By ROBIN WILLIAMS
TOOWOOMBA priest Fr James Byrne has a lot to be thankful for.
A Mass of Thanksgiving was held at Sacred Heart Church on November 24 to celebrate the 74-year-old’s golden jubilee of priesthood and 32-year career as Wilsonton parish priest. Toowoomba Bishop Robert McGuckin, Fr Byrne and eight fellow Toowoomba priests, concelebrated the Mass.
Following his ordination in 1964 Fr Byrne ministered at St Theresa’s Parish, Toowoomba; St Finbarr’s, Quilpie; and St Mary’s, Warwick; before spending five years from 1975-80 as a full-time military chaplain at Kapooka, Wagga Wagga, Enoggera and Townsville. In 1980 he returned to Toowoomba diocese and ministered at Augathella parish before moving to Sacred Heart Parish.
In the years since 1982, along with his parish priest duties, Fr Byrne also spent 32 years as chaplain to St Andrew’s Hospital and 20 years as chaplain at Baillie Henderson Hospital. His association with the military also continued during that time, with Fr Byrne involved in the Oakey Aviation Centre and Cabarlah one day a week for more than 20 years.
The wellbeing of Queensland police also fell to Fr Byrne at one stage when he was commissioned by Commissioner Noel Newnham during the Fitzgerald Inquiry to be foundation senior police chaplain for Queensland and to inaugurate the police chaplaincy. He established chaplaincies as far west as Charleville and Cunnamulla.
Fr Byrne spent 10 years in the police chaplaincy and took many trips to Brisbane’s police headquarters. He was presented with a gold medal and chain of the Sacred Heart by Bishop McGuckin and was joined by the community for celebrations after the thanksgiving Mass.
Fr Byrne is now in Ireland on three months’ leave and, on his return, having reached 75, he is expected to officially hand his resignation to the bishop for consideration.