enlarged in 1886 and served the Catholic people of Tamworth well for many years. Tamworth’s problem from its inception was that it was landlocked. The Australian Agricultural Coy. Over the years sold small blocks in the heart of West Tamworth but continued to operate its vast holdings around the Municipality. In 1897 its “Timbumburi” holding was sub-divided. William Missen bought 705 acres in South Tamworth stretching from Goonoo Goonoo creek towards the present Hillvue Road area. He sold portions of this in the 1920’s; it became known as Fairview and included the streets and lanes in the Vera-Kathleen Street area. These streets were called after members of the Missen family, one of whom, Mrs Vera Anderson, a delightful 90 year old, lived in Bruce Street until her death in 1982. The Missen home, now remodelled, still stands in Diane Street. In the depression years of the ‘30s William Missen had financial problems. The 640 acres he still owned was acquired by Major Eric Hyman.
The Fairview area grew steadily but the higher, more isolated paddocks behind it remained that way until sub-division began in 1946, of the area south-west of the present Tamworth High School to the corner of Robert & Coromandel Streets. Father David Carroll, Parish Priest of West Tamworth, looking to future needs, purchased 6 blocks in Robert Street (called after Mr Bob Heyman, son of the Major – his sister Robyn Loveridge had “her” street too where the former South Tamworth presbytery stands). Father Carroll bought 4 blocks for a Church and two for himself, at a price of 60 pounds each. (The blocks Father Carroll owned were bought by the Church after his death). There was no kerbing and guttering, no sewerage, and half-way up One Tree Hill was about as far as water would go, so the higher up the land was, the cheaper the block! It was becoming obvious that the numbers of Catholics in the South area warranted a Church/School. Each Sunday a special bus travelled via Goonoo Goonoo Road, Vera, Kathleen, Margaret Streets, back along Goonoo Goonoo Road, taking the people to 9.00 am Mass at St Patrick’s.
The more energetic, including the children, rode their bikes across to Mass. Father Carroll died in 1952. Mgr PJ Dunne was appointed to West Tamworth, and Bishop Doody quickly instructed him to provide a Church/School for the people in the southern portion of his parish. Mgr Dunne was not enthusiastic as he had inherited a sizeable debt in West (interest only had been paid on the loan taken out to build St Patrick’s in 1930). He had no choice but to go ahead and plans for the Robert Street building were drawn up by Arthur Benfield, an “ecclesiastical designer” from Mittagong. Benfield quoted 7,000 pounds for the completed job. Bishop Doody queried this, but was assured it could be done – Benfield’s brother Sid was the builder. In the event the Bishop was proven right, the 7,000 pounds was spent before the building was half finished. Total cost was 17,000 pounds. Benfield had designed a spired brick building consisting of a central chapel to seat 40, said at its opening to be adequate for future South Tamworth needs, with a classroom at each side of the chapel.
Many thought the whole idea was crazy for such a small population. But, it was the first Catholic Church to be built since St Mary’s North Tamworth was opened in 1939, and consequently it created a great deal of interest in the town. An initial Appeal raised 799 pounds for the Church Building Fund. Early in 1953 Dr Dunne had a ceremony at which he proposed “turning the first sod” by hand to commence foundations for the Church/School. The ground refused to co-operate. While the priest and his flock waited patiently, someone ran for a bucket of water, which, when poured on the spot rendered it soft enough to get a spade into.
The first sod was turned and building commenced. Bishop Doody laid the Foundation Stone on 7th June, 1953 at another well attended ceremony at which 714 pounds was raised. And so St Mary’s Church/School was duly completed. Bishop Doody blessed and opened it on 31st January 1954. Building materials cost ^11,621, wages ^5,060 and furnishings ^1,000. A total of ^4,450 had been raised by opening day. Mgr. Dunne celebrated a special Mass on the morning of Monday, 1st February, the Australia Day Holiday. The School, staffed by Sister Angela Demas and a Postulant Sister Thomas, from St Joseph’s Convent, West Tamworth, did not open for 3 or 4 weeks.
The nuns thought it unwise to start the South Tamworth children at West then transfer them to their new classrooms, so the children were happy to have an extended summer holiday. About the time the Church/School was being built the Housing Commission resumed 25 acres in the David Street – Thompson Crescent area, so both Church and School were assured of even greater patronage than had been expected. Shades of things to come! In the late ‘50s Stan Cole sold to the Housing Commission blocks in Anthony Road, Petra Avenue and Susanne Street. South Tamworth’s growth had begun in earnest. Mgr. Dunne died suddenly in March, 1956, and was succeeded at West Tamworth by Mgr. Norman Tuttle.
Father Meehan appointed first Parish Priest
Mgr. Tuttle was zealous in his care for his congregation at St Mary’s, as were the assistant priests stationed at West Tamworth in the ‘50s – Fathers Henry, Heffernan, Heavey, Frank Kelly and Father Edward Meehan who was also Diocesan Inspector of Schools. South Tamworth’s growth continued. The central chapel was soon too small for Sunday congregations so the folding partition was pushed aside and the top classroom contained the overflow. Later the altar was moved to the David Street end of the building and partitioned off. The rest of that classroom and the centre partition was put aside and the two rooms converted to Church use.
It was only a matter of time before the congregation was having to move extra desks as the room at the eastern end of the Church/School was also being used to hold the ever-growing numbers attending the one Sunday Mass. It was clear that South Tamworth needed its own Parish if pastoral progress was to be maintained. On the advice of Mgr Tuttle, Bishop Doody created the first new parish of his episcopate at South Tamworth on 9th November, 1961. Boundaries were the Werris Creek Road, Kent Street, Goonoo Goonoo Creek and the Peel River almost to Piallamore, across to the Great Dividing Range at meridian 151 degrees of longitude down to the Sugarloaf Range. Father Meehan, B.A. Dip. Ed., was appointed first Parish Priest, a post he had not sought, content with his position in Catholic education. Father Meehan chose the saint under whose name the parish would be known. Announcing this fact at Mass the week before the official creation of the parish, he suggested the congregation spend the week thinking on his choice, intimating they would never guess. He was right! No one took into account that the bishop and the new pastor shared the same Christian name; the parish was duly titled “St Edward, King and Confessor”.
Father Meehan was a native of County Leitrim. He worked in England during World War II and served at Armidale, Gunnedah, Narrabri, Moree, Bingara and West Tamworth before his appointment at Diocesan Inspector of Catholic Schools. A man of outstanding ability, he was to need all his talents to establish his new parish and repay the ^3,200 still owing on the Church/School. Disregarding suggestions he live at West Tamworth presbytery for the time being, he borrowed a caravan, parked it in the Church/School grounds, and lived among his people from the outset, assessing their needs.
The problem was where to start. Sodalities of Children of Mary, Sacred Heart and Holy Name and a Conference of St Vincent de Paul came first. A Parish Planned Giving Scheme has been in operation at West Tamworth; it was consolidated now to parishioners of South Tamworth. The home of the Killen family on the corner of Robyn and Jean Streets was purchased for use as a presbytery, cost ^6,000. No land for future expansion had ever been bought, and the two acres in Robert Street was no longer adequate. Mr Jack Sweeney offered Father Meehan 16 acres on Hillvue Road (the former One Tree Hill) at ^6,000 – ^3,000 to be paid at time of purchase and the remainder at the end of 3 years free of interest. This most generous offer was accepted and was a tremendous asset to the parish but id did mean private ownership of this large parcel of land in a prime building spot hindered access for further sub-division. Six acres on Arinya Street were later sold to Warwick Bennet for ^5,200, so the 10 acres finally owned by the parish really cost only ^800. Tamworth City Council was beginning kerbing and guttering in Robert Street.
The Church/School frontage was done together with a concrete footpath the length of the property at ^1 per foot. The Council also levelled and sealed the playground area at a cost of ^500. Much money was being spent, and still more heavy expenses were to come. Where was extra money to come from? Housie, the life-blood of many a Catholic parish was the solution. Mr Harold Carey granted permission to run a weekly Housie at his Garage in Goonoo Goonoo Road. This continued for several years. Two of the men who worked on those first Houses over 20 years ago, Tony Smyth and Tom Crowley, still work with present Teams. Sewerage became available, necessitating building of new toilets. Father Meehan’s plan was to commence a much-needed new school and toilet block on the 10 acre site on One Tree Hill, so he approached Bishop Doody for permission. The Bishop was definite ‘the first building must be done at the Robert Street site, since at that stage of parish development classrooms were a more urgent need than another Church. Toilets were built, and permission was given for a “weathershed for the children”.
When completed, this latter proved to be the size of a Parish Hall, and most useful for the weekly Housie. Soon, it was used for classes, thus enabling the David Street end and the centre of the brick building to be converted to a permanent Church. (Additional Sunday Masses took care of the larger population now living in South.) Sisters teaching in our School at this time were Sister Philip Neri (Superior) who taught Kindergarten and 1st class, Sister Madonna Joseph (2nd and 3rd) and Sister Bede (4th-6th classes). While this flurry of activity was going on, the spiritual welfare of the people was also being well cared for. In October, 1962, less than 12 months after the parish was formed, the Redemptorist Fathers preached the first of many Missions they were to give over the years.
The Saturday night Novena to Our Lady was a popular devotion of the time (this was before the Saturday Vigil Mass came into vogue), and the Novena was augmented in May and October by Wednesday night Devotions. Later, Stations of the Cross were erected (personally attached to the Church walls by Father Meehan) and this became a Lenten Devotion. The Sodalities flourished – by 1967 there were 49 men in the Holy Name, 75 Sacred Heart Ladies, 54 Children of Mary, and a Branch of the Catholic Women’s League had been formed. From the opening of the 2 classrooms in 1954 until 1967 the Sisters teaching at South Tamworth lived at West Tamworth Convent and were driven to and from school each day. The constant need for additional classrooms to keep pace with the rapid growth of South meant Father Meehan’s plan to build a Convent as part of the Hillvue Road complex was indefinitely deferred. A parishioner, Mr Vic Flood, was moving to Inverell. Father Meehan bought his home, 26 Diane Street as a Convent. Major additions including a chapel, were built in 1968. The presence of the Sisters within the Parish contributed much to the “parish spirit” and was a real step forward in our growth as a community. The first Sisters to live in the parish were Sister Aloysius (Principal), Sister Hilarinus, sister Constance, sister Ruth and Sister Annette. They made a mark on the parish perhaps only those who were here at the time can fully appreciate.
Big class numbers in every class, lack of facilities (two classes were taught full time in the Hall with only a curtain divider) made their task a formidable one. The sisters realised the lack of facilities was simply a stage in growth and would be provided for as soon as practicable. With typical “Josephite” dedication, the Sisters accepted the challenge and the fruits of their work were evident in the response and results achieved by the children within a short time the Sisters were……….parents alike. Their enthusiasm was not confined solely to the classroom and Sister Aloysius and others of the Community were regular supporters of children’s sporting events. Rugby League was a prominent sport in the school at the time and Sister Ruth and Sister Annette were amongst the most vocal supporters of school teams at the Minor League Grounds. The first Assistant Priest, Father Bede Ryan, was appointed to the parish on 22ns September, 1967. A man of great personal charisma, he was an able lieutenant to Father Meehan for about 15 months. In 1977 as Parish Priest of Bingara, Father Ryan suffered injuries in a car accident while driving to attend an ordination in Tenterfield and died in Brisbane on 27th September, 1977, almost exactly 10 years after his appointment to St Edwards. He was 46.
Towards the end of 1967 Father Meehan met with the men of the parish to discuss proposed classrooms to be built behind the Church/School, the Hall no longer being considered suitable for the children’s classes. With little time and less money available, the men volunteered to build the timber rooms themselves. This was done in 6 weeks of summer heat at a cost of $6,000 – the new rooms were ready for the start of the 1968 school year. The men were enthusiastic at making such a positive contribution to the parish. Father Bede Ryan suggested they gather regularly for Dinner Meetings on a similar basis to Service Clubs, involved in parish activity. A pro-tem Executive was elected in November, 1968 to develop the framework of a Parish Club and draft a Constitution. Thus was born St Edward’s Men’s Club. The Club’s Inaugural Dinner was held in August, 1969 in the presence of Bishop James Freeman, who had succeeded to the See of Armidale following the death of Bishop Doody in April, 1968. One of the aims of the St Edward’s Men’s Club is to assess the needs of the parish and by personal effort to alleviate them. It is interesting to note from the first Board of Directors Report that through a weekly roster system 592 Service Hours were put into Service work by members. Father Meehan put to the Men’s Club that, in conjunction with the building of the new Primary School on Hillvue Road, they assume responsibility for developing the school grounds.
The Club took up the challenge and the first step in the transformation of those grounds to what we know them as today was the planting of trees right around the perimeter of the grounds. This was in May, 1970 and over 100 trees were planted. Next was the cutting out by bulldozer of the first basketball court, which also served as a temporary playing field. Concreting of two Practice Cricket pitches and the planting of lawn in front of the school followed soon after. Tamworth City Council completed its kerbing and guttering and laying of the footpath in front of the school in March, 1972 which helped the Men’s Club in its efforts to beautify the front of the school. An overall project plan was then drawn up for the development of the grounds. The first major development was a “cut and fill” exercise in October, 1973 to provide a level playing area. This gave the school the Minor Oval, an area of approximately 75 by 44 metres and a welcome addition for the children. The height of the northern batten back gives some idea of the original slope of the site. Water pipes and sprinklers under the enterprise of John Ball, were then laid to this oval and other vantage points to water ground areas. The Men’s Club continues as a vital organization supportive of the priests and parish, a dedicated group which has made a unique contribution to the spiritual and material growth, and the fellowship of our St Edward’s Parish. A companion group, the Young Wives, was formed in September ’70. A social club, it has always had a strong membership of younger women and continues to fill a parish need under its newer title of “St Edward’s Ladies’ Club”. Father Meehan had six months long-service leave in 1969. During his absence Father Frank Le Fevre was Administrator, assisted by Father David Teggins. Both ex-students of C.B.C. Tamworth they were well known to many people. As Administrator, Father Le Fevre built two additional timber classrooms and offices in Robert Street. Completed in 1970, these finally freed the brick building for sole use as a Church. The altar, a new one given in 1969 by Mr Brian Young in memory of his wife, Charmain, was re-sited in the centre of the Church by Father Meehan, a pulpit was built and the sanctuary was painted and curtained. During Father Frank’s administratorship, the Building Committee appointed by Father Meehan planned the first stage of the Hillvue Road school complex, consisting of five classrooms, administration area, toilet block and tuckshop.
Tenders were called and Father Le Fevre arranged a loan for $90,000 with the A.N.Z. Bank for its erection. Father David Teggins had a particular gift in his work among youth. No doubt his fair-haired, boyish looks contributed to this, but his work with and attraction to youth stood out. On one occasion he was part of a group enjoying themselves happily and noisily at West Tamworth pool. They were asked to leave. An embarrassed Manager, discovering one of the “louts” he was forcibly removing was Father Teggins, apologised and rescinded his ban. Father David said he would take his punishment with the rest of the group – but they did remain regular customers of the Pool. In 1972 while assistant at Inverell, Father Teggins sustained brain damage in a car accident. He became totally incapacitated.
He was taken to Lourdes in July 1976, the entire diocese uniting in financial aid and prayers for his recovery. An All-Night vigil for this intention was held at St Edward’s on 16th July, and although it was the depth of winter, many came to pray throughout the night. Father David showed slight improvement after his journey to Lourdes and an audience with Pope Paul VI, but this was temporary only. He died in November, 1980 aged 36, and was buried at Wamberal, following a Requiem Mass attended by Bishop Kennedy and thirty priests from the Diocese. Father Meehan returned to South Tamworth in December, 1969. The Robert Street site being in order for the moment, in 1970 he commenced building the Hillvue Road School complex. The school would now become two separate units, the Infants’ School in Robert Street and the Hillvue Road Classrooms, blessed and opened by Bishop Freeman in November, 1970 became St Edward’s Primary School. New Sisters at the schools now were Sister Cornelius and Sister Agnes Marie, who replaced Sister Constance and Sister Ruth. Some months later, on Cardinal Gilroy’s retirement, Bishop Freeman was appointed Archbishop of Sydney and was farewelled from the diocese with sincere regret. He was raised to the rank of Cardinal by Pope Paul VI and later awarded a knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II. Pending appointment of another Bishop to Armidale, Mgr. Maurice Tully, P.P. of Quirindi was Vicar Capitular of the Diocese.
In 1970, Father Bill Dowd was appointed assistant priest at South. Father Dowd, as Brother Raphael, was a Christian Brother for many years before studying for the priesthood and his ordination in Rome in January, 1967. consequently he was very much at home in a school situation and used his talents to the full during his 12 months stay. St Edward’s Parish was almost 10 years old. Much had been achieved. In addition to the Church/School building inherited from West Tamworth, the parish now had a Convent, Presbytery, Parish Hall, 4 Infants’ School classrooms, our new Primary School on Hillvue Road, and a wonderful “parish” spirit. Father Meehan had always encouraged involvement in community affairs. One of his catch-cries was “This will put St Edward’s on the map” and his pride in his flock was often overwhelming for those concerned. During part of our anniversary year, 1971, Father Ross O’Brien, another ex-student of C.B.C. Tamworth and a classmate of Father Le Fevre in the Seminary, was Assistant Priest at South. A popular priest, he emulated Father Teggins in his work among the youth, visiting them in their homes, at school and other gathering places. Father O’Brien was later made Diocesan Director of Vocations, an indication of the value of his work among the young.
As Vocations Director, Father O’Brien was instrumental in forming the “31 Club” in the diocese. Members undertook to attend Mass on a particular day each month, praying for vocations to the priesthood and religious life. The “Club”, as a group was inaugurated into South Tamworth parish at a Mass on 24th February, 1978, and continues as an important organization with members remaining loyal to their “day” to pray for vocations. In 21 years, South Tamworth has not produced its own young priest, but with the fervent prayers of “31 Club” members who knows what the future may bring? Over the years several successful social functions had been held, so Father Meehan decided to celebrate out 10th anniversary with a Luncheon in the parish hall. Guest speaker was Mary Rossi, mother of 12 and organiser of Catholic overseas tours, who flew from Sydney. Mgr Tully, the Vicar Capitular, and 220 women from Tamworth and other centres joined us for the occasion, the hall was bursting at the seams and a wonderful time was had by all present. St Edward’s was well and truly “on the map”. Early in 1972 Bishop Henry Kennedy from Brisbane was appointed Bishop of Armidale, a position he still holds with great distinction. A real “people’s Bishop” his zeal and genuine personal interest in all in his vast Diocese, especially the children, continue to amaze and delight. For some years, Father Meehan had owned a cottage at Sawtell near Coffs Harbour.
He decided to retire at the end of 1972, have a trip home to Ireland, then live at Sawtell. His retirement while still a relatively young man was regretted. Many glowing tributes to Father were paid at a Farewell in St Patrick’s Hall before a capacity crowd. Speakers not only included representatives of the Clergy and Laity but the Mayor of Tamworth and other notable personalities. Who proudly recalled the incredible contribution Father Meehan had made to Education, the Church, the City of Tamworth as a whole and in particular all of South Tamworth. Father Meehan died in 1979 and was buried at Coffs Harbour following a Requiem Mass celebrated by Bishop Kennedy and attended by many priests and former parishioners. During January and February 1973 the parish was vacant, priests from St Nicholas’ attending to our needs.
A favourite topic was wondering who would be our new Parish Priest. Several “certainties” were named. Meanwhile, at Moree, Father Frank Le Fevre was going about his duties as Assistant Priest, mainly involved at that time in establishing a Youth Centre. His boss, Mgr Frank Ryan, knowing he had enjoyed his stay in South Tamworth in 1969, suggested he make application, even though he was not yet due for his own parish. He did apply. Some weeks passes and Father Frank was called to the phone. “The Bishop wants to speak to you”. To his surprise the Bishop really was on the line, to tell him he was appointed to South Tamworth. Quickly all interests in Moree were finalised and Father Frank eventually arrived in his first Parish – three days late!
Appointment of Fr F Le Fevre as Parish Priest
Father Le Fevre has a “claim to fame’ few can match – he was born in a police station! His father was Sergeant of Police at Islington at the time and the family lived in the Station. He worked for several years in the Commonwealth Bank at Tamworth and Inverell and played Rugby League for Tamworth City Firsts before entering the Seminary. Father Frank was ordained in 1961, the year South Tamworth became a parish, and served in many parts of the diocese before being appointed to his first parish. Those parishioners who thought they had been kept busy during Father Meehan’s time, and could now relax, were due for a surprise. Father Frank spent some weeks meeting his people and assessing the never-ending parish needs. The first task was giving the go-ahead to Father Meehan’s proposal to build two further classrooms on Hillvue Road, the weekly Notice Sheets were introduces, men and women began Reading at Sunday Masses and families now brought up the Offertory Gifts in procession. Father Frank called a public meeting of parishioners on 209th May 1973 to present an alternative to the existing plan for future development of the parish. Plans had been to erect a War memorial Church on Hillvue Road; indeed this had been the project for the current planned giving programme than a the end of its second year. While conceding the need for a new Church, Father Frank and the Finance Committee felt increased school enrolments presented a more urgent need. If class sizes were to be limited to 35, additional classrooms at the Infants’ School needed to be built immediately.
It was felt too that either a Presbytery or Convent should be beside the Primary School so the school buildings could be supervised out of school time. The Bishop was expected to appoint an assistant priest shortly (the parish had been without a second priest for 18 months) so the Meeting agreed to build two classrooms at Robert Street and a new Presbytery. Within a short time out assistant priest was appointed, newly ordained Father Bernard Hennessy. An ex-student of St Joseph’s College, Hunters Hill, Father Bernie was a fine athlete. At “Joey’s” he was a member of the schoolboy relay team which took out the Australian Championship and himself held several Schoolboy State athletic titles. A dedicated priest of outstanding personality, he was to be almost 4 years at St Edward’s and to date holds the record as our longest serving assistant priest. He and Father Frank became a team giving great leadership to the parish. Our schools now were under the charge of Sister Peter at Hillvue Road and Sister Lorraine at the Infants’. Sisters Madeline, Jane, Rosita and Janet Cummins were members of the teaching staff during this period.
The first open-air Mass followed by carol singing and a barbecue was held at the Primary School site in December, 1973. These have continued, one of the many “parish family” gatherings enjoyed by all, adults and children alike. A special Mass was offered by Father Frank and Father Bernie on 2nd February 1974 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the opening of the Church/School building and the first Mass said there by Mgr Dunne. Many former parishioners now living in other parts of Tamworth, including many who had been at the ceremonies 20 years earlier were present. Memories of the “old days” were talked over afterwards in front of the Church – some had been school children in the Guard of Honour, others helped with afternoon tea or with the fund-raising parties.
Listening to the talk it was obvious Catholics may come in all shapes and sizes, with a variety of backgrounds and abilities, but the bonds of “Church” and “Parish” are strong links that do much to forge the feeling of “belonging” for all concerned. Early in the year, Tamworth City Council announced future plans for a link road to pass within 10 feet of the south side of the Infants’ classrooms, through parkland used as play area. This would wedge the school between two busy roads. Application was made to the Schools Commission for funds to re-site the Infants’ School on Hillvue Road. Cost estimate in 1974 was $438,232. School Commission funds proved not to be available at the time. The new presbytery was completed in July 1974. No architect was engaged for the project. It was designed by Jeff Hawke, the City Council Town Planner of the time. Engineers details were supplied by John O’Connor, Cockburn Shire Engineer. Supervision was carried out jointly by Roger Jones, Building Inspector with Peel Shire, and John O’Connor. Because of the generous donation of this valued expertise the cost of the new presbytery to John and Frances Gray for $24,000 plus $23,000 parish funds in hand. Hence it was not necessary to take out any loan for the completion of this building.
Bishop Kennedy blessed and officially opened the presbytery on Sunday, 29th September. The Presbytery was intended as a meeting place for the various organisations in the parish as well as a home for the priests. Today, the “Centre Point” Presbytery (name, the brainchild of Father Bernie Hennessy) is a hub of activity and a regular meeting place for priests and people in a lively parish. Bishop Kennedy introduced the Saturday night Vigil Mass into the Diocese about this time. The first such Mass at St Edward’s was celebrated on 19th October, 1974. One of the important Apostolates in the Church today, that of Natural Family Planning, commenced a weekly Clinic in the Baby Health Centre, Kathleen Street, on 23rd October, 1974. Literature was circularised to local doctors, their support was urged, and in many cases was forthcoming. Over the years South Tamworth has hosted regular Seminars on Natural Family Planning, conducted by doctors and trained personnel from Sydney and attended by men and women from towns on the coast and the north and north-west. Father Frank and members of the local branch attend Annual Conferences in State capital cities, ensuring the Centre is completely up to date in developments in N.F.P. Two new Sisters were welcomed to our schools at the start of 1975 – Sister Sarah Hogan, an Irish nun, was Infants’ Headmistress until the end of ’78, and Sister Kaylyn, in her first appointment after Training College. Sister Kaylyn moved to Woodburn at the completion of the 1975 school year. With the transfer of Sister Peter at the end of 1974 Sister Helen Madden, who with Sister Mary Hagon, jointed the staff in February 1974, became School Principal. Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament following 9.30am Mass concluding with Benediction at 12.30 has become a regular parish devotion. Mostly held on the first Sunday of the month, it is also held at St Edward’s on special feasts of the Church. As well as honouring Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, many intentions have been prayed for – vocations, rain, the Souls in Purgatory, Christian Unity, to name a few. Father Frank introduced this monthly Devotion to the parish on 2nd March, 1975. A most successful Mission was held in the parish in November, 1975. Fired with enthusiasm and the joy of living for their God, the Redemptorist team of Fathers Des Fitzgerald, Joe McNamara, John Carney and Brother Tony Gallagher, communicated this well at Home Gatherings and Mission Sessions. The Team was with us four weeks and the people who were able to attend the Mission won’t easily forget them and the Mission they preached.
It was always necessary for both priests to be present at Communion time at weekend Masses due to the large numbers receiving the Sacrament. In December, 1975, Bishop Kennedy gave permission for religious Brothers and Nuns to assist in distributing Communion as Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist. This directive of the Bishop was implemented in April 1976, the Sisters of St Joseph assisting with Communion. The Commonwealth Government had a so-called R.E.D. Scheme, whereby Grants were given to approved projects, using workmen currently unemployed. Father Frank made application for a R.E.D. Scheme Grant for school grounds development and improvement, including drainage; he received $7910 from the Government for a project estimated to cost $9470, to employ 5 men for 7 weeks in mid 1975.
These men completed the basketball courts at Hillvue Road, laid very necessary 12 inch stormwater drainage pipes to connect the property to the town stormwater system, painted the Hall inside and out and the outside of two Infants’ Classrooms. Mid 1975, Tamworth City Council engaged in laying bigger stormwater piping throughout the South Tamworth area. They were looking for a place to take the surplus “fill” and it was decided to ask the Council to bring this surplus to Hillvue Road and form a Major Oval. Completion of this would put the Men’s Club project at Hillvue Road some years ahead of schedule. Truckloads of dirt came pouring in for months until Sister Helen vowed and declared she never wanted to see another truck. Sister realised though the dust and the noise would be well worthwhile once the Oval was completed. Pat Grace was busy with his bulldozer and mountains of dirt disappeared under his blade. With the ready availability of “fill” the Oval concept was enlarged to give the maximum playing space. Pat and his “dozer” were in full-time work for many weeks in order to keep the trucks moving. The extent of the works and the amount of “fill” needed can be visualised standing on the north-western corner and seeing the top of the bank is higher than the eaves of surrounding houses. John O’Connor was the Engineer, and, as well as Pat Grace, Bryan Taylor pus in days levelling with his Grade. Their combined efforts resulted in an Oval 2 ¼ acres in size – an Oval few schools could boast to have. The Men’s club, continuing its interest in the grounds, bought the first tractor, a Ferguson TK for $250, to keep the grounds in order.
Water pipes were extended to the Major Oval in August 1976. The classroom “bogy” was still very much alive. Tamworth City Council’s plan to put the link road beside the Infants’ school put paid to any ideas of building on the site, yet enrolments continued to increase. The Schools Commission was not prepared to fund suggested portable classrooms, and the Parish Hall was deemed unsuitable for school use due to size, noise factor and lack of security. Alternative idea was to hire the Methodist Hall in Croydon Avenue for 1976, which was agreed to by the Methodist Church Trust, at a weekly rental of $25. There was strong parental opposition to the school being divided in this way. The only practical solution was to extend the Hall, even though this was the area through which the proposed road was to go. Council gave permission subject to the Bishop signing a Deed that the building would be removed at parish expense when work on the new roadway commenced. Once more, the men of the parish volunteered their services and the new area 50 feet by 25 feet was completed largely by them. Total cost to the parish was $5,600.
The children used the Methodist Hall for 1st Term and occupied their new classrooms in Term 2, 1976. Sister Thomasine Barnes comes to South this year. As a postscript to the serious problem the proposed Tamworth City Council link road had caused for almost 4 years in respect of development at the Infants’ School site, the Council on 5th December, 1977 advised that objection had been raised to the roadway, the objection was upheld, and the road would be diverted. So the proposed re-siting of the Infants’ School was deferred. Tamworth celebrated its Centenary of Local Government from March-June, 1976. Catholics and people of other faiths gathered with rugs, chairs and cushions on No 1 Oval on the evening of 24th Marsh for an open-air Mass. The Mass, concelebrated by Cardinal James Freeman, Bishop Kennedy and many diocesan priests, was an impressive public display of faith. On Palm Sunday night the portable seating was back at the Oval – this time for the Iona Passion Play. A brilliant portrayal of Christ’s Passion and Crucifixion, it was a fitting introduction to Holy Week. The classrooms at the end of the Hall being completed, some of the more talented parishioners thought to stage a Concert to defray building costs. This was called “Remember What’s ‘is Name” and produced an astonishing array of items for the enjoyment of the capacity audience. Highlight of the evening was a “This is Your Life” segment, to star, without his knowledge of course, Father Frank.
The keeping of this secret, in view of the amount of preparation needed, was a feat in itself. Father Frank’s father and sister, Thelma Daly, were flown from Sydney and kept under wraps until their big moment some way though the item. Father Frank had had many characters from his past recalled, some on tape, some genuine, some figments of the fertile imagination of the Ladies’ Club, and was well into the spirit of the occasion. Suddenly one of the ladies produced caused Father Frank to take a closer look. “It is my sister! This really is my sister!”: Thelma was closely followed by her father, who told the excited audience his proudest moment in a long lifetime was the day of Father Frank’s ordination. All told, the item should have been a hard act to follow. But the standard for the whole of the evening was such that the “This is Your Life” segment simply became part of an overall excellent night’s entertainment. Early in 1977 an account was opened with the Diocesan Investment Fund in Armidale. All monies raised towards our proposed New Church were paid into this Account. Father Frank received an anonymous donation of $1,000; he invested this in cattle, placed them on district properties, and with the help from local stock buyers, has since bought and sold a few cattle, raising funds for the New Church. Sister Elaine Ridgewell arrived in our Parish at the beginning of 1977 and joined Sisters Helen and Sarah. A Postulant, Sister Michelle, was also with us for part of ‘77. Father Bernie Hennessy was transferred to Inverell in February ’77. Our new assistant priest was Father Paul McCabe, who came to us from Moree.
A nephew of Bishop Thomas McCabe formerly of Wollongong, Father Paul had been ordained in Rome in 1966 by Pope Paul VI. Like Father Bernie he was a keen golfer playing off a handicap of 12, and a lover of classical music. Father Paul established a Prayer Group at St Edward’s to help parishioners deepen their prayer relationship with God and become a caring community in the parish. The Prayer Meetings continue each week. Fathers Luke Newington, Trevor Trotter, Jack Soulsby, Paul Seibert and Gus Parker have visited the parish from time to time to conduct seminars; these are attended by people from throughout the diocese who derive much from this method of devotion to God. Application had been made to the Schools Commission for funding for a third classroom block, quiet area, and under-croft at Hillvue Road. This would make the school 2 stream throughout. Approval for this was received in July, ’77, the Government granting $33,000 for the project, total cost of which was $64,715. An additional Grant of $8,600 was receive din July 1978 when the building was blessed by Bishop Kennedy in the presence of the Mayor of Tamworth, Ald N I MacKellar and a large number of parents and children. Walgett Parish became vacant, and our Father Paul was given charge of his first parish after only 14 months at South. Father Wayne Peters was transferred from Narrabri to St Edward’s. Father Peters was educated at CBC Tamworth with his cousin Father David Teggins, so he too was well-known in the district. With his experience as Administrator at Narrabri he offered practical help and suggestions in the daily running of the parish.
A gifted singer and talented organist, he amazed and delighted parishioners the first day he showed his abilities in the Church. Father Wayne’s stay at South was a brief 9 months. Towards the end of 1978 he represented the Diocese at the Australian Canon Law Conference in Sydney; he completed a course in Marriage Tribunal Practice, and was appointed by Bishop Kennedy as Diocesan Officialis. Father Peters, based in Bishop’s House, Armidale, handles all Marriage Tribunal cases for the diocese and regularly sits on the Sydney Tribunal. Spiritual highlights of 1978 were varied. As a Lenten exercise the 2nd Penitential Rite was celebrated here for the first time in March. Father Luke Newington, a Franciscan priest from Edgecliff, said the first Healing Mass in the parish in June. Healing Masses are now a regular part of our parish devotions; special prayers are offered for spiritual healing and for physical healing according to God’s will. In September the Movement for a Better World Team of Father Hughie Delaney, Father Reg Callinan and June Gibbs gave a week’s Retreat in the parish. This was a different style of Retreat, demanding but well worth the effort for the 40 people who completed the week. With Infants’ enrolments still rising a third stream at the school would soon be a reality. Re-siting was financially out of the question. The Schools Commission was approached to send a Consultant to advise on the best possible educational plan for South.
The Commission asked for guidelines as to local thinking and details of current situation. Members of the recently formed School Board, the Finance Committee and building representatives met on site to formulate the Submission to the Schools Commission. Estimated cost of re-siting had risen to $756,774 by September, ’77 closely. The Church building was sound and solidly built. It would provide space for necessary classrooms and administration area at minimum cost compared to re-siting. The group made a unanimous decision to continue both schools on their existing sites. The proposition was put to the Schools Commission and given favourable consideration, application for a Grant to be made when appropriate. Conversion of the present church to school use in the near future of course meant planning for the proposed Church on Hillvue Road had become a matter of urgency. Fund raising was stepped up. “Bricks in the New Church” were sold at 50 cents each, a novel form of raffle. Once again the talented members of the parish staged a Concert in Tamworth High School Auditorium, at which the New Church Appeal was officially launched. The Vicar-General, Mgr Frank Ryan and the Mayor and Mayoress of Tamworth, Ald N L and Mrs MacKellar were present. The programme once more pointed up the diversity of talent in the parish and the willingness of those involved to give of their time and energies. The audience of almost 1,000 enjoyed themselves immensely and the evening raised $1,200 towards the New Church Fund. January 1979 saw St Edward’s with a new assistant priest, Father John Curran, Father John grew up in Moree and was educated at De La Salle, Armidale and Downlands College Toowoomba. An enthusiastic runner at school and in the seminary, he took part in distance runs in Tamworth as he did in his previous parish of Gunnedah and on a visit to New Zealand with his parents in January, 1980 walked the famous Milford Track.
The Ministry of Acolyte was again an active Church Ministry. Father Frank invited a number of men to be installed as Acolytes after a training period. Bishop Kennedy installed the men. Tony Ball, John Cartwright, John Fittler, Don Guyer, Mal Keys, Mike Moroney, David Owens, Warren Ryan and Bob Sutton into the Order of Acolyte at a Mass on the evening of 22nd December, 1978. The Acolytes, as well as assisting the priests at weekend Masses, take Communion to the parish elderly and sick each Sunday and are a valued body of men to the parish. During the Clergy Retreat in November, 1982 three of the Acolytes conducted Communion Services so those who wished could still receive Communion during the priests’ absence. Tamworth Churches combined for the Northern Inland Outreach of the Billy Graham Crusade held in Sydney in April, 1979. Preacher at the Northern Crusade at No. 1 Oval from 20-24th April was Lewis Drummond from the United States. Parishioners of St Edward’s were in the choir, other worked on sub-committees, acted as ushers at the Oval. As well as spiritual benefits gained, it was a successful ecumenical exercise. As always, fund-raising ideas were being looked at to boost New Church funds. An Art Union was suggested and decided upon by the New Church Committee.
Mike Moroney and Jim Hynes put their considerable experience in media and advertising to good effect in organising this major fund-raising project and have continued to give their services in subsequent Art Unions run. Main prize for the first Art Union was a Commodore car: tickets at 50 cents were good value and this proved a major selling point. Parishioners generously gave of their time for ticker selling in Tamworth. They provided lists for mailing of books and those travelling left books along their routes – it was an outstanding parish effort. At the hub of operations was Jack Dempsey, who kept records of movements out and back of each book) and there were 6,000) and was still smiling at the close of the Art Union. The Mayor drew the prizes at West Tamworth Leagues Club on Christmas Eve in the presence of the police Licensing Sergeant and parishioners. Profit of $12,100 went to our New Church Fund and all involved relaxed until the next Art Union. Project Compassion is a Lenten project the parish and diocese support generously. In February, 1980 the National Director of Australian Catholic Relief, Mr Michael Whitely, visited the diocese and by clever manipulation of time tables, managed to speak at Sunday Masses in all Tamworth Churches. He told of poverty, hunger and injustice in many parts of the world and of our responsibility to assist in overcoming this by our support of Project Compassion. Once again parishioners’ response was outstanding; the amount raised throughout the diocese was a record. Each year on the first Friday in March, the Women’s World Day of Prayer Service is held throughout the world. St Edward’s Catholic Women’s League was invited to conduct the Service on 7th March, ’80, the first time in Tamworth the Service was held in a Catholic Church.
Theme was “Responsible Freedom”. Guest speaker was Marie de Groot, and Mayoress Mrs Margaret Bennet, read a message from Lady Cutler, wife of the State Governor. Over 160 women were at the Service and at the morning tea afterwards in the Hall. A few days later the centenary of arrival of the Sisters of St Joseph in the diocese was celebrated. The Sisters came to the diocese in 1880 at the invitation of Bishop Torreggiani and established convents in Tenterfield and Inverell. A Thanksgiving Mass was offered in the parish on the Feast of St Joseph. In his homily Father Frank congratulated the Sisters on their Centenary and thanked them on behalf of all parishioners for their generosity and dedication in their callings as followers of Mother Mary Mackillop. As a follow on to these celebrations, the parish was delighted at the decision of Sister Judith Vinton and Sister Catherine Linehan to make their Life Vows in South Tamworth. This became the highlight of our “Daybreak 80” programme. At a Mass at 2.00pm on Saturday, 19th April, concelebrated by Bishop Kennedy, Mgr J M O’Connor, Father Le Fevre, Father Curran and Father Peters the Sisters took their Vows before Sister Elizabeth, Superior General of the Sisters of St Joseph. Also present were 2 General Councillors of the Order, Sisters Josephine and Concepta, Sister Mary Guilfoyle (Provincial Armidale/Lismore Province) and 120 Sisters of St Joseph. The occasion was especially joyful – the Church was packed as the parish rejoiced with Sister Catherine and Sister Judith on this important day in their lives. The Hall, too, was beautifully decorated for the afternoon tea party, including a tiered cake, that followed Mass. Dry weather conditions were becoming a real cause for concern. Summer was almost over, prospects for winter feed were not promising.
In the absence of Bishop Kennedy, Mgr Ryan, Vicar-General, requested in March, 1980 that prayers for rain be included in daily Masses. Prayers and Masses for Rain were offered in St Edward’s and other areas of the diocese. “In God’s good time down came the rain.” Thanksgiving Masses became the order of the day as dams were replenished and a film of green again covered the countryside for a time. The are of Tamworth known as Coledale on the other side of the railway line was growing apace. Though technically in West Tamworth parish, with a convenience of the Robert St crossing, many people from the are attended Mass and the children attended school at St Edward’s. Mgr J O’Connor, Parish Priest of West Tamworth and Father Le Fevre agreed to a parish boundary change as follows: “South Tamworth parish boundary to include area beyond the railway line. Both sides of Cossa Ave, Sue Cresc, including Quinn St as far as rear of Sue Cresc, to Timbumbri Creek. Boundary to be Timbumbri Creek to area where it crosses Werris Ck Road at Warral. Then Railway Line to continue as boundary between South and West parishes.”
Bishop Kennedy confirmed this parish boundary alteration on 9th June, 1980. With the parish suddenly enlarged (reminiscent of the ‘50s) novel ideas to raise money for the New Church became a talking point. “Football Pools” based on the Sydney Rugby League Competition was one idea that received a good response. A “Simple Meal” was another. These “Meals” were successful social evenings as well as fund raisers and many were held in the parish. A Music Hall style evening “Pirates of One Tree Hill” brought the parish talent out again. This was arranged for two nights, 22nd-23rd August, and by request was repeated on 13th September. As a warm-up “Claims for Pirate Treasure” were sold as “Bricks in the New Church” had been 2 years earlier, and proved just as popular. A pedigreed Cocker Spaniel was donated as a raffle by Peter and Jill Heffernan. Tickets went well – another $500 had been raised by the time the winning ticket was drawn by Bishop Kennedy. A second Art Union was organised with similar prizes to the previous one. Tamworth people were pleased to see our “Win a Car for 50 cents” placards again and bought well.
Overall response was not so successful the second time around, but with much hard work a profit of $8,000 was credited to our New Church Account. At the instigation of John Fittler, a member of the New Church Committee, Final Year Architectural students from the University of NSW and their tutor took as a Project the designing of a suitable New Church Complex for South. The group visited the site, listened to ideas and returned in a few months with models and sketch plans. These were displayed in the Hall, and faced with the tangible reality of a New Church parishioners made comments and suggestions which were most helpful. Though seemingly occupied with church planning and fund-raising priests and people had their spiritual needs well in mind. An American priest, Father “Chuck” Gallagher visited Australia in mid ’80. He gave a “Parish Renewal” week for prises at St Joseph’s College, Hunters Hill and Father Frank attended. Father John went to a similar Renewal a few weeks later in North Sydney parish. Both priests were enthusiastic about ideas generated by this “Renewal”, about its capacity to enrich parish relationships with God and with one another and arranged two Parish Renewal Weekends during October. The weekends were endorsed by Bishop Kennedy as our “spiritual Father.”
Staff of both the schools met voluntarily before school each day in the week before the Renewals to pray for their success; the school children made acts of self-denial for the same intention. Both Parish Renewal weekends made a deep spiritual impact on the large numbers who attended. Many positive results were evident in daily lives as we became more aware of ourselves as a Catholic community caring first for our own family circle and seeing the parish as our extended family. Sister Helen and Sister Judith were transferred at the end of 1980. Sister Helen was with us for 7 years, 6 of them as School Principal and was greatly loved. It is not the custom for the Sisters of St Joseph to allow a public farewell to their Sisters, but the Provincial, Sister Mary made an exception in this case as Sisters was going overseas to do a Course of Studies. A full Hall of people expressed appreciation to Sister for her tireless efforts in the interests of St Edward’s. Sister Rhonda Gould (Principal) and Sister Dolour Campion came to us for the 1981 school year. Sister Rhonda was in South only a short time; her replacement until the end of ’81 was Sister Ursula Derham. Sister Catherine left us for Narrabri at the end of ’81. Principal since the beginning of 1982 has been Sister Anne Love (A few years earlier another Sister Anne Love was School Librarian before going to Sydney to work as religious visitor at Westmead Hospital). January 1981 saw South Tamworth welcoming a Deacon, as John Farrell arrived to spend 6 weeks with us gaining parish experience. From Armidale, John was ordained at the Cathedral by Bishop Kennedy on 21st September and said a Mass of Thanksgiving the next day. Many parishioners from St Edward’s and other parishes John had worked in during his Diaconate year shared the joy of the occasion with him.
Another first for our parish – the area Motor Mission moved from Quirindi to its new base in South Tamworth at the start of 1981. Sister Paula Nickle is Superior at the Convent as well as being in charge of Motor Mission. Catechetics has always been a much needed apostolate. As far back as 1974 there were 146 Catholic children in State Schools within the parish cared for by Father Meehan and three catechists. Today Father Gerard Hanna, Sister Paula and 9 catechists regularly give classes in State Primary and High Schools in South and at Farrer to assist with the religious upbringing of boys and girls attending these schools. A group of Redemptorist Fathers was expected for a Mission in February, and requested an up-to-date Parish Census to assist in their home visitations. “C” Day was organised – almost 100 volunteers covered the entire parish on Sunday, 1st February, calling at all homes seeking Catholic families and inviting them personally to come to the Mission. This contact, together with that of the Mission team of Fathers Keith Teefey, Pat O’Neill, Neil Dwyer and Brother Kieran Holmes, ensured the people came to the Mission in their numbers. It was a ”gentle” style of Mission, given by a sincere hand of priests, it appealed to everyone and the Church was full to overflowing at all sessions – reinforcing the need for a larger Church. With time allowed for settling down after the Mission a follow-up meeting of parishioners was held in April.
Its purpose was the discussion of ideas re implementation of the Liturgy, and to alleviate parish needs not presently being catered for, parishioner involvement generally being the key to this latter. The seeds of “Community” were sown at the “Movement for a Better world” Retreat in ’78, came to flower at the “Parish Renewal” weekends, and were still very much alive at the February Mission The Parish is large. Scattered from Coledale to Calala, Kent Street to the Sugarloaf Peak, it contains the build of Tamworth’s population – an enormous area of two priests to cover as they would wish. The “Parish as a Community” is a sound, workable method of creating the sense of belonging, of caring and being cared for. It is hoped to develop the Parish along these lines. One way and another the time seemed ripe to take positive action in New Church planning. The Robert Street church so often during a year was shown to be too small to hold congregations’ the Infants’ School need for extra space was also obvious. A priest/architect from Melbourne, Father Emmanuel of the Order of Christ the Priest, was invited to South Tamworth to inspect our site and draw up a plan for a Church/Community complex, the wish of the majority of parishioners. Father came for 2½ days in March 1981, looked at the site (and was impressed by its potential), had discussions with the priests and the Committee, and gave a talk illustrated with slides on his work as a Church and School architect.
A milestone was reached at the end of April ’81 – we raised our first $100,000 towards our New Church. A large sum, it had been raised in a little over 4 years, almost beyond belief and indicative of the wholehearted support forthcoming from the people of South as the need for the New Church became ever more urgent. Encouraged by our $100,000 in hand, fundraising for the New Church forged on apace. A Luncheon was held at the City Bowling Club, with an auction to follow. Great fun, and $522.50 went into our Fund. “The Drunkard” a Melodrama, was staged at the RSL Club over 3 nights in August. This was a different style of entertainment with audience participation invited (not that the audience needed any encouragement). It was a most impressive production in every way and raised $920. Father Emmanuel returned in May with Sketch Plans for a Church with Community Complex underneath. The plans were displayed for comment, alterations suggested to Father, who adjusted his original plans accordingly. Preliminary planning was getting under way but received a big set back in early ’82 when a costing of the design was done and found to be beyond our capacity to finance. Regretfully we were back to square one. At the end of Mary the Diocesan Conference of Catholic Women’s League was hosted by South Tamworth Branch. In 1970 a similar Conference had been held in the newly completed St Edward’s Primary School. The 1981 Conference was attended by Bishop Kennedy, Diocesan Chaplain Mgr Fran Ryan, VG, Mrs Esther Doyle, State President, and almost 100 members. In September 1982 the first State Conference of the League to be held in the Diocese took place at St Patrick’s, West Tamworth. A most successful gathering of 250 members from Sydney Archdiocese and five country Dioceses spent a weekend making and cementing friendships as well as attending Masses, listening to Guest Speakers and Panels, discussing Resolutions designed to improve the quality of life for society generally, and touring scenic Tamworth. Bishop Kennedy was present at all Sessions, a popular figure indeed. (“I wonder is there any chance of your Bishop being moved to our Diocese?”). Although South Tamworth branch is small in numbers, two members, Eileen McCulloch and Kitty Thomas, have served three-year terms as Diocesan President, and Ronnie Leehy a term as Diocesan Secretary. The St Vincent de Paul Society celebrated 100 years of service to the needy of Australia in July. A Mass was offered in St Edward’s on the 16th July thanking God and asking His continued blessing on the work of the Society. On 30th August members spoke at all Masses on their work as followers of Frederick Ozanam and on the Centre to be opened on the Werris Creek Road as a Store and “Drop-in” area.
Much time, re-vamping and hard work from volunteers was necessary before the sparkling new Centre was blessed and opened by Bishop Kennedy in November, 1982. Staffed by South Tamworth ladies the Centre has been a boon to local people. The Society is also proud owner of a truck, a recent most useful donation from Tamworth rotary club. The New Church was not the only building occupying parish thoughts. Enrolments at Hillvue Road Primary had grown – new classrooms and staff quarters were needed. A Schools Commission Grant of $103,000 was most gratefully received and building commenced in October 1981 by Groennou Constructions. Completed early in ’82 school year, the extensions were blessed by Bishop Kennedy in July. The Administration area now provides facilities for teachers for a full three=stream school which is currently well on the way. St Edward’s parish was 20 years old on 9th November, 1981. With much to look back on and be proud of, a Thanksgiving Mass was arranged on the New Church site, with morning tea, games for the children and a picnic to follow. The country was in the grip of a severe drought.
Masses praying for rain were offered during much of the year and were well attended by people of all faiths. Our prayers were answered on the morning of 1st November – the outdoor Mass was hastily moved to the Robert Street Hall and the crowds came to celebrate the past 20years and thank God for the rain. A special cake decorated to represent the Robert Street Church was a great attraction, not only for the children, and everyone had a taste. Again we had a change in our priests – in February ’82 Father John was transferred to Inverell and Father Gerard Hanna came from Warialda in his place. Father Gerard, with much parish experience in the diocese and in London, and an expert musician, was born in Armidale where his family have been in business for many years. Having spent several years at St Nicholas’ in the ‘70s. Father was known by many South people. During February Ted Wilkes, a seminarian, did parish work with us. Ted was ordained to the Diaconate in Inverell at the end of the year and will be ordained a priest this August. Meanwhile back to the drawing board, ever-rising costs meant any delay in building our Church was putting the price higher. A new architect to the district, Mr Michael Nelson, was commissioned to do working drawings for a Church/Community complex, estimated cost to be $620,000. These drawings were shown as overhead projections at all Masses on 22nd-23rd May, with comments invited. The plans were readily accepted so with no further delay, we were on the way to a New Church. 14 years after Father Meehan planned to build. Father Frank told parishioners the New Church would be dedicated to Mary, Help of Christians, Patroness of Australia. The Parish and Schools would remain as St Edward’s and St Edward would remain the Saint prayed to at each Mass. The Robert Street Church was originally named St Mary’s. The “Mary, Help of Christians” reverted the Church back to its original patronage of Our Lady.
Now fund raising was back to the fore. A Colonial Luncheon was held at “Calala”, Denison Street in June with local historian Lyall Green telling us about the early days of the Church in Tamworth. In October those with lots of energy went to a “Hoedown” at Rosary College for a “let-your-hair-down” evening. These functions raised $1,300 between them. Annual events Football Pools and Art Union were bringing in the money, thanks once again to the ever-faithful band of workers who are always willing to help. Is it that they know they will be conscripted if they don’t come quietly? In August, seven sets of Plans and Specifications were distributed to tenderers for the New Church. A model of the building went on display at the Church with a display of the history of past achievements and a Scroll or parish events. Site preparation work was taken out of the Contract to save time. Pat Grace wrote his name into our history on 22nd August by turning the first sod of the New Church on the Hillvue Road site with a bulldozer blade. Thoughts went back to Dr Dunne turning the first sod at Robert Street by hand 29 years earlier. Thank goodness for progress!
Three test holes sunk on the Hillvue Road site revealed solid shale. Our New Church will not sink! Successful tenderer for the Church was Groennou Constructions, recent builders of the Primary School Extensions – tender price was $389,613 for building only. Carpets and furnishings, parking, landscaping, professional fees, are expected to cost another $120,000. Bishop Kennedy blessed the Foundation Stone following a Mass in the School Undercroft on 12th December.After a long wait our Church/School Assembly complex envisaged to many years ago by Father Meehan abut put aside because of the need for classrooms, comes to fruition for the same reason – the need for Infants’ classroom space. The building, between the Primary School and the Presbytery, overlooking Tamworth and its hills, is scheduled for Opening and Blessing by Bishop Kennedy on 17th April. And so, St Edward’s can look back on over 21 years as a living parish. Few parishes would have given similar opportunities for participating in, or observing, such diversity of activity in such a short span of years – some planned, some forced upon us as growth in Tamworth proceeded non-stop. To say the least, it hasn’t been dull. Let’s be honest – we’ve enjoyed it (well … most of it). Annual events have included our Spiritual highlights of First Communion and Confirmation, our Parish Ball, Walkathon, October weekends at Crystal Waters; we’ve had regular 9very regular) working bees when men and a few ladies have toiled summer and winter to keep the extensive grounds and ovals tidy. Our weekly Housie continues, run by local teams of men and women, boys and girls.
Our Choir and organists add much to liturgies each weekend and always manage to excel themselves on special occasions. It’s been said we don’t hear much good news because in the long run only bad news IS news. In recording the past 21 years it must be said the day-to-day happenings that are what a parish is really all about are not here. Not because they aren’t important – indeed they are the very basis of parish life – but simply because in the words of St John “if they were all written down one by one, I suppose that the whole world could not hold the books that would be written.” Many people make a parish. The parish is the people.
Without people there is no parish, so this has really been the story of the people who have made their homes here. We have been greatly blessed in the calibre of parishioners St Edward’s has always had. As South Tamworth’s growth continues, the parish will expand accordingly. Already the parish ahs an option of 10 acres at Calala, six acres behind “Groveleigh” and 4 acres on the Warral Road next to Rosary College. As Father Carroll did in 1947 and Father Meehan did in 1962, Father Le Fevre is buying with an eye to future parish needs. The wheel has come full circle. “One generation passes and another comes, but the world forever stays.” We have much to be thankful for. We look to the future confident in God’s goodness and pray He will continue to shower His blessings on South Tamworth Parish as He has done so generously in so many ways during the past 21 years. Mary, Help of Christians, Patroness of Australia and our Patroness, Pray for Us. March, 1983 Acknowledgement is made to Kitty Thomas for her efforts in compiling this Parish history.
No further information has been provided at this stage.