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Wednesday, 24 September 2014 00:44

A week in the far west

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toowoomba tripSister Elaine Morzone mfic and Mary Schwartz were invited by the parishioners of St Mary’s Cunnamulla to provide formation for the Parish Pastoral Council and workshops in the ministries of funerals and communion to the sick and housebound. Mary Schwartz recounts their journey and introduces the places and good people who continue the Gospel message in the far west of the Toowoomba diocese. 

Whilst the countryside in and around Cunnamulla is dry and dusty, there is a sense of freshness and a vitality within the parish and school community. Pastoral Leader Sr. Maureen Andrews mfic provides hands-on ministry as she travels the mail run visiting people on properties, involves herself in the everyday life of the town working with Queensland Health to provide outreach to those in need, cares for the spiritual and prayer life of the parishioners, school teachers and students as she encourages their involvement in lay led liturgy, visiting the sick, parish committee membership. ‘Sale Days’, selling second hand clothing and morning tea are not simply to raise money for Church and presbytery improvements but also provide an avenue for great community building amongst the local people.

The small community in Thargomindah keep a beautiful tidy town and Church and regularly share an evening meal together in the local park after Mass or Liturgy. A lovely lady, Ide, to be met at the caravan park keeps it all going.

toowoomba trip2Surprises abound as we leave Cunnamulla for Quilpie travelling the road through Eulo, bypassing Yowah to stop at Toompine on the Quilpie Thargomindah Road. Toompine, ‘the Pub without a town’, population 2! It was time for a cuppa and, realising that ‘someone’ had forgotten the thermos, the pub provided! We were joined by the new publican of some two-three months, who recalled his school days at Downlands and chatted proudly of his four daughters whom he had provided with a good Catholic education. With their education complete, he was able to return to the western outback where he had spent years as a shearer in his earlier days.

A pleasant drive to Quilpie where, over coffee and dinner with Sr. Margaret Andersen rsj, we gleaned a little about the local church and town community. A visit to St. Finbarr’s Church to see the opal altar, lectern and font stand was a must and we weren’t disappointed. These pieces symbolise a wonderful offering of the community as they gather to give praise and glory to God. It was a delight to visit the school, to meet the teachers and see the children playing so freely in their lovely grounds. Whilst the streets of Quilpie weren’t bustling with cars and people, there is obviously great care and compassion in the hearts of the community as reflected in the care of the town and wonderful museum that covers the history of the shire.

Charleville was the next stopping point on the road and it was great to catch up with Fr. Darrel Irvine and hear his news. With Sr. Elizabeth O’Keefe rsm, a gentle presence and active worker in the school and community, we enjoyed star-gazing and learning something of our solar system at the Cosmos Centre.

Onwards to Roma, noting names of places such as Adavale and Augathella, passing through towns such as Mitchell and Morven. Meeting with faithful Wallumbilla liturgy contact Lesley was a joy as we compared thoughts on their upcoming Confirmation/First communion celebrations. The day was getting long as we continued through Miles to catch up in Chinchilla with a great host of hospitality, Fr. Jim Cronin.

Whilst we did not stop and meet parishioners in all parishes, through conversation with the local people and physically seeing and travelling the country, we gained a greater understanding of life and Church for those who live and serve in the far west of this vast diocese. We thank them for their generosity, stamina and love of those to whom they minister and we ask God to bless them as they continue to spread the Good News in word and action.

(Photo, left: Sr Elaine Morzone mfic on the left with Mary Schwartz on the right)

(Photo, right: MFIC Sisters Elaine, Fran (visiting from Brisbane) and Maureen)

This article was first published in the Autumn 2014 edition of Horizons, the quarterly magazine of the Catholic Diocese of Toowoomba.