If the statues and stained glass windows could speak14 December, 2021
As I conclude my travelling around the diocese to collect personal stories and recorded histories, I have begun to reflect on my experiences while travelling through 13,000 klms.
The history I have gathered through my photography has also been a rich and colourful record the traditional practices of the Catholic faith. It is obvious how statues, medals, stained glass windows and books, formed an intimate part of our religious life. Statues particularly of Mary and Joseph were a visible expression of our faith and beliefs. The extensive library of religious books housed in the Benedictine Monastery on the Capricorn Coast and kept by Sr Kym Harris is testimony to the depth of intellectual and spiritual expression in our 2000 plus years of Christianity. Helen Harris who grew up around St Joseph’s Cathedral recalls that her favourite stained-glass window in the cathedral was donated in the late 1880s by Mr Knox Darcy a lawyer in memory of his wife Elena.
Many statues were donated to a local parish church in memory of a loved one who had been an active part of the life of that Church. Thankfully many have survived the sometimes-misguided urgency and blatant destruction of artifacts that were deemed of questionable value in the spirit of Vatican II.
The plaques at the base of most statues are, however, a record of the love for, and the devotion to both family and Church as a symbol of a family’s deep religious commitment.
In Mt Morgan a statue of Mary in the Church was donated by Ellen Mary (Delaney) Lowry in memory of her husband John Francis Lowry who died in 1909. They were married in St Joseph’s Cathedral Rockhampton in 1882 and took up residence in Mt Morgan to become a part of the Catholic Church there founded in 1884. There is so much Catholic history in one small plaque.
Father John Grace recalls the story of a statue of Mary donated in memory of Elizabeth Chardin and placed in the small Dingo church around 1936 when Father Mick Feldman was parish priest. The people of the small town came en masse for the installation ceremony, so he decided to make the event worthwhile for so many people present.
Father Grace recalled “Father Feldman donned his biretta (hat worn by parish priests before Vatican II), clothed himself with the ceremonial Benediction cloaks and
chanted in Latin the Vespers of the Divine Office as he led the procession with the statue into the small church.” The heat was so intense at times in these small churches that the candles melted and bent over.
In Emerald, the statue of Mary in the Grotto beside the church and school, is a much-cherished monument from the Finch family in memory of Mr Jack Finch (1916-2003).
The cloak and live flowers kept around the statue of Mary outside the church of St Mary’s in North Rockhampton is a living example of the ongoing breadth of the expression of Catholic faith tradition and devotion to Mary over 140 years.
Please send on your favourite statue story!
Thank you to people who continue to post summaries of histories of family and parish experiences. Please post, email or have a phone conversation.
Dr Maree Ganley firstname.lastname@example.org