By Emilie Ng
BRIBIE Island offered little more than fishermen’s huts resting on an idyllic paradise when the second Little Flower Church opened 50 years ago.
Parishioners gathered at Little Flower Church, part of the Caboolture parish, on December 20 to celebrate its golden jubilee.
Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge celebrated the Mass, concelebrated by 13 priests connected to the community, including parish priest Fr Wrex Woolnough.
“The golden jubilee is significant because it’s 50 years to the very day it opened, and it’s a chance to touch that history,” Fr Woolnough said.
Little Flower Church was initially part of the Redcliffe parish, but was placed into the Caboolture parish in the early 1970s.
While it’s not the first presence of Catholicism on the island, the present Little Flower Church is the longest-standing active church on Bribie.
The island’s lone pharmacist for many years, Don Mullen, stood before Little Flower Church when it was opened on December 1964 as chairman, next to Monsignor Bart Frawley, the first parish priest.
Mass was celebrated in a converted old army hut, first opened by Archbishop James Duhig on January 1, 1948, and other times in the Church of England hall.
“Then Monsignor Frawley (who liked to be called Fr Frawley) thought Bribie should have its own church,” Mr Mullen said.
Mr Mullen has watched the “active” parish community “grow tremendously”.
“It may have something to do with the average age in the parish, being much older, and we are more concerned with our spirituality now than in our 20s and 30s,” he said.
Mr Mullen has taken to working alongside the Holy Spirit, whom he claims is the reason Little Flower Church is such a strong community.
“The Holy Spirit is very active in Little Flower,” he said.
But if it weren’t for an opportune trip overseas when he was 24, the 80-year-old would have missed being part of the Holy Spirit’s work on Bribie Island.
“When Archbishop Duhig opened Little Flower Church in 1948, I was not of the flock,” Mr Mullen said.
He became a Catholic in London at 25 after meeting his wife, a Catholic, in Germany and “thought I had better see what it’s about”.
He has been part of the community at Little Flower Church since he returned to Bribie Island at 26 with his wife.
Fellow parishioner Aldo Loi, 59, who was one of the parish’s first altar boys, remembers Mr Mullen better than most parishioners.
“The main thing I remember was getting dressed up in the gown, and it was so hot I fainted a few times, so Donny Mullen and Mum picked me up,” Mr Loi said.
The Loi family moved to Bribie Island in 1960 and lived across from the 1948 church, making them close friends with Monsignor Frawley.
Mr Loi, a successful builder, built the extensions to the church in 1991, repaired damages in the presbytery, installed the church’s memorial columbarium out the front, which Archbishop Coleridge opened last year, and worked on the local St Vincent de Paul Society’s building.
Other parishioners found their way to Bribie Island because of its idyllic holiday charm.
After finding “substandard” accommodation on the Gold Coast, Dan Flynn and a close friend renovated an old house on Bribie Island as a holiday house.
Mr Flynn moved permanently to Bribie Island with wife Loretta after retiring from working for Brisbane archdiocese.
Mrs Flynn said she was proud to be among the “grey-haired nomads” filling Little Flower’s pews each week.