COREEN GOLDEN JUBILEE
ST PIUS X CHURCH CELEBRATES 50 YEARS
1963 – 2013
On Sunday 6th October 2013, Coreen village was flooded – not with the Murray River or the nearby Coreen Creek, but with local residents, past residents, and visitors from near and far who gathered amid great excitement to celebrate the 50th anniversary of St Pius X church, Coreen. It was a festival atmosphere that permeated every moment of the day as people embraced and back-slapped long-lost friends who returned for the occasion.
The day began with Mass celebrated in the church by local (Corowa) Parish Priest, Fr Paul Hart, and Fr Vin Walsh, from ‘over the creek’ (the Murray River), who was nearby supplying Masses that week-end in Walbundrie and other centres.
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It was many a Sunday and perhaps many a year since the small church had seen such an attendance at Mass. With all seats full and latecomers standing at the rear, it was a crowd of more than 120 who came to pray and give thanks to God for the gift of faith and for the gift of the church.
The church was built and paid for and furnished by the local Catholic community. As one senior member (Leo Hanrahan) said several days later, “I was there at the opening in 1963 and, on Sunday, I was very surprised to see that the church looks almost as good as new. In fact you would think it was new.” That is a tribute to the early founders – for the original design and materials used for the church.
The cheerful, harmonious spirit of the Coreen community was highlighted during the Mass when Fr Hart welcomed visiting members of the neighbouring Presbyterian community, and told them not to feel at all shy or excluded when the collection plate went round! Three all-time favourite hymns ensured everyone had a chance to stretch their vocal cords.
The readers for the Mass were Mrs Annette Norman, Mrs Carmen Hanrahan and Mrs Cathy Ross. The Procession of Gifts were brought up by Travis, Lachlan and Emma McKenzie. The collectors were Messrs Jim Sandral and Peter Carroll.
After the Mass, everyone assembled beside the church to witness a special commemorative tree being planted by one of the most senior members, Peg Hanrahan. Peg was ably assisted by grand-niece, Ashley, and grand-nephew, Phillip Hanrahan. Nearby, carefully watching the ceremony, were Fathers Hart and Walsh, and four others in their 90s Mrs Mary Hodgkin, Mrs Nell Sheridan, Mrs May Nixon and Mr Leo Hanrahan.
Peg, the official planter, commented that she was a bit astonished at the size of the tree – “It was so small that when I tried to put it in, I almost went in head-first myself.” Someone who overheard her said – “That would have been the photograph of the day, Peg!”
Following the tree-planting Jim Sandral cracked his stock-whip voice and rounded us all up at the front of the church for a group photograph. Browns cows could not compete with the pace of the assembly – nor the arrangement, because many of the older ladies decided to stand next to the wall and were totally obscured by the taller younger men and women in front.
After a little huffing and puffing, almost everyone looked at the camera when the photographer shouted: “Pay day!” The result was a bevy of smiles. Of the 120+ people attending the Mass, all in the photograph were clearly visible – except a few camera-shy folks who cleverly remained invisible.
In next to no time, everyone now moved on to the very spacious, well-equipped Coreen Football Club Rooms for the barbecue lunch.
Once again the community spirit was in evidence as the lashings of food hot and cold salads materialized to accompany the steaks and sausages that quickly appeared from the barbecue. Many hands were pressed into service as the senior citizens were encouraged to be seated and waited upon by their friends. The abundance of delicious food was the masterstroke of Mrs Lesley Hanrahan who had mustered all the forces possible to provide a vast variety of dishes.
Mr Jim Sandral, acting as MC for the occasion, announced that another special moment had arrived; it was the “Cutting of the Jubilee Cake”. Lesley Hanrahan’s baking skills were evident in the large fruit cake, and Mrs Jenny Whitty’s skills in the beautiful decorations on top of it.
Before cutting the cake, Father Hart made a short speech expressing the appreciation of all for the hard work that had been put into the preparations for the day, and expressing the gratitude of all for the ‘faith of our fathers’ – the many members of the Coreen Community who were no longer with us. It was their faith that had established the Catholic Faith in the Coreen district and their children and grandchildren have kept the flame burning. After the official cutting of the cake, it was duly cut into a hundred pieces by Mary Hanrahan and distributed by willing young helpers.
Next, Jim called upon Mr Peter Carroll ‘to say a few words of welcome’. Peter made special mention of the many visitors who had come – even from interstate – as far away as Darwin, Gippsland and Sydney to join in the day’s celebration. He also commended the local committee for their hard work and attention to detail – even to ensuring that the Bar was open for those who wished to have a drink! After Peter had spoken, Mrs Mary Summerfield of St Andrews parish Corowa, added significant reflections on the meaning of the day for Coreen.
Two special presentations were then made by Father Hart. A big occasion such as a Golden Jubilee could not happen without key personnel.
Naturally, on such a memorable occasion, many people come looking to renew acquaintances and friendships, but many also come hoping to see some photographs and articles and memorabilia of former times.
For researching the history of the Coreen Catholic Community and for assembling the memorabilia, local resident Miss Anne Kingston was presented with a framed picture of the Church and a certificate from the Parish Priest, Father Hart, for her good work.
And, for her long service, and effectively mustering all the catering resources available in the Coreen and Corowa district, Lesley Hanrahan was likewise presented with both the commemorative photograph of the church and a certificate of appreciation. For many years whilst she lived at the family farm at “South Mahonga”, Lesley had rendered service to the Coreen Catholic community, especially on Sundays when the church and all the Mass items had to be prepared for Mass. Both ladies were accorded very hearty rounds of applause for their work.
The formalities of the day concluded with further words of appreciation and thanks from Mr Jim Sandral.
Other pictures of the celebrations: