On the Outer Barcoo

Sr Mary Farrelly shares some insights about her ministry in outback Queensland.

“Some months ago the little town of Yaraka, situated a couple of hours south of Longreach, celebrated 100 years since the arrival of the railway. On the outskirts we read a sign: The Town at the End of the Railway. In fact, it no longer was! The government had announced closure of the line the previous September. Nevertheless, because the railway had been a significant part of the town’s history this was an occasion to remember. I was able to join in the celebration. This included a trip around the local area with a stop at the site where it is believed that the original “Bush Christening” took place! While we stood around the remains of a dwelling and an old log – said to have replaced the original in which McGuiness McGee had taken refuge – one of our group recited Banjo’s poem:

“On the outer Barcoo where the churches are few
And men of religion are scanty…”

 Whether it is the outer Barcoo, Cooper Creek, the Diamantina River or the Georgina: the further west you go in the Diocese, the less likely you are to find a church of any denomination. Even less likely are you to find a catholic priest living in the vicinity. West of Longreach the celebration of Mass is irregular at best (and that in a CWA Hall) and more likely a non-event or something which happens once every two or three or more years. This is the reality of life in rural and remote Queensland. As such it is very different from life on the coast. Even though priests are fewer everywhere and parishes have been required to amalgamate, it is relatively easy – even if necessary to travel some kilometres – to join a local community for the celebration of Mass and other Sacraments. By contrast where the churches are few and men of religion are scanty, one’s “practice” of the Christian faith is necessarily different. I learnt this during my personal experience of almost 12 years in the western pastoral ministry. What a contrast!”

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