The Parishes Task Force was set up more than 18 months ago to respond to the increasing difficulty of finding Jesuits to serve in all nine parishes across the country. Led by the Province Delegate for Parishes, Sr Libby Rogerson IBVM, the task force was asked to discern and develop criteria for remaining in or withdrawing from a parish, and then to make recommendations for the Provincial and Consult.
In February, Australian Jesuit Provincial Fr Brian McCoy went to Brisbane to meet with the Jesuits, the Parish Council and a group from the parish to inform them of the decision to leave St Ignatius Toowong. He then made a formal announcement at each of the Sunday Masses, noting in a homily his own connection with the community there during the time he was working among the Torres Strait Islander people in Townsville.
“In 1979, at the age of 31 and ordained less than two years, I was missioned to work in Queensland,” he said. “While living a long way north of Brisbane we formally belonged to this Toowong Jesuit community and would regularly visit the parish and community on our travels north or south.”
“Personally I find it both sad and difficult to announce that we Jesuits will be concluding our ministry in this parish at the end of this year.”
Fr McCoy paid tribute to the life and work of the long-standing parish priest Fr Peter Quin SJ, who died late last year. He said the decision was not based on Fr Quin’s death, but on the reality that the Province does not have enough men to serve as parish priests for all its parishes.
He expressed the hope that the parish would continue to have strong connections to the Australian Jesuits.
“One thing that we are committed to doing over the coming months … is to see how Jesuit and Ignatian connections may continue and be further strengthened,” he said. “The outreach and resources of the Faber Centre of Ignatian Spirituality will form a very important part of those discussions.”
Parish representatives read out a response to the announcement, noting that the news may not have been unexpected but that it was still difficult for many.
“In this time of grief and shock it is important for us to remember all the blessings and gifts we have been given by the Jesuits over a century,” the statement read. “While we mourn the loss of the Jesuits who have nourished and served us for over 100 years, we are now invited to personally embrace this heritage of Ignatian spirituality and to share it with one another and the wider community – to be an Ignatian light for the people of Brisbane.” [Australian Jesuits]
Main story image: Long time Toowong parish priest Fr Peter Quin SJ who passed away at the end of 2016