TWO thousand Catholic soldiers from Queensland died during the First World War, but a Brisbane priest will ensure their names are never forgotten.
Fr Andrzej Kolaczkowski is the parish priest of Our Lady of Victories Church, Bowen Hills, which was built in 1925 to honour Catholic soldiers and sailors who died in the war.
While planning a Mass to mark 100 years since the war, Fr Kolaczkowski discovered the hidden stories of soldiers listed in an historic roll of honour that bears the names of nearly 2000 Queensland Catholics who died fighting for Australia between 1914 and 1918.
“One of the soldiers listed on our roll of honour is Trooper John Joseph Kenny, a 22-year-old stockman from Charleville who enlisted with the 11th Light Horse Regiment in 1916 and sadly, died on his first day of action in Gaza, Egypt, on April 19, 1917,” Fr Kolaczkowski said.
“There are so many amazing stories of Catholics who served in World War I.”
This also included the parish’s first priest Fr Edward Sarsfield Barry, a former army chaplain who served on the frontlines in France for three years from 1916.
“He was passionate about supporting returned servicemen and maintaining a Christian attitude to remembering the war, something to which we also aspire,” Fr Kolaczkowski said.
The parish has also made contact with family members of the fallen soldiers, like Brian Matthews, the son of Private John Matthews who fought in the Battle of the Somme in France.
During the third day of the battle in France, Private Matthews’ arm was shattered and permanently injured by flying bullets.
He later returned to Australia, married and had a family.
“John’s son recounted that his father’s Catholic faith sustained him not only during the horrendous experience of war, but for the rest of his life,” Fr Kolaczkowski said.
The parish will hold a memorial Mass for the 2000 Queensland soldiers and reinstate the historic honour roll before a side altar in the church at 8am on April 22.
“To the best of our knowledge, the honour roll lists all Queensland Catholics who died in World War I and we hope many of their family members will be able to come and join with us in prayer,” Fr Kolaczkowski said.
“While at the church, people can view stained-glass window designs inspired by the Australian army’s rising sun.
“We want to pray for the repose of their souls and to pray for all those, of any or no faith, who have served in any other war or peacetime period.”
Our Lady of Victories Church was the first church built in Bowen Hills.
The foundation stone was laid on August 24, 1919, by the apostolic delegate Archishop Bartolomeo Cattaneo “to the Glory of God and in memory of the Catholic sailors and soldiers of Queensland who fought and died” in the war.
A large electronic blue cross, which can still be seen at night, was installed on the church’s tower to commemorate the armed forces of the First World War.