In 2009 Pope Benedict XVI proclaimed 2009 – 2010 the Year of the Priest and called on the Church to support their Diocesan clergy.
To celebrate locally, the parish community of St Mary’s recently welcomed the return of past serving clergy to Hamilton, including Missionaries of the Sacred Heart (MSC) priests who established Monivae College.
A parish dinner held at the Hamilton Golf Club included a night of entertainment and nostalgic memories of parish life.
Lifetime resident and parishioner Mr Jim Eveston in his address to the guests, reflected on the lives of many past clergy and the influence their guidance and support had on the faith formation of the parish community. The spiritual strength and personal commitment that past priests had devoted to the Hamilton Parish continues to be fondly remembered with gratitude by St Mary’s parishioners today.
Fathers Eugene McKinnon (Terang), Peter Hudson (Swan Hill) and John Monaghan (Quambatook) were among ten Priests in attendance who recalled memorable and humorous events that had occurred during their service throughout the parish.
Fr Andrew Hayes of Casterton, whose ministerial role includes nine churches in the widespread parishes of Coleraine, Casterton, Edenhope and Harrow shared his much loved musical talent to the delight of the audience on the night.
The present St Mary’s site was first acquired in 1853 by Bishop Goold. As revealed in the Bishop’s historical diary notes, he travelled the Western District on horseback – “to select a site in a township most picturesquely situated in the heart of a magnificent country”. The first Church/School building was a wooden structure built in 1856 at a cost of ₤488 (Pounds). For the next five years the Catholics of Hamilton were reliant on visiting clergyman until the appointment of their first Pastor (Parish Priest) Fr J O’Connell.
In the immediate years to follow, the dedication of the clergy knew no bounds in overseeing the building of Churches and Schools in many parts of the Western District.
One such Priest Fr Michael Shanahan devoted forty-five years of service to St Mary’s Parish from 1886. Dubbed “The Grand Old Man of Hamilton” Dean Shanahan was responsible for the establishment of places of worship and education in as many as nine towns in the south west.
The immeasurable work of the past continues in today’s Church through the ongoing commitment of dedicated clergy & staff, along with the many volunteers who willingly fill the void of available Priests, assisting in a number of ministerial roles.
Photo above: Back Row L to R: Fr Peter Hudson – Fr Andrew Hayes – Fr Eugene McKinnon – Fr John Monaghan – Fr Paul Castley MSC
Front Row L to R: Fr Patrick Mugavin – Fr John McKinnon – Fr Noel Mansfield MSC – Fr Pat Austin MSC
– Anne Slattery