1978 Parish History Ch. 8


Visit of Archbishop Mannix to Corowa

From the “Corowa Free Press” and Melbourne “Tribune”

Without a doubt, the highlight of the years spent by Father Hickey at Corowa was the visit made by the illustrious Archbishop of Melbourne on the occasion of the opening and blessing of the new church on November 20, 1921. Father Hickey described it as “the most glorious occasion in the Catholic history of Corowa.”

The new church was erected on the site of the first church which was built in 1875. While it was being built, Mass was celebrated in the school (in 2013, the “Hall” beside the church car park). Through the week, the Sisters of Mercy taught over 200 pupils in the school.

The new church, dedicated to St Mary Star of the Sea, cost 9,000 pounds and was a fine example of modern ecclesiastical architecture.


Mr A A Fritsch of Melbourne, the architect, provided the following description of the building:

“The church is Romanesque in design (like many of the early Christian churches) which, adapted with modern materials, is very suitable for Australian climatic conditions.”

It is built of brick and has an imposing front elevation. Almost at the summit is a canopied niche, containing a magnificent statue of the Sacred heart in white Carara marble.

The niche can be illuminated by electric light; it was so illuminated on Saturday night and looked most impressive.

The whole church is well lighted and exceptionally well ventilated. It has a seating capacity of about 800 and a large choir gallery. There is a special room for the nuns, together with rooms for the priests, the acolytes and the Altar Society.

Two handsome confessionals of Californian red pine are let into the side walls. The rest of the woodwork is Australian blackwood. The altar of Sicilian white and many-coloured marble, is the gift of the Misses Nolan.

The church was blessed by the Bishop of Wagga Wagga, the Rt Rev Dr Joseph W Dwyer on Saturday afternoon and the first Mass in it was celebrated by Father Hickey at 6.00 a.m. on Sunday morning.

The Archbishop travelled from Melbourne on the Albury train on the Saturday afternoon and arrived at Springhurst at 9.00 p.m. On alighting His Grace received a rousing welcome from a couple of hundred local residents.

He was met by the Bishop of Wagga and driven in the Bishop’s car the twenty miles (32 km) to Corowa, some dozen other cars also making the journey.

About 400 people were gathered at Rutherglen and a brief halt was made in the main street to give the Archbishop an opportunity of acknowledging their tribute to him. In doing so, he remarked on the bonds that united Ireland and Australia, saying that Ireland had good reason to be thankful for the sympathy she had received from Australia.

In Corowa itself, there was a crowd a thousand strong to welcome Archbishop Mannix. A long procession was formed, headed by the Border Brass Band, which passed up the main street and round the town to the presbytery. It was probably the first time His Grace had been honoured with a torchlight procession, so that occasion was a unique one.

The interest which His Grace’s visit had aroused was indicated by the fact that there was such an enthusiastic welcome waiting for him at so late an hour (it was past 10.00 p.m.).


There were five Masses on the Sunday morning. The first at 6.00am (Fr Hickey, parish priest), the second at 6.30am (Dean O’Connell, Junee): the third at 7.00 (Fr O’Reilly), the fourth at 8.00am (The Archbishop); this was attended by the local branches of the Children of Mary and the Hibernians.

The fifth, at 10.00am was a Pontifical High Mass at the Throne, sung by Bishop Dwyer with Archbishop Mannix presiding.

The priests assisting throughout the Mass were Fr Percy (Balldale) deacon; Fr Gahan (Coolomon) sub-deacon; Fr T Ryan (administrator, Wagga) master of ceremonies; Fr J Galvin (Albury) and Fr P O’Reilly (Tocumwal) deacons assisting at the throne: Very Rev T Slattery (Albury) diocesan Inspector of Schools, was chaplain to the Archbishop and preacher of the occasional sermon.

Mozart’s Twelfth Mass was splendidly rendered by the parish choir under the baton of Miss Fortune; members of the choir were: Messrs T Ginnane, W Sullivan, G Rhynehart, JH Kilgour, F Hicks, Mrs FW Maliphant, Miss Annie Feehan, Miss May Savage, Miss C McDonald, Miss Sheridan, Miss May O’Leary, Miss Findlay, Miss Josie Carroll, Miss Keighran, Mrs W McDonald, Miss Vera King, Miss May Curtain, Miss Cook, Miss Ada Gallagher, Miss Ida Coopey (organist).

At Mass Fr Hickey announced that 5,000 pounds was in hand towards the building of the church. He expressed public thanks to the parochial building committee, the Bishop of Wagga for his assistance, the Archbishop for his presence, and above all to Almighty God who had answered the prayers of his faithful people.

The members of the Building Committee were Messrs TJ Kelly (hon. secretary), TJ Gorman, JP Leahy, W Skehan, P Ford, W McKinstry, WC Hicks, W Keenan. Mr SW Maliphant was Secretary of the reception committee.

Father Slattery preached an eloquent sermon on reverence to Our Blessed Lady, based upon the text of the first chapter of St Luke: “Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God.”


After Mass Archbishop Mannix met many of the local residents in the presbytery grounds.

A luncheon to the visitors was provided in the school hall by the ladies of the parish, the hall having been decorated for the occasion by Mr CB Lethbridge and Mr H Grimmond with the colours of the visiting prelates.

The table decorations were in the very capable hands of Mrs Geo W Ryan. Neatly designed menu cards tied with purple and gold (the Archbishop’s colours) were dotted round the table and were preserved by many as souvenirs of the occasion.

The following ladies had charge of the dinner:

Mrs Stackpool and Mrs J McDonald (joint secretaries), Mrs TJ Gorman, Mrs Barnard, Mrs Keenan, Mrs W McDonald, Mrs O’Leary, Mrs Fogarty, Mrs Beaman, Mrs GW Ryan, Mrs TJ Kelly, the Misses E Knight, Massey, M O’Leary, N Monahan, M Ward, A Gallagher, E Skehan, L Whitty, M Davis, C McDonald, M McDonald, M Naughton, B Voss, r Leonard, M Gorman, O Knight, A Sandral assisted by many volunteers.

The visitors included Mr Parker-Moloney, MHR, Mr F O’Regan, MLC, Mr WJ O’Brien, MLA, and Mr AA Fritsch.

Father Hickey, who presided, shortly welcomed the two principal guests. He had known Bishop Dwyer as a student at St Patrick’s College, Goulburn, thirty-five years previously, and had been friends with him ever since. Speaking for the clergy, he congratulated him on his labours as a Bishop, in which office he was more like a comrade than a master.

He was glad to extend a welcome to Archbishop Mannix.

Archbishop Mannix briefly responded saying that he would take up little time of what was after all “Father Hickey’s Day”.

The occasion, the Archbishop went on to say, was one upon which any priest would feel proud. He trusted that Fr Hickey would be richly rewarded by God in this life; he was sure that bothy by faith and good works he had merited a rich reward in the next life. His Grace expressed the opinion that the dinner that day was the best dinner that had ever been provided at a public banquet which he had attended.


The triangular enclosure opposite the church was the scene of a magnificent welcome to Archbishop Mannix at 4.00 o’clock  in the afternoon. Visitors assembled from all points of the compass, in particular from Wagga, Narrandera, Albury, Wangaratta, Benalla, Rutherglen, Berrigan, Tocumwal, Yarrawonga, Urana, Yackandandah and the whole of the large district of Corowa.

Very Rev Dean Gaffey (Chiltern) Fr EB Ryan (Berrigan) and Fr J Fleming (Urana) arrived to take part in the function which was attended by a crowd estimated at 5,000.

The Border Brass Band entertained the assemblage with selections and Irish Airs until the arrival of his Grace who was cheered to the echo when he entered the enclosure and greeted with a deafening shout as he mounted the platform.

Fr Hickey, in opening the proceedings referred to His Grace as the foremost man in Australia and he called on Mr TM Stackpool to read an address of welcome to the Archbishop.


The address, read by Mr Stackpool, was presented to the Archbishop by Bishop Dwyer, who said he was proud of the big number present to welcome him to Corowa, and proud of the occasion for his visit – namely, the opening of the new church. It was an ornament to the town of Corowa.

Fr Hickey rightly interpreted the feelings of the Corowa people in building a church that was worthy of God.

It was a credit to all concerned and he had no hesitation in describing it as “the finest Catholic church in the Riverina”. He thanked the Archbishop for coming and concluded with “No part of Australia is a foreign land” as far as Dr Mannix is concerned.” He thanked the assemblage for the magnificent reception given to Dr Mannix.


The archbishop spoke for forty minutes. He impressed on his hearers the necessity of loyalty to Australia and reviewed the negotiations taking place in London for peace in Ireland. As he finished the wish of all was interpreted in the impulsive phrase shouted aloud by one: “Ask him to start all over again.”

His Grace commenced by saying that his hearers had been reminded that this was his first visit over the border to Corowa. he was glad that the visit was associated with such a successful effort and he was pleased he came.

He said his invitation came, in the first place from the Bishop of Wagga and that Bishop Dwyer was a man with a very winning way; it follows him even into the law courts [a humorous reference to Bishop Dwyer’s case against Sr Liguori being resolved in his favour].

He was glad to come because he knew that Fr Hickey could well be called “the Grand Old Man of the Riverina”. He was glad to have the visit associated with one of the most beautiful country churches in Australia and he congratulated all concerned with its erection.

He also had to return thanks for the address of welcome presented to him. He knew he would be welcome, otherwise he would not have com, but he did not expect a formal address.

He spoke of the need for Australians to be loyal to their country and not afraid to raise their flag. He spoke at length on recent history in Ireland and said that the time must surely be approaching when justice would be done to that country and peace restored.

The Archbishop received an ovation when he resumed his seat.

The collection taken up for the Building Funding during the day amounted to two thousand four hundred pounds. This was a remarkable achievement and a credit to the Catholic community considering that twelve months previously, the foundation stone of the church was laid and eleven hundred pounds were subscribed.


The final function of the week-end was Solemn Pontifical Benediction on Sunday evening by the Archbishop of Melbourne. Very Rev Dean O’Connell acted as chaplain to His Grace, and the Revs T Ryan and A Percy were assistants. Before Benediction, Fr Ryan led the congregation in the recitation of the Rosary and a sermon was preached by the Bishop of Wagga.

His Lordship pointed out that, although God was everywhere and could be worshipped at any place and time, it was His wish that His followers should congregate and that their prayers make a united offering to Him.

The parish choir again sang the hymns for Benediction and Mrs Maliphant sang “Ave Maria”.


Archbishop Mannix returned to Melbourne on Monday morning; Bishop Dwyer motored him to Springhurst where he joined the express from Sydney. He travelled in company with several priests of the Diocese of Sandhurst who were on their way to the retreat of the clergy at Bendigo. At Spencer Street Station the Archbishop was met by the Very Rev Fr Barry.

(Chapter 8 completed)