1978 Parish History Ch. 12

MFLane Golden Jubilee Presentation


A month before the termination of the Second World war, Father Michael Francis Lane was appointed Parish Priest of St Mary’s in July, 1945, following periods at Urana and Henty.


Father was born at Koroit, Victoria, on October 29, 1906, and educated at Lockhart, Goulburn, Springwood, Manly and the Irish college in Rome; he was ordained on May 25, 1929. He was a professor at Manly and Springwood between 1930 and 1936 and an Inspector of Schools in the Wagga Diocese.


His earliest recollection of his days in Corowa is of Master Tom O’Brien ringing for a very long period the church bell calling people to Mass on the Feast of the Assumption, August 15, when news was received of the cessation of hostilities in the Pacific.

The next thirty years cover a period of great change in the practice of religion and in the community generally, a change that has not yet reached finality.


In the 1940s the influence of the war years lingered on. Wages were low, money was scarce and there was restriction on spending. People were disciplined – with the result that large sodalities continued to flourish, in particular the Holy Name Society, the Sacred Heart Sodality, and the Children of Mary.

Children obeyed and respected their parents and youth organizations were successful. The Campion Society drew young men who were anxious to learn more about their faith and defend it if the need arose.

Catholics still worked hard at bazaars, flower shows, school picnics, fetes, euchre parties and dances to raise needed finance.


The 1950s brought a period of comparative affluence; these were more prosperous years with higher prices for wool, sheep, wheat and cattle. But prosperity need not always have beneficial results; an increasing worldliness, softness and religious indifference began to show itself. A dearth of vocations and the Wyndham Report were to lead to the termination of secondary education in the parish.


Direct giving replaced the previous methods of raising money and this enabled the construction of the new St Mary’s school. On the other hand, the parish community spirit began to disappear as parishioners were deprived of opportunities for meeting together.


The 1960s and the aftermath of the 2nd Vatican Council brought a period of turbulence when many, particularly young people, drifted away from the practice of the faith. Older parishioners were confused by rapid liturgical changes, many of which they found difficult to accept. Sodalities, as they had been known for many years, began to disappear. In the community at large the pill, pornography and television led to a materialistic age where the search for pleasure became all important.


The years after Vatican II saw many Catholics apparently lose their faith, but this was counterbalanced by the greater number who became fervent and generous. There were many encouraging signs – a revival of prayer and an enormous growth of prayer groups; a greater interest in the Catholic School and in the work of Catechetics, parents beginning to play their rightful part in the religious education of their children and not leaving everything to teachers.

If an earlier statement is true, that prosperity leads to a loss of religious spirit, it might also be true that a strong faith is nurtured in hard times.



The Silver Jubilee of the ordination to the priesthood of Very Rev Father Lane was commemorated on Tuesday, June 1, 1954, by a Solemn High Mass presided over by the Most Rev Francis A Henschke, DD, Bishop of Wagga.

The celebrant of the Mass was V Rev Michael Lane; Deacon – Fr Desmond Lane; Sub-deacon – Fr J Byrne; Master of Ceremonies, Fr Leo Lane VG; Rt Rev Monsignor J Lawless and V Rev Monsignor RJ Giles, PC. The Bishop  preached the sermon.

During the day Fr Lane was entertained by the school children. There was a dinner for the clergy and, following Benediction at 7.30pm, the parishioners entertained their parish priest in the Rex Theatre where the following paid tribute to the guest: Mr Leo Buggy, Mr Allan Knight, Mr Kevin Doyle, Mr Maurice O’Halloran, Mr William Keenan, Councillor Loveridge the Mayor, Dr JG Hurley, Mr Jack Dunn and the Bishop who made a presentation to the Jubilarian.


A colourful ceremony was witnessed by a crowded congregation in August, 1958, when Fr Lane was invested as a Domestic Prelate in St Mary’s church. Monsignor Lane received the robes of his new office after the reading of the proclamation from the Vatican in both Latin and English and the blessing of the robes.


Present were His Lordship Bishop Henschke, Mons. Lawless (Rutherglen), Mons. Frawley (Scarborough), Mons. Harper (Griffith), Dean McGilvray (Canberra), Frs L Tosi (Sydney), Des Lane (Wagga), T Desmond (Berrigan), H Josko (Finley), L Hatswell (Henty), C Cochrane (Culcairn), R O’Donovan (Holbrook), N Duck(Wagga), J Doyle (Mansfield), B Hayden (Tumbarumba), Myners and Clements (Lavington Seminary), Fiscalini (CSsR) and Brother Henschke (Sydney).


Among the visitors were Mr and Mrs JH Lawson, Cr WM Johnson (Shire President) and Mrs Johnson, and relatives of Mons. Lane. Mons. JH Larkins delivered the occasional sermon.

At the conclusion of the church ceremony a social evening was held in the RSL Supper Room which was crowded to capacity. A short musical programme was provided by St Mary’s girls’ choir, Mr Alan Whitty, Mrs A Stoll and Mrs Doris Cofield of Wahgunyah.

Mr LM Buggy, chairman, extended a welcome to the Bishop, the visiting Monsignors and clergy, civic representatives and all visitors.


Bishop Henschke said that Mons. Lane had been honoured by Pope Pius XII because of his own merits, his successful studies, his achievements as an Inspector of Schools and parish priest in various places; more importantly, because the Corowa parish had cooperated with him, and the people of Corowa could therefore take a certain amount of the credit.

Other speakers included Mr Jack Dunn, Mr M O’Halloran, Mr JA Lawson, Cr WM Johnson, Miss May O’Brien, Cr Darcy Knight, Mr K Regan, Mons. Frawley, Fr Harper, Fr Tosi and Dean McGilvray.

Mons. Lane said that Corowa parishioners had a wonderful tradition of faithfulness, loyalty to their parish priest, generosity, and devotion to their religious duties. He thanked everybody connected with the function that evening, but especially Fr Wright, whose efforts ensured success.


A packed RSL Hall said ‘au revoir’ to Mons. Lane prior to his departure on a world trip in 1960. Mr Alan Whitty and the school choir provided musical items.

Fr Wright, Mr K Regan, Miss M O’Brien, Mons. Larkins, Fr Quinn (Howlong), and Mr LM Buggy spoke. Fr Wright said that Monsignor was a great leader and a holy priest; it was thirty years since he first commenced his studies for the priesthood and he richly deserved the trip.

Mons. Lane said that half of his priestly life had been spent in Corowa and he had learned to appreciate the sincerity of his parishioners. He said that Fr Wright was the most active man he had ever met.

MFLane 50th Anniv Mass

Monsignor Lane celebrates his Golden Jubilee Mass – May 1979


Monsignor Lane continued as Parish Priest at St Mary’s until his retirement in 1981. He remained on as Assistant until March 1985 and eventually moved to the Home of Compassion in Wagga where he died on 1st August 1995.

37 Years St Mary’s Parish Priest

Thirty-seven years as Parish Priest of St Mary’s Corowa meant that Corowa was a major part of Monsignor’s life, and because it held a special place in his heart, he asked to be buried in Corowa. He is buried in the Corowa Lawn Cemetery.

With gratitude to God for this dedicated priest’s long years of service to St Mary’s, we pray: “May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed rest in peace.”


The period since 1945 has seen a succession of eight assistant priests in Corowa, co-operating with the parish priest in many and varied ways for the development of the parish.

FATHER PHILLIP ROACH was born in Narrandera on July 2, 1914, and educated at Goulburn, Springwood and Manly; he was ordained in Wagga on July 24, 1943. After occupying the position of assistant priest at Leeton he was in Corowa from February, 1948, to February, 1952. He is the present parish priest at Lockhart.

FATHER ANDREW QUINN followed Fr Roach. Fr Quinn was born at Kiskean, County Cork, on August 12, 1917. He was educated at Limerick College and Carlow and ordained at Carlow on June 3, 1944. Carlow is the oldest seminary in the English speaking world, the seminary which sent Fr Therry to Australia in 1820, as well as many other pioneer priests.

Fr Quinn was on loan to the Diocese of Lancaster during the war. He arrived in Corowa in February, 1952, his third curacy, and remained here until 1956, the last year as administrator. He is at present parish priest of Ashmont, West Wagga.

FATHER KEVIN WRIGHT was born at Dimboola, Victoria, on August 12, 1917, and educated at North Melbourne, Springwood and Manly. He was ordained on July 25, 1948. He came to Corowa in February, 1956 and remained as an assistant priest until February, 1960, when he was made Administrator for a period of twelve months. He is at present parish priest of Junee following a period at Culcairn.

FATHER ROBERT HAROLD BARTLETT was born in Albury on December 10, 1935, and educated at Albury, Springwood and Manly and ordained in Albury on July 15, 1960. He came to Corowa in 1961, his first appointment as an assistant, and remained for five years. He is the present parish priest of Howlong.

FATHER WILFRED EDWARD PLUNKETT was born in Albury on October 9, 1927, educated at Xavier College, Springwood and Manly and ordained in Albury on August, 2 1955. He was administrator at Corowa for a period of five years and is now parish priest of Kooringal, following an appointment to Darlington Point.

FATHER JAMES MICHAEL CLARK was born in Melbourne on April 5, 1932, educated at Middle Park, Springwood and Manly and ordained at Ferntree Gully in July, 1966. He was at Corowa from 1971 to 1973 and is now an assistant priest at Narrandera.

FATHER PETER QUINN was born in West Wollongong on June 15, 1930, educated at Wollongong Brothers, Springwood and Manly and ordained in July, 1961; earlier he had spent eight years in a bank. He was an assistant priest at Corowa from 1973 to 1976 and is at present parish priest of Tumbarumba.

FATHER DOUGLAS HUGH GEORGE was born at Lockhart on January 5, 1940 and educated at Goulburn, Springwood, Manly and Propaganda in Rome. He was ordained in Lockhart on August 9, 1969. He came to Corowa in February, 1976, after terms in Leeton and Albury.

During the period since the arrival of Father Roach, Corowa parishioners have been placed under a debt of gratitude to the assistant priests who have contributed so much to the development of the parish and the practice of the faith.

These eight priests had one thing in common – a devotion to duty and a resolve to leave the parish a better place as a result of their work here. It is true that some established organizations disappeared, but not all of them. On the other hand, new ones were promoted as the passing years brought changes.



In 1947 Bishop Henschke came to the conclusion that the Catholic Women’s Social Guild was a most suitable organisation to meet the needs of the women of the Wagga diocese. he invited the council of the guild in Melbourne to open branches in the Riverina.

On Sunday, March 9, 1947, the first branch in the Diocese of Wagga was formed in Albury. Next day, March 10, 1947, the second branch was opened in Corowa, the third at Wagga that night.

Sixty ladies were present at the Corowa meeting which was presided over by Fr MF Lane. After representatives from Melbourne explained the aims, activities and government of the Guild, the following committee was elected:


President, Mrs Keenan; Vice-Presidents, Mesdames Robinson and Buggy; Secretary, Mrs West; Assistant-Secretary, Miss M O’Brien; Treasurer, Miss O Knight; members of the committee – Miss Alderman, Miss McDonald, Mrs Seymour, Mrs Boxall, Mrs Leapord Mrs Easdown, Mrs J Regan.

On October 19, 1952, a meeting was held in Wagga, presided over by the Bishop, for the purpose of forming a Diocesan Council. Rev Fr S Bongiorno was appointed the first Spiritual Director and an election for the first Executive Committee resulted:


Diocesan President, Miss M O’Brien (Corowa); Vice-Presidents, Mrs J Moloney (Junee) and Mrs W Westblade (Lockhart); Secretary, Miss Muriel Roper (Albury); Treasurer, Miss J Moloney (Junee); Committee, Miss T Hudson (Wagga), Mrs J Lonergan (Wagga), Mrs WJ Bullen (Wagga), Mrs E Day (Oaklands); Mrs HA Williams (Leeton); Mrs EV Foley (Narrandera); Mrs JM Smith (Urana).


The Guild continues to function in a praiseworthy manner, the present office-bearers being: President, Mrs Peg Scott; Vice-Presidents, Mrs I Brooks, Mrs T. Livingston; Secretary, Mrs K Seymour; Treasurer, Mrs B Lethbridge; Publicity-officer, Miss M O’Brien who has maintained her interest in the Guild in a remarkable manner.


It was formed in the 1950s to help members study their religion in a manner that would enable them to apply it to the world in which they lived and to understand the principles underlying important political and social questions.

Mons. Lane and Father Roach acted as spiritual directors of the group that included Fergus Cloran, Stan Anderson, Bruce Wright, Jack McLinden (all school teachers), Dr Desmond Hurley and Messrs Frank McHugh, Thomas Lane, James Dunn, Ken King, Kevin Regan and Jack Bartlett.

Each meeting commenced with gospel discussion and included consideration of a paper presented by one of the members.


When the decision was made to build a new school in 1959, it was recognized that that a Planned Giving Programme had advantages over former methods of raising parish finance to meet the extensive and growing needs of the parish.

The “Wells” Organization was employed and it was perhaps fortuitous that Fr Kevin Wright was assisting Mons. Lane at the time; he had earlier knowledge, organizing ability and energy that were so helpful.

The parish has used this method for raising finance ever since, but with a slight difference – a parish committee has taken over from the outside experts in the organizing and control of the funds. It is considered that nothing has been lost by the change and that much has been gained.


The club was formed while Fr Wright was at Corowa. Its members were men ready to carry out maintenance work on parish property, at the same time involving non-members; periodic social evenings were held for members, wives and friends.

The foundation meeting was held on March 6, 1960, when the following officers were appointed: President, C Plunkett; Vice-Presidents J Palubiski & C O Donoghue; Secretary-Treasurer, John Buggy; Spiritual Director, Fr Wright.

Members: J Dormer, JE Kelly, G Brown, K King, L Havesch, T Fitzgerald, B Dunn, G Adriensen, W Seymour, P Whitty snr., T McMahon, B Lethbridge, P Whitty jnr., H Fitzgibbon, C Sheldon, J Shelley, B Penny, G O’Donnell, J Howard, G Bland, J Montgomery, B Clohessy, W Chisnall, C Skehan, H Coggan, M Kelly, E King and K Seymour.


It was very strong and very active for a number of years. Its members sought perfection by hospital and home visitation, giving religious instruction in schools and minding babies during Mass.

The first President was Miss Carmel Alderman, the first Secretary, Mrs J Phibbs. These were followed a year later by Miss A Doyle and Mrs McLean.


During the years of Fathers Bartlett and Plunkett a branch of the YCW was active in Corowa.

This was an organized movement of young workers, one of the main aims being to develop leaders. In 1970, the Parish Council suggested that the YCW should carry out a census of the parish.

Presidents over the years were Brian Knight, Joseph Mullavey, Graeme Cullen, Greg Martin, Greg Bartlett, Paul foley, Rob Tubb. Secretaries were M O’Donnell, M Squires, K Donoghue, Jenny Gale, Sharyn Nicholls and Kaylene Carroll.


The inaugural meeting of this organization took place in the Balldale home of Mrs Kevin Ford. It was attended by mothers, many coming long distances. It continues to meet monthly.

Later, on May 7, 1975, a similar group was set up in Corowa itself for town mothers. The priests of the parish attend the meetings to give spiritual guidance.

The aim of the Group is to provide an opportunity for mothers to meet in a Christian atmosphere and discuss issues that concern them. Activities include Home Masses, guest speakers and the use of cassettes, films and magazine articles as aids to discussion.

A Majellan Mass is celebrated each year on October 16, St Gerard’s feast day; a special blessing of mothers and children, using a relic of St Gerard, follows the Mass.

A barbecue in late January for members and their families on Yarrawonga foreshore is the major social activity.


This Association, which in many places has replaced earlier school bodies, has made a most valuable contribution both to the parish and to education.

His Eminence Cardinal Gilroy suggested to a meeting of Catholic men in Sydney that these bodies be formed and this was done in every diocese of the State with the blessing of the Bishops.

Associations have a three-fold purpose:

a) To educated members on the purpose and value of a religious education; b) To understand and work for Government assistance for parents and schools; c) To aide the school financially and otherwise.

The Association in Corowa continues to play an active roll; the present officers are: President, Mr J Knight; Vice-President, Mr K Ford; Secretary, Mrs K Regan; Treasurer, Mr A Nicol.


The members meet weekly in two separate groups, junior and senior. All members attend Mass weekly in addition to Sunday.

There is an annual camp, again conducted in two divisions.

Members are encouraged to engage in charitable works; the old and the lonely are visited, as well as the Day Care Centre.

Monsignor Lane is the spiritual director and he is assisted by Fr George; Sister Paulinus and Sister Petrea attend meetings.

Sue Kaitler is a member of the Diocesan Executive.


Not only have different opportunities been provided to enable Catholics to adapt to the newer religious life-style pictured by the Vatican Council, but significant advances have been made in two areas that are as old as the church itself – the singing of hymns and prayer.

Mr Baron Lethbridge, in charge of the music, has continued the good work of former conductors and organists. He has the interest, competence and energy necessary to make religious singing a live subject. He merits the support of all, even the young with their more modern musical modes.

Sister Bernadette Crimmins is providing an opportunity for parishioners to participate in group prayer, which can be such an adjunct to private prayer.


There was great sadness in the Diocese when it was learned that Bishop Henschke had passed to his eternal reward.

The Bishop was born on January 2, 1892, one of seven sons and four daughters of German-Polish origin who lived in Hookina, South Australia.

His secondary education was at the Sacred Heart College, Glenelg with the Marist Brothers. He taught with the South Australian Education Department for a time.

He was consecrated a Bishop in 1937, the second Bishop of Wagga. He celebrated the 25th anniversary of his consecration as a Bishop in 1962, the golden jubilee of his ordination in 1967. The same year he had bestowed on him the Freedom of the City of Wagga.

He established CUSA (Catholic United Services Auxiliary) in Wagga and Albury in 1941 and the National Catholic Rural Movement the same year. He founded the San Isadore settlement in 1957 on 500 acres of land for closer settlement; there is a church and a primary school on the property.

In 1960 he established the Wagga Diocesan Provident Fund and later the Mobile School for Religious Education.

Dr Henschke was succeeded buy Bishop Francis Patrick Carroll, our present spiritual leader. He was born in Ganmain in 1930 and ordained a priest in 1954. He was a curate at Griffith and Albury before going to Rome for post-graduate studies.

On his return he was made chancellor of the diocese, private secretary to the Bishop and Director of Catholic Education. He was consecrated Coadjutor Bishop in 1967, Bishop in 1968 at the age of 37.


These pages give an account of the formation and development of the parish of St Mary’s over a period of one hundred years.

It is good to look back at regular intervals, because it is possible to learn from the successes and failures of those who had a part to play in the growth of our parish. It also enables us to admire our ancestors who built on such sure foundations.

When everything has been said, it is people who are the parish. It is also more than likely that the people of earlier decades were more concerned with the present as they laboured with faith in the future; if they could make a success of the present, the success of the future would be assured.

The earliest of the parishioners had nothing or very little they could look back to. And I feel sure they did not attempt to look too far into the future, because the future reveals too little of itself.

A parish consists of people, it is a community of people. It develops a community spirit which enriches the present, and this is really all that any generation can be expected to do. There is no better lesson we can learn from the story of the first hundred years in the life of the “missionary district” of St Mary’s; and there is no better way to honour the memory of those who left us so much.