On the 9th January 1977 Fr Brian Heenan became PP of St Flannan’s. Like Fr Doyle, “a much loved and exceptionally gifted pastor”, this was his first appointment as PP. He was ordained on the 29th June 1962 just a few months before the Vatican Council began. Although trained in the old church he was able to absorb the new ideas being promulgated, especially the concept of the People of God. He was fortunate that he found a people who had been ably led by Fr Doyle and he was the man to lead them on into the new uncertain world of the late 20th Century.
Of course he also had to deal with the usual mundane matters of running a parish. On the 23rd January the old bus, that Fr Doyle was still driving when he left, was sold and a ‘new’ second hand one, a 39 seater, purchased for $2,800. This bus was to last for many years until it too was sold in 1987 and Hornibrooks took over the run. In the meantime Fr Heenan had to ensure that a team of parishioners were available and trained to drive it.
Brian Connolly recalls the time when he was getting ready for a run in the bus when the gear selector jammed. He could not move it so he called on Julio Bardini to come and help. Julio took the bus broom and, using the handle, whacked the selector, in just the right spot and it worked. Simple, as long as you knew the right spot.
In July 1977 a Parish census was carried out and showed that there were “just over” 300 families in the parish with another 50 families attending from outside the parish. The census was carried out by the families recording themselves, presumably at week end Masses. It is hard to tell from these figures if the parish was growing or not.
In August 1977 Fr Heenan commented in the Bulletin that “sadly, very few people receive the sacrament (First Rite of Reconciliation) in our parish, perhaps five or six each week”. He then tried to see why this was so, and concluded that the reason was probably “because of the recent changes”. Just what these changes were is hard to find, apart from the changes following on from Vatican II.
With the continual growth of the school population, which reached 509 in 1978, the accommodation was being stretched and by 1977 plans were drawn up to increase the number of classrooms. By this time the Government was giving grants to private schools to assist in capital expenditure so an application was made. In August a grant of $42,000 was received. This meant that the parish had to raise a further $18,000 by borrowing from the Archdiocesan Development Fund, taking the Parish Debt to about $100,000. This is the first direct Government Grant recorded for the parish; the earlier aid was when the Government paid the interest on parish school capital borrowing. By September the construction of the ‘upper’ four-classroom block had started.
An open meeting for all parishioners was held on Sunday night the 2nd October 1977 to discuss where they were going as a parish. About 65 people attended (Fr Heenan commented: “It wasn’t a marvellous response but I am most grateful to those who came”) and many opinions were expressed on the spiritual life of the parish, the celebration of the liturgy, singing, care of the sick and elderly, youth, social life of the parish, the buildings and their maintenance etc. The laity was being consulted and was was fast learning to express its varied opinions; this was continuing the trend begun by Fr Greene and used by Vatican II, when the Bishops spoke up for the first time in centuries. The parish was acting as a community and making decisions. Fr Heenan summed up the trend when he said about the meeting “More important than individual issues raised is our overall attention to the parish as a community.” Decisions made by the community were carried out by the representatives of the community in the Parish Council. One of the decisions was to have a Parish mission in the second half of 1978 following a full parish census.
Fr Heenan was looking forward to more such meetings in the next year and he set out his vision when he wrote:
“there will always be the ‘knockers’ (perhaps there is a bit of that in all of us) but a parish is built on people who try to be like Christ who was an optimist, who overcame discouragement and did establish a wonderful kingdom. We will go on trying to make St Flannan’s part of His kingdom, a family united by peace and friendship.”
Rock Masses commenced on 13th November 1977 . This move was aimed at the youth of the parish and was an attempt to speak to them in their own language of music, song, dance and style. These Masses were avoided by some, mainly older people, but for the young they were a breath of fresh air and spoke strongly in a language the youth understood. Some of the older people also liked them.
The Bulletin commented “Many weeks of preparation came to fulfilment last Sunday evening when singers, dancers, orchestra and congregation combined in a lively forty five minutes of prayer and song. Prepared by Steve Relf and Paul Hamilton from Banyo. Warmest congratulations to all who shared in any way”.
These Masses, built on the Rock Services which started earlier in the 1970s, followed the Sunday evening Mass. Pam McSweeney (nee Thompson) vividly remembers the Services with Fr Campbell and some Seminarians hotting up the music in the Sr Janet Meade style of the time.
Eucharistic Ministers and Liturgy Committees started in the late 1970s. Both of these functions represent big changes for the laity in that they involve activity within the liturgy itself. Traditionally the laity looked after the parish ‘outside the church’ while the priest was responsible for things ‘inside the church’. While the new order of Mass involved the laity more deeply in the liturgy by praying the Mass rather than praying at Mass, these functions go still further. They involve the laity in assisting the priest by taking some of the work off his shoulders, giving him more time to concentrate on the things only he can do.
The building of the school continued. Three new classrooms, beyond the present toilets, were blessed and opened on Friday, 27th January 1978. As usual, the Parish debt kept rising and reached some $93,500. However, the relentless expansion of education had to go on and the hope was expressed that more building would be started towards the end of the year. (This was a reference to the new Library.)
The 25th Jubilee of the parish of Zillmere North was celebrated on the 2nd July 1978 at the first Open Air Mass held in the Parish . Archbishop Rush concelebrated Mass in the grounds at 11am, assisted by priests who had served in the parish over the preceding years. Archbishop Rush preached on the need to accept those who are different in colour, nationality or speech, particularly Aboriginals and Italians, and lamented the fact that racial prejudice still existed in Australian society. Estimates of the crowd varied between 800 & 900 people who took part in the Mass and the barbecue picnic that followed in the parish grounds. The school, which then had 509 pupils, formed a background to the festivities.
This first Open Air Mass, in addition to being the Jubilee Mass, was an attempt to bring all the parishioners together for one weekend Mass to celebrate as one group, rather than as the usual four groups of other weekends. And it worked. It was a Mass and a picnic day combined, with the boys from Nudgee College attending in force. It was a chance to see people that one hadn’t seen for months, and in some cases years, as old parishioners revisited the parish for the day.
Liturgy Preparation Groups began operating in October 1978. Several groups of parishioners, after training in the parish, began working on a roster basis to write the Sunday liturgies. Their first task was to develop liturgies for the mission that opened on 2nd October. Apart from the liturgies, there were 20 home gatherings that met over the first two weeks of October as part of the mission. The liturgy groups continued till the end of 1999 when they went into temporary eclipse.
A major improvement for the school occurred on 26th November 1978 when Bishop John Gerry blessed and opened the new school Library which cost $71,300. The school was still called Zillmere North even though the parish had long ago dropped the direction North. In a way, the possession of a well equipped library is the coming of age of a school because it is more than just a traditional library where one obtained books, for whatever purpose. The modern library is a resource centre where the student can obtain information in many different forms such as printed, audio, film, photo, video, fax, etc. It would develop much further when computers with email and internet access became available in the following decade. The need for specialist librarians to run the complex library systems was now a necessity in all schools.
Builders of the library were Giulio & Brian Bardini who were responsible for much of the building activity at the parish over the years.
After teaching at the school for 8 years, Sr Bernice Heffernan left the parish on the 29th June 1979 to study Catechetics full time. Sister had done a lot of work in organising choirs and music for the parish Masses, especially the Youth Masses. Some years later she worked in the Prison ministry.
Fr Gerry Hefferan was appointed Assistant Pastor on the 4th July 1979. He was newly ordained and had spent his Deaconate in the parish. He was welcomed back at a big celebration. Fr Gerry rode a motor bike and had long hair, so the kids called him Fr Fonzie after a TV character of the time. He got on well with the young (and old) people and helped them to organise Rock Masses and weekend camps for families. There was disappointment amongst the younger fry when they found out that his coat was not leather, only vinyl - sad! Fr Gerry continued to ride his motor bike when he was stationed in Maryborough, going to the outlying stations for Mass until he rode into a fallen tree and was badly injured. He is presently (2003) stationed at Oxenford where he recently appealed to the parishioners of the Archdiocese to help the struggling parish build a house for him, as the old one was termite ridden and almost falling down. The people responded well to his call.
St Flannan’s Zillmere North parish primary school marked its jubilee in August 1979. Four Holy Spirit sisters opened it on the 29th March 1954 with an enrolment of 142 pupils but no formal classrooms. At the time of the Jubilee the school had 535 pupils, one Holy Spirit sister and 20 lay staff . In 25 years the changes had been momentous in enrolment numbers, accommodation, equipment, staffing and technique. It had also become much more expensive.
A regular social function held in the parish during these years was the Dinner Dance in the parish hall. One was held on the 15/9/1979 and tickets cost $16 a double.
St Flannan’s Caring Community begun in 1979 with the first visitation on the 27th September. The Caring Community was, and is, caring for the spiritual/religious needs of the housebound. The duties included providing meals in emergencies, house cleaning for those recuperating after hospitalisation, visitations, mowing lawns, grocery shopping, fixing taps and other odd jobs. A special service was providing transport to Prince Charles and Royal Brisbane hospitals. Baby sitting, to allow young mothers some recreation time, was also undertaken.
The Caring Community Mass began in 1980 with regular Masses and morning teas attended by large numbers of elderly persons, many of whom had to be transported to the church. The Annual Picnics began in 1981 and proved very popular with large numbers of elderly people. They travelled to different places each year and had a merry old time.
In March 1990, the name was changed to Care and Concern. This was to differentiate from the monthly Caring Community Masses which has separate co-ordinators, and also to come into line with the many other Care and Concern groups in the Archdiocese. Care and Concern was aimed at providing for a person’s material needs and it looked after the functions of Visitation to the housebound, Home help, Transport and the Handyman service.
In recent years the organisations have declined and may have run their course. Many things have changed in the 22 years since they started such as the introduction of the new Health & Safety legislation and the insurance crisis. Also, it is worth noting that many of the people who staffed it are now elderly and themselves need care and concern. Today, so many families have both parents working, that the pool of volunteers is smaller than it was years ago.
The Parish Council first met on 4th September 1979 and was attended by 16 persons selected as representatives of the different organisations active in the parish. Fr Heenan chaired the early meetings but later Terry Carey acted as chairman. Still later, half the members were elected while the others were ex-officio from parish and school. In still more recent years the members are selected by a process of discernment. The function of the Council is to advise the priest on a wide variety of matters concerning the parish and school. In recent years the school has become independent but the Principal is still a member and presents regular reports.
The Council works by consensus so that any advice given, or decision taken, is first discussed and all views taken into account. It deals with such things as the need for new buildings, parish celebrations, assistance to various groups within and without the parish, setting up committees to run various functions, parking problems, safety concerns, Flarana Fair, ways to improve the parish, etc. etc. Bishop Heenan commented:
(The Council) drew together what had been operating in the parish for a long time, a sense of being responsible for the life of the parish together. There was always healthy and sometimes spirited diversity but overall unity prevailed.
The second Open air Mass was celebrated at 9.30am Sunday September 2nd 1979 with Frs Brian Heenan, G. Hefferan and V. Mills (Chaplain at Nudgee College) concelebrating. It was a family picnic day with kite flying, bicycle derby “Tour de France”, fence painting, etc .
AUSTRALIA in the 1980s
The 80's were a period of prosperity with business booming but the level of unemployment remained high around the 8% mark, while youth unemployment was much higher at around 25%. Alan Bond, one of the corporate high fliers, won the Americas Cup, a major achievement in the yachting world and it was highly publicised in Australia. Other corporate high fliers were notable in an atmosphere of high spending and corporate takeovers. In spite of the high rate of unemployment business seemed to be booming and banks lent money freely.
Privatisation became a new keyword as previously public owned industries were sold off to private operators. Globalisation became another keyword as Australia had to face market competition from foreign sources and the government was trying to reshape the economy to be able to deal with the new circumstances. Tariff reduction started to affect hitherto protected industries, threatening more unemployment and disruption.
The technological age gathered momentum as computers revolutionised the work place eliminating jobs but creating a host of new ones for younger and newly trained workers. The first scanners appeared in the supermarket checkouts to the usual cry of ‘more newfangled gadgets to rip us off’ from the more conservative section of the population. Medicare, instituted in the 1970s was revised by the Federal Government to take care of health and hospital expenses. The status of women continued to rise as sex discrimination was outlawed and women formed an increasing component of the workforce. Superannuation for all was introduced by the Federal Government and ceased to be the ‘perk’ of the better paid in the workforce.
The number of students remaining at school to complete secondary grew as competition for jobs among youth increased. Multinational companies continued to spread more widely and Australia had to come to terms with them.
Old industries, including many manufacturing ones, particularly the ‘smoke stack’ variety gradually declined. At the same time the 'sunrise' industries, such as electronics and tourism, grew rapidly making available more jobs which demanded a higher standard of education from applicants.
The parish had an annual Fete which developed from the sports days of the 1950s. It was renamed Flarana Fair in 1980 and a professional organiser, Max Green, was hired. Max had been organising the Colana Carnival at St Columban’s, Albion, for several years and came with a great deal of experience and flair. He was a small man with plenty of energy; at Columban’s they called him ‘Mighty Mouse’. Doreen Dobbins was the convenor and with a large band of very active stall holders they increased the profit from $6,000 the previous year to $9,000 in 1980.
Max Green, who lived on Beams Road just near the church, did much to make Flarana Fair into a first class money raising institution, died on the 23rd December 1995. “He had a great vision, one of grandeur and style. He was often quiet at meetings, but would add enough to develop ideas. He was never forceful in his approach, never offended, but always ready to please and make ‘OUR’ Fair special.”
The following year the profit went up to $11,000 with Lu Cross as the convenor, a job that Lu did for 16 years. (She also spent 23 years as convenor of the school tuck shop.) This time there were parachute jumps as the highlight of the day, along with all the other stalls, about 30 of them, and other carnival attractions. The activity continued each year, with increasing profits which were, and still are, needed to balance the books of the parish and school in spite of all the funds collected in other ways.
1981 was the Year of the Disabled and it was then that Awareness Masses, involving deaf people, commenced at St Flannan’s. They were held once a month at the 8.30am Mass on Sundays and had a person communicating with the congregation in sign language. People would come from all around the city for the Mass which was organised by the deaf people themselves. The Masses continued at St Flannan’s for a couple of years and then moved to another parish.
The Bulletin of 15th March 1981 announced the Ashes to Easter Lenten program would be operating with three groups - one day, two evening. There was also the same program available for people at home who could not join a group. This was a day by day program on printed sheets which were available at the church door. This is the earliest mention of the Lenten Programs which have continued up to the present. They involve a group of people meeting each week for the six weeks of Lent to pray together, read a set text, share their experiences related to the text, learn more about each other and learn more about their faith. Many friendships have started in these groups.
One of the recommendations from the Second Vatican Council was to restore the procedures used in the early Church for the preparation of those who wanted to become Christians. These people were adults and were called Catechumens. They were prepared for Baptism and the reception of the sacraments of Confirmation and Eucharist.
Accordingly, Archbishop Rush encouraged all parishes in the Archdiocese to use the restored system now commonly known as the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, or RCIA. In 1980 St Flannan’s parish, along with another nineteen parishes, accepted the invitation. Since that time over one hundred people have used the program and entered fully into communion with the Catholic Church at St Flannan’s.
The first program began in August 1981 with a series of three meetings, called enquiry nights, in the school library. The first eight people to complete the program at Easter 1982 were Kaye Barber, Lurelle Gilfoyle, John Barff, Roslyn Jenkins, Julie Fredrick, Mal Shannon, Frank Ford and Gwen Walsh. Many of those who have come in via the RCIA have gone on to become very active in the parish, taking their places as leaders in various fields. This is a great recommendation for the system and those who participate.
The RCIA is run by lay people who instruct the Catechumens, and in the process learn much more about their faith and church. It is one more instance of the laity taking responsibility for work once done by the priest and a sign of the Church’s faith in them.
The replacement, by folding doors, of the wall separating the church from the hall took place in May 1981. It was a suggestion to the Parish Council on which they acted. For large congregations, such as first communion, the doors can be opened to allow ample room for all. The bulletin goes on “In fact, those in the hall will be much closer to the altar, than those at the front door of the church.” (The front door at the time was the one facing Handford Road.) The bulletin then asked the parishioners for suggestions as to how the internal arrangements of the church could be made still more amenable. The changes continue.
Following a suggestion by a parishioner, the Parish Council took up the challenge to rebuild the two existing tennis courts. This was called Project ’81 and involved replacing the ant bed courts with a concrete base and a synthetic surface, installing modern lighting on both courts, and renewing the wire netting on one court at a estimated cost of $25,000 and using voluntary labour. The money would be borrowed from the Archdiocesan Development Fund and repaid by hiring the courts. They were expected to pay for themselves in six years.
On 21st June 1981, under the heading “St Flannan’s Parish Tennis Courts”, the opening was announced. “Blessing and Grand Opening today (Sunday) at 10am.” There was to be an exhibition match by ‘mystery celebrities’ and then “tennis for everybody all day and night. Bring the family, barbecue lunch and tennis gear”. The tennis courts have had lights installed and much more. It was the usual St Flannan’s story, with a gang of 50 men directed by Giulio Bardini, Brian Hayes and Tony Mula, nourished by Lu Cross and Anne Bardini, doing the work over 14 Saturdays. (It was originally thought to take 6) It was a miracle declared the Bulletin. They did everything except some earth moving (mechanical), although they probably did a lot of that with shovels (manual).
The old asbestos roof on the church and hall was showing signs of its age with nail holes and cracks allowing water in, and this was damaging the ceiling and timber supports. The old roof sheeting was replaced with new Zincalume which “greatly enhances the look of the building”, while the new insulation was expected to warm the place in winter and cool it in summer. By July 1981 the work was complete.
After the long time housekeeper Agnes Hickey retired, Fr Heenan asked Lu Cross to come and help in the presbytery so that she would have something to do after the death of her husband, Harold. So Lu kept the Presbytery clean and looked after Fr Brian till he left. Originally she intended to leave when Fr Heenan did but stayed on to help Fr Ashley Warbrooke for a short time till he got established. .
Fr Mark Kelly was ordained at St Flannan’s by Bishop Faulkner for the Townsville Diocese on Saturday 26/6/1982. Fr Heenan in the following Bulletin commented on:
the justifiable pride that we all felt at St Flannan’s at having Fr Mark’s ordination and for all the good it did us as a community. We can feel very proud of the preparations and the celebration, the cleaning of the church, hall and grounds, the refreshments and all the cooking and making and serving of tea for about seven hundred people. Thanks to all who helped so generously and quietly.
On Friday, 5/11/1982 Sr Susan Smith RSM, made her final profession as a Sister of Mercy, at St Flannan’s. She was nursing at the Mater as a midwife. Bishop Gerry assisted by Frs Doyle, Carey, Hefferan and Kuppens celebrated the Mass. A supper in the hall followed. Susan and Margaret Smith entered the Sisters of Mercy at the same time.
A month later on Saturday, 18th December Sr Margaret Smith RSM, made her final profession as Sister of Mercy at St Flannan’s. Bishop Cuskelly was the chief celebrant assisted by Fr Martin Doyle. The Mass was followed by a picnic in the grounds of the school.
In January 1983 Fr Carey was transferred to Clayfield and Fr Peter Dillon, Chaplain at Chermside Hospital, replaced him as Assistant Pastor at St Flannan’s.
Archbishop Rush called an Archdiocesan Priests Assembly in July 1983. Over 200 priests were expected to attend the weeklong assembly from the evening of Sunday 3rd to Saturday 9th. While the priests were away communion services were held each day in St Flannan’s led by the Ministers of the Eucharist. The priests had many things to discuss, not least being their own morale. Fr Heenan wrote “We feel it is important to admit to you that there are many times when we feel inadequate for this work of priesthood, times of not meeting our expectations for today’s Church, times of uncertainty in our actions and decisions.” People greatly appreciated frank talk such as this because Fr Heenan, by taking them into his confidence, demonstrated his trust in them.
Ties with St Flannan’s in Scotland were established when three parishioners, Anne & James O’Neil with their son James, went back to Scotland and spent some time in their former home parish of St Flannan’s, Kirkintilloch near Glasgow. James (Senior) was an altar boy there many years ago. They took with them the greetings of St Flannan’s Zillmere to St Flannan’s Scotland. The parish priest, Fr Friel, and the people sent back a letter of greetings, photos, details of the Pope’s visit and a Papal Blessing for St Flannan’s Zillmere. All this was displayed on the notice board outside the church and the Blessing was framed and hangs in the sacristy.
At the beginning of November 1983 a start was made on extensions to the front of the Presbytery. Included were a new office, a new living area, a new patio and a new front. They were completed at the end of December with Guilio Bardini as builder and Brian Hayes doing the electrical work. The estimated cost was $19,500.
On the 19th December the regular Communal Rite of Reconciliation was held. This has been held since 1976 and has never waned in popularity.
In 1984, when computers were appearing in offices, Fr Heenan acquired one for St Flannan's. Thus St Flannan’s was one of the first parishes in the Archdiocese to use them. Marnie Dann, who was Parish Secretary at the time, took control of the new acquisition and wrote a program in Basic to deal with the school fees and other data. This program was still in use 17 years later in 2001.
In March 1984, the North Coast Deanery Pastoral Council was formed and included St Flannan’s as a member. That year, the Archdiocese formed parishes into local clusters with a senior priest as the Dean to act as a chairperson. There were nine Deaneries formed and St Flannan’s was included in the North Coast Deanery with Bevan Gallagher as the first parish representative, and Fr John Dobson as the first Dean. Later the North Coast Deanery was split into two, and now St Flannan’s is in the North East Deanery. In 1993 a Deanery Pastoral Council was formed and each parish sends a representative to the local Council which acts as a consultative body to unite Laity and Priests. Local matters which affect the parishes in the area are dealt with by the Deanery, rather than each parish trying to solve the problems on their own or sending the problems to the Archdiocese.
“While the church has not changed much on the outside, the inside has had several changes”. With these words Fr Heenan summed up the meetings of parishioners held over a period of several months, to discuss more changes. On the 9th September 1984 he announced that plans for the Refurbishment of church and relocation of the altar to its present position, the building of a Blessed Sacrament Chapel and a new entrance, would be drawn up. The meetings felt that the new “changes would help to create a greater unity in worship.” Apparently there had been the usual disagreement from some parishioners, as he said “To those who would have preferred to see things remain unaltered, may I say that I appreciate the hurts that changes bring. I now ask your support for what I believe will bring a new life to our great church building and a rich blessing on our community as we worship together.” Ever the peacemaker, he was trying to carry the whole parish along with the changes.
The alterations to the church began in November and were completed, blessed and opened by Bishop Cuskelly in March 1985.
No sooner had the decision to change the interior of the church been made, then another far reaching change was put into practice, to have communion under both kinds, bread and wine. This follows the lead of Jesus at the Last Supper and it also emphasises the nature of communion, where the body is eaten and the blood is drunk. After meetings and training sessions for ministers on the weekend of 16th September 1984, parishioners had the option of receiving Communion under both kinds. This would have presented a problem for some people who had been brought up with the teaching that this was only for the priest, and it was sufficient for the laity to receive only the host. Even in 2003 many people still do not receive the precious blood.
St Flannan’s school, like all modern schools, has to continually update its methods, buildings and equipment. In 1985 it was installing computers in the library, the information centre of the school. Also, TVs were installed in classrooms and were networked with a video system in the library. TVs were becoming more important in teaching as pupils live in a culture that uses them extensively. So, if the teacher can’t beat them, then she has to join them, and use them. All of this costs endless amounts of money which forces up the cost of education.
The two tennis courts in the school grounds were given a resurface, at a cost of $6,100, in January 1985. This is a goodly sum of money but the courts are a steady income earner over the long term, as they are hired both day and night. Tennis clubs have a long history at St Flannan’s, from the first one of young people who built the first court in 1960, to the present day. Apart from parishioners and the public, the school uses the courts in its sporting activities.
For the whole of 1985, Peter Brannelly did his fourth year Seminary placement in the parish. Peter was ordained on 10th February 1989 at St Bernard’s Church, Upper Mt Gravatt. His first appointment was to Daisy Hill.
The first Antioch weekend held at St Flannan’s, with 60 young parishioners attending, took place from the 15th to the 17th February 1985. The whole parish co-operated by providing accommodation for the visitors, food for all and background supervision of the young folk. The response of some was published the following weekend. “Who will ever forget the closing Mass and the infectious joy that made it so hard to leave for home after the great barbecue? We are already looking forward to the next weekend in September.” Another, “I would have to say, this has been one of the most influential single experiences of my life. I am positive this view is shared by many others who have been involved with this community.” The Antioch movement was to flourish in the parish till 1993 when it was taken up by other parishes and still continues today.
The Parish Employment service started in about 1979 and was mainly run, by and for, youth under the supervision of Margaret Hayes. In 1985, John Cameron saw the need for a broader based service and this led to the establishment of the Employment Referral Service. John was surprised that they were not inundated with requests for employment. In the mid 1990s, Eileen Weatherhead was running the service and by 1994 they had 59 unemployed people on the books and only one vacant position. They maintained contact with a wide range of similar organisations and in 1994 were running seminars on training unemployed people in interview preparation, assessing the job market network etc. At present the service is not operating, partly, because of lack of someone willing to run the service.
In 1985, the Parish decided to assist Pregnancy Help financially as a practical means of helping women who found themselves with an unwanted pregnancy. This was the latest in a list of outside services that the parish has supported over the years, apart from the usual annual appeals such as the missions, Holy Land places, Peter’s pence, Archbishop’s appeal, etc. These extra appeals range from the Holy Spirit Sisters’ mission in India, the Mamre respite centre at Kedron which looks after handicapped persons to allow their carers some relief, Shiloh which assists those afflicted with Aids and educates young people about AIDS, Centacare, Rosies, Little King’s Movement, etc. These constant appeals are part of being a member of St Flannan’s. Once somebody, on being asked to contribute to another appeal, moaned that the Church was always asking them to give, give, give at Mass. Somebody else replied that that was a good definition of a Christian.
On the 10th February 1985 the Holy Spirit Sisters, who had been in the parish since 1954, withdrew from the parish to undertake missionary work elsewhere. After 31 years their absence left a hole in the heart of the parish that has never really been filled. Even thought their numbers had declined since the late 1950s, when there were eleven of them living and working in the parish, they still maintained a presence, an assurance that all was well. Many of the people who came to farewell them had been taught by them or had children in the school, others had benefited in other ways by their presence. For the middle aged and older ones, they had grown up with a presence of Sisters in the parish and it provided inspiration for them.
The Sisters are owed a debt by the parish that it will never be able to repay. They were the faceless heroines who staffed what must have been the most primitive school in Brisbane and whose living conditions were not much better. They worked long hours, doing whatever was needed to make the school work. The new convent made their life less arduous but it was fairly basic, consistent with the Order’s philosophy on poverty. They more or less worked for ‘bed and board’ and their stipend was paid to the Order, rather than to the Sister. Parishioners supplemented their diet by regularly providing milk, fruit, vegetables and cash. They counselled people, door knocked to find the lonely and the sick, tended the hurt children, coached teams, made fine music and cultivated gardens. These talented, dedicated women made Zillmere their temporary home and served the people. They led by serving and when the time came to hand over to lay teachers they simply ‘folded their tents and stole softly away’ to serve other people, in other places. Their legacies are the memories people keep in their hearts, the school and the various parish groups they nurtured.
In February 1985 the GROW organisation began to meet regularly in the St Vincent de Paul room under the church. GROW is an organization which provides friendly help for people suffering from emotional distress, depression or other effects of stress. GROW helps them learn how to handle their problems and grow to maturity.
In August 1985 Fr Dillon transferred to Surfers Paradise and Fr John Chalmers replaced him as Assistant Pastor. Fr John used to swim each morning at Nudgee College pool because he needed constant exercise for his disability. On the way to and from he used to take communion to those persons who were housebound. Since he was not directly involved in the Administration of the parish he was able to concentrate on such things as working with the numerous groups in the parish and visiting parishioners in their homes. Of the parish he says:
St Flannan’s was different from parishes here and in the US in which I have served by the breadth and depth of the lay involvement. There was a culture of involvement and of people getting stuck into the task at hand and enjoying themselves. Flarana Fair and the Annual Outdoor Mass were very significant in this regard. It is one of the few parishes I have worked in that has a strong culture that works very well for it. The parish doesn’t take itself too seriously and is inevitably welcoming without being suffocating. I put this down to the ‘light hand’ that the parish priests have had in engaging the parish life.
In 1986 Fr Brian Heenan thought that it would be very inviting to have a member of the congregation welcome parishioners as they arrived at Mass, so the Hospitality Ministry commenced. Chris Tribbeck recounted this and added that from the first the idea proved to be a great success. These ministers stand outside the doors to welcome incoming parishioners by greeting them with a smile and handing them the current parish bulletin. They also help organize the collectors and other ministers, as well as prepare the Offertory procession.
In January 1986 James Zanotto commenced his fourth year Seminary placement in the parish
The sale of the old school and Mass bus in October 1987 marked the passing of an era in the parish. The old way of volunteers driving a second hand bus owned by the parish was in keeping with the times when Catholics had to make do and improvise in many ways. The new times reflected the improved living standards that the more established parishioners were experiencing. Over the years, more of them acquired their own cars and did not have to rely on the bus for Mass or school. The old bus was sold to a museum; that’s how old it was. It was time to let the professionals from the firm of Hornibrooks take over the run and pay them for the service.
Networking commenced in 1987 when Frs Brian Heenan and John Chalmers wrote to the people of St Flannan’s and outlined a ‘Grand Vision’ of regular contact with ALL of the known Catholics in the parish. The plan went into operation in December 1987 with each Networker visiting the Catholics in their allotted area, introducing themselves and delivering the Parish Christmas letter. This was just the start, as the Dream was to keep the people up to date on parish activities, and communicate to the priests and other ministries in the parish, the needs of the people. There might be a need for a visit by a priest or a parishioner, to have communion brought to a sick person, to visit a lonely person, to mind a child, to mow a lawn, etc. When the parish magazine Shalom began, the Networkers delivered it to all their contact households.
On 29th June 1987, Fr Heenan celebrated his 25th Anniversary of ordination. At the annual Open Air Mass he was presented with a card made up of 420 individual cards from parishioners. A large team of people working with Terry Carey helped to celebrate Fr Brian’s 25 years of priesthood; Mary Ford with musicians and drama in the liturgy; twenty or so men assembled and dismantled the worship space; Marnie Dann co-ordinated a large group of ladies in contacting and visiting parishioners; Anne Lawrence led the morning tea brigade of helpers, while Eddie Gerns, with lots of help, arranged the BBQ. Fr Brian was delighted and so were the parishioners of St Flannan’s.
Alcoholics Anonymous arrived at St Flannan’s in the late 1980s. So wrote Al Coe an anonymous member of AA who goes on to say that through the fuzziness of an alcohol affected brain, constant hangovers and "hair of the dog" cures, it gradually dawned on him that his life was an unmanageable mess. When Al went to AA he was told that alcoholism was a disease - with physical, mental and spiritual characteristics. It is incurable but can be arrested. He comments, “What a relief it was to know that I had a disease and it wasn't my fault.” He had to learn to live life one day at a time and live that single day at a time without a drink. He finishes up by commenting “Incidentally, my "one day at a time" has totaled up to 361/2 years and I have not worked up enough thirst for that one drink too many, yet!” AA is still meeting in the St Vincent de Paul room underneath the church, and the work goes on.
It was estimated that there were about 1100 families in the parish in 1988. Unfortunately, the method of counting or estimating is unknown and so there is no guarantee of the accuracy of this census number.
The Australia Day Mass 26th January 1988 was held under the big Camphor Laurel tree near the tennis court. Following the Mass there was a bush morning tea with Billy tea and damper. A Bush band provided music for singing Australian Ballads, followed by a picnic day with lunchtime BBQ. The theme of the day was summed up, “Let’s celebrate 200 years of Australia. Let’s acknowledge our need to be reconciled with our Aboriginal people; let’s build a better and unified Australia and thank God for incredible blessings over two centuries.”
1988: 9th February - Fr Paul O'Shea ordained at St Flannan's.
The 7th August 1988 marked the farewell to Fr Chalmers who was leaving for a short holiday before going to study in Chicago USA. Fr Heenan wrote “John has been, in the words of St Paul ‘all things to all people’, to the smallest of the children, to the youth, to those in the middle, the elderly, the sick, the bereaved; he has given himself to all with equal commitment…… His special regard for the handicapped is surely born of his own disabilities which he handles with unlimited courage and extraordinary acceptance.” After several years study in USA, Fr John returned to act as Rector of Banyo Seminary and is now (2003) the Head of Pastoral Ministries at Centacare.
Newly appointed Assistant Pastor, Fr Tony Hallam, was welcomed on 8th January 1989. He studied at Banyo Seminary and this was his first appointment after being ordained on 18th November 1988. His introduction to parish life was rather sudden as Fr Brian was going to be away for a fortnight.
The first Pastoral Assistant for St Flannan’s was Sr Judith Murphy PBVM who arrived in March 1989. Sr Judith had spent many years teaching; her first appointment was at St Rita’s, followed by caring for a Retreat House, working in Social Welfare and thus came to St Flannan’s with a wide range of experience. Sr Judith’s work was to help Fr Brian in visiting parishioners, especially the housebound, work with the existing groups in the parish, organise liturgies and to help the priest and parishioners run the parish. Sr Judith stayed till February 1994 when she moved on to a new appointment in Kingaroy.
Sr Judith had a plant bearing green berries which would later turn red. Once when she went on holidays Lu Cross got some red nail polish and painted the green berries red. Sr Judith, thinking that the berries were ripening, was very pleased and told everybody how well the plant was doing. It had red berries already. For a while everybody at the Presbytery kept mum and quietly enjoyed the joke until they were all at morning tea one day when someone spilled the beans. Lu had a red face but Judith took it in good spirits and all had a laugh. The plant eventually did have real red berries.
While overseas, in September 1990, Fr Brian Heenan accepted an appointment to the "On Going Education of Priests' Ministry". He was to take up appointment on 1/1/1991 and in the interim Fr Tony Hallam ministered to the parish. A Parish Assembly was held to decide on what was expected from the successor to Brian Heenan and these qualities were a type of job description. The parishioners had been consulted and had responded with a detailed list of expectations. In the New Year Fr Ashley Warbrooke arrived as the new PP.
The parish got the priest who understood the people. But, in future, with the declining number of priests this type of choice may not be an option. As Tom McCarthy commented - the Archbishop may not be able to ask, what sort of priest do you want, but I’ll see if there is a priest available.
Ann Lawrence sums up:
When you think back to the early days of our Church we have come a long way to making our Parish more friendly and modern. The new semicircular seating brings us much closer together than when we were sitting row on row looking at the back of the people in front of us as in the early days. When you think of our old confessional box at the front door and see our new reconciliation room, large enough to hold a dinner party we have certainly come a long way. Our church has developed over the years as a friendly and happy family environment.