ImmaculateConception Jandowae Church (26/4/2009)

Immaculate Conception Church Centenary ( Sunday 26th April, 2009)
Celebrant: Bishop William Morris, D.D., Toowoomba Diocese
by Sister Mary Cleary

Notes taken from the book prepared for the Golden Jubilee of the parish in 1986.

Church records from Sydney contain the statement: Rev. McGinty and J.Hanley left Sydney, 9th December, 1843, in the steamer "Sovereign" for Moreton Bay to commence the arduous labours of the Mission in that hitherto unavoidably neglected portion of the diocese of New South Wales.

These zealous priests and their successors were the first Catholic clergy to venture into what became the vast parish of Dalby, and later the parishes of Roma and Charleville.

Father McGinty was the first priest to visit Dalby and district in the 1820's. He was based at Ipswich at the time, journeys of hundreds of kilometres on horseback were by no means uncommon for the clergy of the second and third quarters of the nineteenth century, when parishes were few and the flock scattered over the huge areas.

He was followed by Fr. Hanley, Archdeacon Rigney and the first resident priest, a Father McCarthy. The presence of a resident priest did not necessarily mean a parish had been created. It was simply regarded as a "mission", until the bishop thought circumstances demanded it be raised in status.

Not all the pioneer clergy can be proved to have been associated with Jandowae and district, but it is highly probably that several were. The priests prior to the erection of the parish, were accustomed to keeping their own Baptism and Marriage Registers and these invaluable records were often lost after a priest's death.

The earliest registers in the Dalby presbytery commence with the era of Fr. Denis Byrne who was appointed parish priest about 1868. He laboured in the district until his death in 1905 and he definitely administered the sacraments in and around Jandowae.

Prior to Jandowae's becoming a parish, the people were given a Mass once a month or so, as the Dalby clergy had several country churches to supply. They would ride out on a Saturday, the 50 kilometres and return Monday morning, after a full week-end of confessions, Mass, instructions for the children when possible, and Benediction on Sunday evening in later years. The local people hosted the priest and they regarded it as an honour and a source of blessing to themselves and their children. One home that was used in the early part of the twentieth century for Mass, prior to the building of the church was "Stewartholme", a house built by Bridget Stewart, who also built the first hospital in Jandowae.

Edward and Susan Stewart, later on, were hosts to the priests for many years.

Whenever you find a group of the faithful, particularly in country areas, the desire for a church of their own asserts itself very early and then gathers strength. One paramount reason has always been to have a place more worthy for the offering of Mass than in a house or a dance hall. When the move began to collect for Jandowae's first church is not recorded, but it is probably it was in the early 1900s. The number of Catholics had increased gradually, their farms were more stable and life less harsh, so the necessary finance could be raised. The time was ripe for the opening of a new phase in the history of the Jandowae Church.

The enthusiasm and generosity of the Jandowae people enabled their parish priest (Father T. J. Nolan of Dalby) to engage a contractor towards the end of 1908 or a little later. By May,1909, the first Catholic Church at Jandowae was blessed and opened under the patronage of Our Lady's Immaculate Conception. The ceremony was reported in full in a Catholic newspaper in Brisbane at the time. In the edition for 15th May, "The Age" account commenced:

.."Sunday 2nd instant, was the most eventful day in the history of the rising and progressive little town of Jondowae, the Dalby district, for on that morning the Catholic community and members of other denominations assembled in very large numbers to witness the blessing and opening ceremony of the first church erected to the honour and glory of God in that town. Visitors congregated from all centres, including Bowenville, Dalby, Maida Hill, Warra, Jingha and Spring Flat.
The choir of St. Joseph's church, Dalby, was driven out in a four-in-hand drag by Mr. ,Dan Bluett, to whose careful and efficient handling of the team under his whip, was due to the safe journey of Misses Parker, McCarthy, Connelly and Messrs. Wainman and Lynagh, to the future city of Jondowaie and back again to the "Fair City of the Plain".

Father Nolan performed the ceremonies and offered the first Mass. About 300 people attended and some seventy pounds were contributed to the collection. What is somewhat remarkable for that period, the church was opened free of debt. This fact was so stressed in the report, and special thanks given to the members of other denominations for their generosity, that it seems likely that the church was paid for prior to its opening. With the passing of time and commensurate increase in the congregation, it became essential to extend the nave. It was reopened and blessed by Father Nolan of Dalby, on 2nd December,1917. The church had been lengthened by six metres, repainted inside and out and new pews and an air-gas plant installed. The contractor was Mr.Gooderhan of Jandowae and the total cost £390 ($780). A large crowd was present, over 300 travelling from Dalby by special train, and once again St Joseph's Choir supplied the music.

In a letter dated 16th January, 1936, Father Schuhkraft was appointed the first parish priest of the newly-formed Parish of Jandowae and was welcomed at a function arranged in his honour on 27th February, 1936. The first project was to build a presbytery. The generous people had warmed to their gentle and zealous pastor, so plans were drawn up and a handsome and commodious residence was soon under way. The presbytery was blessed and opened by Monsignor Nolan on 24th May, 1937.

By the mid 1940s, it was perceived the need for a larger church for the people of Jandowae. A decision was taken to begin raising funds for this purpose. The school project was to surface from time to time, but as many of the share-farmers left the land, the viability of running a school dwindled.

It was after the arrival of Fr. Cronin in September 1961 that plans for a new church were drawn up and tenders called. The new church of the Immaculate Conception was blessed and opened by Bishop William Brennan on 26th January, 1964.

With the opening of the new church, the original church became the parish hall and is still used as that today by the Police Boy's Club, the local art group and for parish functions".

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