A BRIEF HISTORY OF FORMER PARISH PRIESTS OF ST MARY’S CATHOLIC PARISH, MARYBOROUGH, QLD
This information is taken from a publication written by Fr Denis Martin, Archivist for the
Archdiocese of Brisbane for the 150th celebration of the parish in 2011. Copies of the Book
are available from the Parish Office @ $10 each.
Photos of the Priests may be viewed in the Album attached to this website. These Priests
have been honoured on the Memorial Garden Wall near the Grotto for the contributions
they have made to the Parish. Fathers Anthony Mellor and Paul Kelly are both still active
in Parish life in Brisbane and the Gold Coast respectively.
1.Father Paul Tissot served from 1861 – 1875 and was the first resident Priest.
He was born in Lyons, France, in 1801 and was ordained a Priest in 1825 to a small French Order of the Augustinians of the Assumption. He arrived in Queensland at the age of 60 with two other members of his Order.
Mass was held in the small school house which had been built over a few years in the mid 1850’s. Early 1865 saw 250 immigrants land in Maryborough who swelled the numbers which led Fr Tissot to start taking steps to build a proper church. It was mid 1869 before the foundation stone was laid on land donated by prominent businessman Mr James Cleary in a ceremony performed by His Lordship Bishop Quinn. On Sunday 4th February, 1872 this new Church was opened by Fr Tissot with a congregation of over 500 gathering to celebrate with a ceremonial High Mass.
From this time until his departure for his native France in 1875, Fr Tissot enjoyed growing his own vegetables and was often to be found in the garden before the start of Mass tending to the crops. He was well accepted and praised by the parishioners for the manner in which he humbly and faithfully lived his vocation. He dabbled in politics which was not to the Bishop’s liking. He had been promoted to Dean during this period. Dean Tissot was given the honour of celebrating a High Mass in St Stephen’s Cathedral, Brisbane, in recognition of the 50th anniversary of his Ordination following his retirement from Maryborough. Dean Tissot died in France aged 94.
1870 was an important year with the arrival of The Sisters of St Joseph, the first Order of nuns to be founded in Australia by an Australian, Mary MacKillop (now known as St Mary of the Cross MacKillop, Australia’s First Saint). They established themselves in Brisbane at the end of 1869 and at the invitation of Fr Tissot opened the Convent at Maryborough. The Sisters were responsible for 150 students and visited the poor and sick.
2.Father Thomas O’Brien served from 1875 – 1878. His first official duty seems to have been the opening of St Mary’s Church of the Holy Rosary in Bundaberg. He took the choir from Maryborough with him. At about the same time, he was reprimanded by Bishop Quinn for writing to the Pope asking for financial help for the education problems here. Early in 1878, Fr O’Brien opened the Sacred Heart Church at Tiaro. A lot of his time was taken up with trying to keep the schools in the region financial so that the children could receive a good education. In June of 1878, Fr O’Brien paid a visit to Bundaberg where he took ill and died within a week from heart disease at the age of 36. He was buried in the Church grounds there. The parishioners of Maryborough held a meeting to request that Fr O’Brien’s remains be brought back for re-interment. It wasn’t until early in 1881 that his body was exhumed and brought down by the steamer “Lady Bowen” and laid to rest in St Mary’s Church.
3.Fr John O’Reilly served from 1879 -1898 having been born in 1840 in County Meath. He studied for the Priesthood in Angouleme, France and was ordained in 1865. The following year he came to Queensland and served appointments at Ipswich, Warwick and the Cathedral before arriving in Maryborough. Whilst travelling around the district saying Masses and meeting the people, he endured several mishaps which are recorded in more detail in the book published for the Parish Sesquicentenary in 2011.
In April of 1880, Fr O’Reilly welcomed the Sisters of Mercy to take charge of the Girls School with an expected enrolment of 120 seniors and 140 infants. The nuns took up residence in the old wooden Convent which was not in a good state.
With the population increasing, Fr O’Reilly started planning to enlarge St Mary’s Church in 1882 and the consecration took place in May of 1885 and the press reported that ‘Maryborough has now by far the finest church outside the metropolis. Visitors would be particularly struck by the beautifully furnished and ornamental interior.’
Plans to erect a Presbytery (Priest’s residence) were drawn up and in 1887 the foundation stone was laid for a two storey building in stone and brick fronting Bazaar Street.
The Christian Brothers School was blessed and opened by Archbishop Dunne in September of 1888 with an enrolment of 110 boys. For the sum of 600 pounds, Fr O’Reilly had purchased a large two storey house adjacent to the school as a residence for the Brothers.
A new Convent for the Sisters of Mercy was necessary and a large block of land on the corner of Lennox and Walker Street was purchased by the Sisters. Work eventually began in 1892 and the blessing and opening of St Michael’s Convent took place in August 1893 – the weather being beautiful and the concourse of spectators large, the majority being ladies.
Fr O’Reilly had St Patrick’s Church built at Howard in 1895 and St Joseph’s at Pialba in 1897. Hervey Bay was made a Parish in its own right in 1958.
At the end of 1898 Fr O’Reilly, who had done so much for Maryborough, was transferred to Brisbane as Secretary to the Archbishop and Administrator of St Stephen’s Cathedral. He died unexpectedly at the age of 64 in 1904 remembered for his years of ministering to the people and for the improvements made during his 19 years as P.P.
4.Fr Philip Brady served from 1898 – 1922 and had been Fr O’Reilly’s assistant since 1893. Born at Dromard, County Longford, Ireland in 1860, he studied for the Priesthood at Carlow Seminary and was ordained in 1887. He came to Australia in 1888 and had two appointments in other cities before arriving in Maryborough.
In 1912, Fr Brady had the Whitehouse-built organ and blower installed in the Church choir loft at a cost of 900 pounds. It was quoted that ‘The town and the parish were lavishly blessed with musical talent and the choir consisting of both male and female were welded into the best provincial choir in the colony under the direction of Mrs Aitken.’ In March 1913, Archbishop Duhig blessed the new church bell and belfry which had been cast and manufactured locally by Walkers Ltd employee Bob Dunlop who was the foreman moulder in the brass shop at the time. The bell was 61cm wide and 71cm high and hung in the church yard until the 1980’s when it was re-housed to protect it from ‘larrikins who thought it was a great joke to ring it in the middle of the night.’
Death came unexpectedly to Fr Brady in June of 1922 when he was 62 years of age. After a solemn Requiem Mass in St Mary’s, the funeral procession reported as one of the lengthiest ever witnessed in Maryborough, proceeded via Bazaar and Kent Streets to the Cemetery.
5.Fr Patrick Brady (brother of Philip) served from 1922 – 1925. He was ordained in 1893 and after arriving in Australia held appointments at Ipswich for 12 years and Gayndah for 10 years.
During his short stay, Fr Brady welcomed Archbishop Duhig to open and bless a school building adjacent to the Convent. He was known as Very Rev Dean Brady as mentioned on the foundation stone. His Grace had often visited Maryborough and this trip was significant because it was for the purpose of furthering education. The land on which the school stood and the erection cost amounted to 6,421 pounds of which 2,870 pounds had been paid by the people. The Archbishop appealed for donations which realized nearly 1,000 pounds.
Dean Brady found the responsibilities of Maryborough too onerous and asked to be moved to Brisbane resulting in a transfer which saw him establish the Parish of Banyo. Retiring in 1945, he died on Easter Sunday of 1951 having rendered nearly 60 years of service to the Church and for some years had been the oldest Priest of the Archdiocese.
6.Monsignor John McCarthy served from 1926 – 1941. He hailed from Red Hill, Brisbane, where he had spent 18 years noted for the completion of St Brigid’s Catholic Church which is still a landmark on the skyline of Brisbane. After a short time, Monsignor McCarthy felt the need to alter and enlarge St Mary’s so the Presbytery had to be demolished to make room. A new timber Presbytery was built on the corner of Adelaide and Sussex Street and duly blessed and opened by Archbishop Duhig in July 1927 at a cost of 3,600 pounds.
In 1928, St John the Evangelist Church at Bauple was blessed and opened. Local families like Connors, Keliher, White, O’Mara and Mrs Diener had been raising money for a church at the time the two Fathers Brady had celebrated Mass every month in the Bauple hall. The Church was closed down in 1975 and sold two years later.
The Monsignor’s next challenge was to completely re-model St Mary’s so that one would hardly recognize it as the ‘pretty Gothic Church’ it had been. In March 1936, Archbishop Duhig laid the foundation stone ‘commemorating the extensions, renovations and completion’ of the church. The Architect was P.O.E. Hawkes and the Contractor Mr Herbert Nielsen. It resembled a cathedral and cost 7,000 pounds. The most noticeable change was that the church had been turned end to end – the front now faced Adelaide Street, the capacity was increased by the addition of north and south transepts in addition to sacristies, confessionals and baptistery.
It was during the re-building that the cock which always fascinates visitors was placed on a front gable of the Church. Monsignor McCarthy was said to have been interested in French ecclesiastical architecture. Many French churches feature a cock on the roof, the reason being that for centuries, the French resented the Italian domination of the Papacy so the cock symbolized this resentment, a reminder to the Italians that even a Pope after the manner of Peter can deny Christ.
Although not enjoying the best of health, Monsignor McCarthy’s death on a trip south in 1941 was described as ‘untimely’. His solemn Requiem was held in St Stephen’s Cathedral, Brisbane, followed by burial at Nudgee Cemetery. Archbishop Duhig paid tribute to the Monsignor particularly for his valuable service to the Church and his efforts in making St Mary’s the finest country parish church in the Archdiocese of Brisbane.
7.Monsignor Martin Jordan served from 1941 – 1957. At the Induction Ceremony in July, Irish born in 1886 and ordained at All Halllows’, Dublin in 1909, Archbishop Duhig described Mons Jordan as a very worthy successor who had given over thirty years service in the City of Brisbane.
During his time here, Mons Jordan saw extensions carried out at the Christian Brothers School, established a Mass centre in Upper Kent Street which serviced the Baddow area, organized for the building of a Grotto (1951) in memory of his American nephew Lieutenant Mark Jordan of the U.S. Army who was killed in Korea.
Mons Jordan died in Brisbane after a short illness in 1957 and was buried in Nudgee Cemetery. He was remembered with affection for his ability to mix with people of all ages and denominations.
8.Monsignor Robert Lyons served from 1957 – 1978. Maryborough had long been considered ‘an Irish seat’ so for the first time in 82 years St Mary’s principal pastor was Australian born - Barcaldine, Qld. Mons Lyons studied for the Priesthood at Springwood, NSW, before going to Rome where he was ordained in 1928. On his return, he ministered in Ipswich and Wooloowin before transferring to Childers where he spent 19 years. He oversaw the building of the Sacred Heart Church and a new brick school. He was honoured with the titled ‘Monsignor’ in 1963.
During his 21 years at St Mary’s, Mons Lyons was responsible for many material improvements including extensive repairs to the foundations of the church, replacement of wooden flooring with concrete, classroom blocks at St Mary’s High School and the Christian Brothers School. The old church at Tiaro had been severely damaged in a cyclone in 1958 that rather than re-build it, a disused church was moved from Dallarnil near Biggenden which is still used for weekly Mass now.
In 1972 the decision was made to sell the land on which the Presbytery and hall stood and the following year the present Presbytery and parish hall were built. In March of 1978, Mons Lyons celebrated his 50th Jubilee of Ordination to the Priesthood with a concelebrated Mass which included almost 100 Priests. Before his retirement that same year to live in a private residence at Aubinville, two more projects were in the planning stages – establish a Retirement Village on the Kent Street site and amalgamate the secondary schools.
Mons Lyons died on Australia Day 1990 aged 87 and he was laid to rest in the Maryborough Lawn Cemetery.
9.Fr Guilford Lyons served from 1978 – 1988. Born at Sandgate in 1918, he studied for the Priesthood at Springwood and Manly in NSW and ordained at St Stephen’s Cathedral, Brisbane, in July 1943. Since 1962, Fr Lyons was PP at the Brisbane suburb of Inala.
His first tasks in Maryborough were the two projects commenced by Mons Lyons and the sale of the Tinana Mass Centre site due to the bad state of repair it was in. The Kent Street Mass Centre was also looking sad so it was demolished to make way for 4 self contained units. The first stage of St Mary’s College (the new co-ed high school) was blessed by Archbishop Francis Rush in early 1979.
After 10 years, Fr Lyons retired to Hervey Bay where he assisted with Sunday Masses. In a tribute from the Maryborough parishioners, it was said “The parish owes much to Fr Lyons for many improvements especially at St Mary’s Primary and High Schools. Both had practically been rebuilt at a cost of over $1,000,000 yet he was a great financial manager and had left the parish finances in a healthy state. The fishing trips to Fraser Island with groups of men would be well remembered.”
Fr ‘Gilly’ Lyons died in September 2000 and was farewelled with a Requiem Mass at St Joseph’s, Pialba, and buried in the Poston Cemetery.
10.Fr Harry Bliss served from 1989 – 2002. Originally qualifying as an electrical mechanic and fitter, he heard the call to the Priesthood and studied at Banyo Seminary being ordained in 1962. In 1978 he was appointed the first PP of Maroochydore starting with a very small church which he built on over a period of time. He transferred to Maryborough in early 1989.
The demanding and major undertaking of Fr Bliss’s time as PP was the complete overhaul of the Church which Architect Maurice Hurst who was well known for his appreciation of historic buildings. The most urgent requirement was to reduce the weight of the roof which was pushing the walls apart which was achieved by replacing the 70 tons of terracotta tiles with 7 tons of galvanized iron. Further works included improved lighting, ventilation and re-opening of dormer vents.
In June 1994, Fr Bliss travelled to Rome with local engineer Peter Olds to deliver a tilting bed of his own design to the Vatican to assist in the nursing and recovery of Pope John Paul 11 who had broken his leg. This proved to be a memorable occasion for Peter who was not Catholic but a good Christian who loved helping people.
Late in 1997, a $2,000,000 expansion program began at St Mary’s College to accommodate the first intake of Year 11 students for the start of the 1998 school year. Several new classrooms, laboratories, admin centre and sporting facilities were blessed before the end of that year.
After 13 years as PP, Fr Bliss transferred to Bulimba in mid 2002 where he stayed for 3 years before retiring to Scarborough. He assisted with Masses around the Peninsula and Brisbane suburbs for some time.
(Fr Harry went into care at Bally Cara as his health deteriorated and passed away in August 2016).
11.Fr Anthony Mellor served from 2002 – 2004. After training at Banyo Seminary, he was ordained in 1997. He served in a couple of parishes prior to his posting here and was transferred to one of the first amalgamation of multiple suburbs in the Red Hill area which was named Jubilee Parish.
Even though Fr Anthony’s stay was brief, he was a quiet achiever and a scholar of theology which enabled him to later study in Rome. He has been involved in the training of seminarians and is well respected for his ability to present resources for liturgy and is an excellent homilist.
12.Fr Paul Kelly served from 2005 – 2014. Born in Townsville, he started school in Canberra before moving back to Qld in 1975 where he attended schools at Enoggera and Mitchelton. He went on to University and graduated with a Bachelor of Economics in 1998 and a Law Degree (Hons) in 1991. He then commenced preparation for the Priesthood and studied at Banyo at the same time as Fr Anthony and shares his ordination date and ministered at Maroochydore, Ipswich and Murgon before being appointed PP here.
In the introduction of the history book referred to at the beginning of this article, Fr Paul pays tribute to the Josephite Religious Order whose leader Mary MacKillop was given the privilege of being named Australia’s First Saint. The Sisters of Mercy and Christian Brothers are to be commended for the enormous part they have played in the education of many Catholic children.
If this information has given you the incentive to learn more about our rich history and the people who made their mark, why not have the book on hand to read at your leisure.