STANTHORPE parish priest Fr Brian Connolly had an extra spring in his step on the Feast of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, or Corpus Christi.
It was the Sunday before his June 27 jubilee anniversary of priestly ordination and St Joseph’s Church, on the Granite Belt in Toowoomba diocese, was overflowing with locals and visitors.
The faithful, including Fr Connolly’s brother John and sister-in-law Mary, from Warwick, and brother Peter, from Brisbane, were gathered to recognise the significant date on the Church calendar and the ministry of their “passionate” pastor, brother and friend.
“Father Brian loves his ministry and he takes it very seriously,” parish representative Dan Manahan said at the end of the Mass.
“He understands the challenges we all face, such as the pressures of modern life, financial stress and the drought.
“He’s also there to share our joys with us.
“Just talk to him about God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit and you will see his passion bubbling out.”
Fr Connolly said the Gospel of Jesus feeding a 5000-strong crowd in Galilee was a relevant message for today.
“The Gospel is never just something historical,” he said. “It’s always for today and we are the people in it.
“Jesus made the crowds welcome, he talked to them about the Kingdom of God and he cured those who were in need of healing.
“Jesus wants us to enjoy his presence, to feel his presence.”
Reminiscent of other priests who’ve ministered in Stanthorpe over the past century, Fr Connolly spoke about chalices he’d restored in recent years.
He said they were special to him because of the connection to the past and the celebration of the Mass, what he described as “the heart of the priesthood” and “the summit and source” of the faith.
“Today’s Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ is so fitting for celebration of a priest’s golden jubilee,” Fr Connolly said.
“We need food to live but we need more than food. We need people in our lives, our family and friends, those we love.”
The well-known pastor thanked those who assisted with jubilee preparations, and recognised prayerful and practical support throughout his five decades of ministry, saying he was “grateful”.
“Priests are not ordained themselves, they serve God’s people,” Fr Connolly said.
Born in Warwick on February 22, 1945, Brian James Connolly was the youngest son of Frank and Vera Connolly, both deceased.
Fr Connolly said he felt the presence of his parents “who are with the saints in heaven” at the jubilee.
He has ministered in Stanthorpe and Wallangarra (since 2003), Warwick (1970, 1982-89), Toowoomba (1971-73), Goondiwindi (1974-76), Dalby (1977-81) and Inglewood (1990-2002).
The parish hospitality centre, beside St Joseph’s Church, was filled with laughter and sharing as the celebrations continued after the Mass.
A photographic and editorial display captured Fr Connolly’s life and ministry.
He spoke of being “number 71” in the order of those ordained as priests in the history of Toowoomba diocese and Fr Terry Hickling as “number 63”.
Together, both priests are looking forward to the July 18 ordination of Deacon Tom Duncan in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Toowoomba, Fr Connolly noting, “Deacon Tom is number 113”.
The Stanthorpe pastor said he was also “delighted” that parishioner BJ Perrett started priestly formation at Holy Spirit Provincial Seminary, Banyo, this year.
Fr Connolly’s fond priestly memories include the years ministering in his home parish of St Mary’s, Warwick, where his mum and others who watched him “grow up” were among the worshippers.
Another highlight was taking up the appointment of Stanthorpe and Wallangarra parish priest on his birthday in 2003.
“I will always remember my years of ministry here on the Granite Belt,” Fr Brian said.
“It’s a wonderful community and they’re wonderful people. It’s a privilege to share in people’s lives and support them.”
With a continued spring in his step, Fr Connolly said remembering the past was important while the future was God’s and he was more than pleased with his chosen path.
“If preparing for a jubilee is anything like getting married, I don’t intend to do so any time soon,” he said.