THE people of Childers had risen to an extraordinary challenge in their response to the backpackers hostel fire which claimed 15 young lives on June 23, Brisbane Auxiliary Bishop Michael Putney said.
Speaking at a memorial service in the Childers Civic Centre on June 26, a day of state-wide mourning, he said he wanted “to honour the clergy and the men and women of an ordinary, though beautiful Queensland town who had been affected by tragedy”.
“The rest of Australia is in awe at the way you have responded,” he said.
Bishop Putney and Anglican Bishop Richard Appleby represented Queensland Churches Together at the service.
Bishop Appleby offered the support, sympathy and prayers of the state’s Churches to the families and friends of the victims.
Bishop Putney also prayed for them and offered a blessing.
In Brisbane, St Stephen’s Cathedral administrator, Fr Peter Dillon celebrated a memorial Mass for the victims in the cathedral last Monday morning.
He also prayed for the young people who had died in the tragedy and for their families and friends.
Special prayers were offered at cathedral Masses throughout the day.
Childers parish priest, Fr Patrick Dowd said the Catholic community had united with the rest of the town to help the victims.
“The town effort in the face of tragedy and grief was tremendous,” he said.
“The people of the parish rallied to help the survivors and to feed the emergency workers and volunteers at the cultural centre.
“But they were there as townspeople rather than Catholics and we all pitched in together.”
Fr Dowd said the town’s St Vincent de Paul conference had been very quick off the mark by opening its shop to clothe the survivors as they fled the blaze.
“Some of them had nothing and the shop was able to supply them with immediate needs,” he said.
Fr Dowd said the real impact of the tragedy among the survivors and volunteer workers became evident at a Friday afternoon service in the parish church.
“The service was attended by about 50 people, mostly backpackers, many of whom had never been in a church before,” he said.
“It was held so the survivors could gather their thoughts and consider their immediate needs.
“When there’s this sort of disaster, we’re more or less forced to look at the meaning of life.”