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Chermside West priest handing on award-winning Christmas lights tradition

Fr Gerard: The jovial Irish priest, who has been at Chermside since 2002 and Wavell Heights since 2011, is the new pastor of the Southport parish on the Gold Coast.

CHERMSIDE West’s next parish priest will inherit thousands of Christmas lights as outgoing pastor Fr Gerard McMorrow moves to a church in Southport.

The jovial Irish priest, who has been at Chermside since 2002 and Wavell Heights since 2011, is the new pastor of the Southport parish on the Gold Coast.

When he moves to the new coastal community in February, he will leave behind a copious collection of Christmas lights 17 years in the making.

“A local Baptist church down the street was doing (a Christmas lights display), so we thought we’ll start one ourselves,” Fr McMorrow said.

Not one to do things by halves, Fr McMorrow grew a dainty pageantry of lights into one of Brisbane’s biggest and most popular festive destinations.

Fr McMorrow even sought a licence to use a cherry picker to reach the pinnacle of St Gerard Majella Church, which hosts the Christmas display, and to craft the enormous angel that greets visitors on the rolling front lawn.

The parish has been named a winner in 4KQ’s Christmas Lights competition numerous times, including the coveted title of Brisbane’s Best Display in 2017.

The feat takes months of preparation, and is funded by the parish’s gift shop.  

But when Fr McMorrow retires from his post at Chermside West to grace the beaches of the south, he intends to leave his luminous legacy for the next priest.

“It’s a big ask for the next person as well,” he said.

“They’re coming into something that’s been going for a long time.”

Christmas lights at Chermside West parish
Festive lights: The award winning Christmas light display at St Gerard Majella Church.

Fr McMorrow said he was looking forward to the challenge of a bigger parish, which includes the pastoral care of a parish, university and three churches.

“I feel good about it but it’s one big change,” he said. 

“Sometimes change is important and you grow, and you have to sometimes move on.”

Fr McMorrow’s installation date at Southport parish has not been confirmed.

Other movements within Brisbane archdiocese include the appointment of Carmelites of Mary Immaculate Father Joseph Vattaparambil as parish priest of Daisy Hill, and Fr Ladu Yanga as parish priest of Victoria Point.

Missionary Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament Father Dantus Thottathil has been appointed administrator of Manly and Birkdale, and Carmelites of Mary Immaculate Father Biju Thomas will head the parish of Clayfield.

On the Sunshine Coast, Fr Brendan Gormley will support the parish of Maroochydore while Fr Lam Vu has been appointed associate pastor of Caloundra.

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