SHORT HISTORY OF COREEN CATHOLIC COMMUNITY
At the beginning of the 20th century, the Coreen-Daysdale District was made up of large holdings, but in 1909 the State Government purchased Coreen and Back Paddock stations and broke them up into 64 smaller blocks.
This ballot resulted in an influx of Catholic families into the district. In the initial stages of this settlement, the locals attended Mass at Daysdale, but the priests also celebrated Mass at the homes of the Massey and Dunlevy families and they thereby became the centres for Catholics of the area.
In 1913, the Coreen Hall was built and soon became the meeting place for Mass, but the homes of the Talbot and Culhane families continued to be used as Mass Centres.
During the 1950s there was a ‘movement at the station’ so to speak, for a local church to be erected. A committee was formed to organize fund-raising and some 1200 pounds was collected.
The project went ahead, and the new church was designed on the basis of minimal maintenance. The style is traditional and simple, with a beautiful altar and individually designed fittings.
The statue of Our Lady and that of Pope Pius X, the Stations of the Cross and the Crucifix above the altar, are all in carved wood by the acclaimed Austrian-born Melbourne sculptor Leopoldine Mimovich. These and the altar were donated by Coreen families. In all, the church cost 8,500 pounds.
Coreen’s new church under the patronage of St Pius X, was officially blessed and opened on September 1st, 1963, by bishop Francis Henschke DD of Wagga Wagga, with 250 people in attendance.
Visiting priests for the occasion included Fr M F Lane, Monsignor H Larkins (Albury), Fathers Frank Owens (Rutherglen), R O’Donovan (Holbrook), K Wright (Culcairn), M P Roach (Urana), R Goss CSsR, R Bartlett (Corowa), H Josko (Finley), J D Keirnan (Adelaide), J W Handley (Albury), P W Lynch (Albury), J D Lane (Mulwala), J Byrne (Tocumwal), and W Plunkett (Albury).
Many Sisters came from Albury, Corowa and Rutherglen, including Sr Perpetua (Talbot) who was originally from the Coreen area.
Fr M F Lane celebrated the first Mass and thanked the Bishop for his support and attendance. He also expressed his appreciation to the parishioners for their persistent efforts to bring about the building of the church, and thanked them for their long-standing willingness during the previous half century for regularly hosting the Mass for the spiritual welfare of their community.
Fr Lane thanked the Coreen Hall Trustees for the use of the Hall for Mass and other Catholic functions over so many years.
Bishop Henschke then praised the parishioners and all involved in bringing the fine project to fruition. He spoke of other works in the diocese and his impending trip to Rome for the Second Vatican Council, where he would check whether the Pope still remembered “the Land of the Crows” – as Wagga Wagga – or was it Coreen? Other speakers responded and a great afternoon tea was enjoyed by all.
The next two decades saw the Community of St Pius X flourish. Mass was said each first and third Sunday of the month and in the space of those first 20 years twenty-three babies were baptised. Two very well attended missions were held, and two weddings celebrated.
During this time Monsignor Lane had as his assistants Frs R Bartlett, W Plunkett, Jim Clark, Peter Quinn, Doug George and John McGrath.
In 1982, Monsignor Lane retired as Parish Priest, but remained on to assist in the parish under the auspices of Fr McGrath. In 1985 he retired to live at the diocesan Seminary in Wagga. When Fr Lane left Corowa, Deacon Glenn Boyd came to assist and stayed until his Ordination in 1987. Ten years rolled along, and Fr Paul Hart came to Corowa in 1997 when Fr McGrath retired.
(Click on photos to enlarge; click back arrow to return)
It was in the early 1980s that a great change in the structure of farming began. Wheat and wool prices fell and young people were unable to continue on the family farm. This resulted in the smaller holdings being sold and many families being forced to move away, among them many Catholics.
Naturally, when families move away, local communities shrink and local stores close and with them the schools. This was the fate of Coreen. Football clubs were forced to combine as the only means for staying alive; Coreen joined forces with Daysdale. In 1998, even Coreen Hotel closed its doors.
Today, in the village of Coreen, there remain just a handful of families. In the surrounding district children and workers other than those engaged in full-time farming, travel daily to larger centres such as Corowa.
Since the 35th anniversary celebration of St Pius X in 1998, the small Catholic community has continued to diminish in spite of Fr Paul’s ministrations twice per month. This is the tide of history against which we lament, beat our breasts in vain and feel helpless.
However, although the numbers remain small, the community spirit and strong faith is still evident among the families. As a new milestone passes in the history of Coreen and the parish, we once again commit ourselves into God’s care with profound gratitude for all that has been and for all that will be.
FAMILIES WHO HAVE SHARED IN THE CATHOLIC HISTORY OF COREEN
(No particular order)
Lynch… Whitty…Fitzgerald…Sheridan…Kilcummins…Filliponi…Tomlinson…Tenney…Sandral…Hanrahan…O’Halloran…Carroll…Robinson…Brown…Kingston…Doyle…West…Mather…Nagle…Conroy…O’Brien…Talbot…Devlin…Collins…Martin…Dunlevy…McGavans… Masseys…Ross…Whyte…Culhane…Rhodes…Linklaker…Mckenzie…Mulquiney…Scott…Box…Fahey…O’Callaghan.
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Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning is now, and ever shall be
world without end.