CHRISTMAS is a celebration central to the lives of two young Queensland married couples – Geoff and Allison Metcalfe and Bernie and Merrill Ryan – thousands of kilometres apart but linked by common goals and ideals.
The Metcalfes are from Mt Isa, north-west Queensland, and the Ryans from Clintonvale, 18km from Warwick, in the state’s south-east.
The Mt Isa couple have a seven-month-old son, Henry.
Two months ago, the Warwick couple’s second child Amy arrived, a sister for 22-month-old Thomas.
Mt Isa and Warwick are two very different communities – one thriving thanks to Australia’s long-running mining boom; the other depending on increasingly unpredictable rainfall, which many have blamed on climate change.
What both families have in common, however, is a keen awareness of the importance of belonging to a faith community – the Metcalfes to the Good Shepherd parish in Townsville diocese and the Ryans to St Mary’s parish in Toowoomba diocese.
Geoff works as a district manager with the Environmental Protection Agency and Allison is a mining engineer with Xstrata Zinc.
In their five years at Mt Isa, both have become much more involved in their local parish.
Before this both were university students who didn’t have much to do with the Church.
Local priest Fr Mick Lowcock was responsible for their increased involvement in Church life, Geoff said.
Bernie Ryan said the family’s Clintonvale 65ha farm is small in comparison with other farms in the area.
The family is fortunate in that he has a government office job, he said.
The Ryans when possible grow crops like sorghum and barley and lucerne for hay to feed the few head of cattle run at the farm.
However, Bernie said the last decent crop was the summer of 2004. And there haven’t been reliable seasons since the early ’90s.
All this uncertainty contributes to a close-knit and mainly devout community.
Still things have turned around of late, thanks to storms in early October and good rain in early November and December.
Both families agree in the end it all comes back to family and faith.