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Families pray and recall sacrifice of loved ones killed in war 100 years ago

Val Davidson looks at the honour roll

Living memory: Val Davidson locating the name of her fallen uncle, John Joseph Kenny, who died on April 19, 1917, in Gaza during the First World War. She is pictured with Bowen Hills parishioner Anthony Althaus. Photo: Alan Edgecomb

UNTIL two weeks ago, Val Davidson believed only one place honoured the memory of her uncle who never returned home from the First World War.

Charleville-native Private John Joseph Kenny, who is Mrs Davidson’s father’s older brother, died on his first day of battle in Gaza, Egypt, on April 19, 1917.

He was only 23.

Mrs Davidson had seen his name during Anzac Day marches, on an honour roll in her hometown Charleville, an eight-hour drive from Brisbane, but in an emotional discovery found his name in a church closer to home last week.

Honour roll

Remembering the Anzacs: The roll of honour inside Our Lady of Victories Church, Bowen Hills, contains about 1800 names. Photo: Alan Edgecomb.

An honour roll reinstated in Our Lady of Victories Church, Bowen Hills, just 15 minutes from Mrs Davidson’s home, contains a handwritten inscription of her uncle’s name, and another 1800 Queensland Catholics who died in the war.

The honour roll was created nearly 100 years ago and placed inside the church, built in 1923 to honour Queensland Catholics who lost their lives in the Great War.

Mrs Davidson made an emotional procession to the honour roll during the parish’s memorial Mass on April 22.

“It’s absolutely brought him back to life,” Mrs Davidson said.

“I’m absolutely honoured – I get all emotional about this – I’m honoured to have been given the opportunity to be present during this dedication service.”

Mrs Davidson found out about the honour roll and a memorial Mass in a letter she received two weeks ago from her cousin in Dalby.

“I was just delighted that I could organise my daughter to take me there on Sunday (to the Mass),” Mrs Davidson said.

“I was very moved by the service.”

She was also “thrilled” to see the parish had dug up her uncle’s service files from the war and displayed them in the parish hall along with at least 30 other stories.

Mrs Davidson said she would “definitely” share her discovery with her two sisters, who live outside Brisbane.

Val Davidson

Family reunion: Kath Sullivan and Val Davidson are nieces of Private John Joseph Kenny who died in Gaza during the First World War. Photo: Alan Edgecomb.

Parish priest says mission to preserve memories of fallen just starting

Our Lady of Victories parish priest Society of Christ Father Andrzej Kolaczkowski, who spent nearly two months collecting the stories of Catholics mentioned in the Church’s honour roll, said the mission to preserve the memorialising of the fallen “is just the beginning”.

“It is a mission, especially where the church is a war memorial (because) that’s part of the identity of the place,” Fr Kolaczkowski.

“These are people with real histories, and it’s histories worth preserving.

“We want to try and preserve those memories and collect those stories to pass on as our heritage.”

Fr Kolaczkowski said the honour roll required a full restoration to last another 100 years and he would apply for a council heritage grant to cover the costs.

The parish will also work with the Brisbane Archdiocesan archives and the National Archives in Canberra to bring to life all Queensland Catholics who sacrificed their lives in the war.

Fr Kolaczkowski promised to make the memorial Mass an annual commemoration close to Anzac Day.

Anzac memorial

Centenary: Deacon Peter Devenish-Meares, Paul Ibell and Fr Andrzej Kolaczkowski after the Memorial Mass remembering those who served in the First World War at Our Lady of Victories Church, Bowen Hills last Sunday. Photos: Alan Edgecomb

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