By Emilie Ng
PINE Mountain Catholic worshippers know the secret to keeping a Church community alive for 150 years.
Their secret is also the advice Irish Servant of God Fr Patrick Peyton gave when he famously said, “A family that prays together, stays together”.
This Church family are uniquely connected, as all are related either by blood or marriage, and connected to the first Irish settlers who arrived more than 150 years ago.
In 1865 these first settlers built a chapel, St Patrick’s, and this was replaced by St Michael’s Church in 1878, erected on a small hill off Pine Mountain Road, near Ipswich.
“Our ancestors arrived in 1862 on the same ship from Ireland,” parishioner Elaine Peet said. “We have third, fourth and fifth generations still worshipping here now.”
These remaining generations, many of them grandparents now, grew up together, attended the same state school (now extinct) together and became Catholics together.
“It’s the best-kept country church in south-east Queensland,” Mrs Peet said.
“I’ve lived in England, in many different places, but it’s only when I come to Mass here I feel I’ve come home.
“This is like my extended family; all these people are part of my story.”
The parish’s oldest living connection is Trish Potbury, who can trace her Australian beginnings back to 1852 when her grandparents were roaming around gathering wood in Pine Mountain.
“I’ve got six generations on my mother’s side and my father’s side and they’ve all lived in Pine Mountain,” Mrs Potbury said.
These early generations attend Mass and other liturgies “in spirit”, buried in the cemetery behind St Michael’s, itself overlooking Pine Mountain Road on a small hilltop.
“We keep coming here because our ancestors are here, they’re all buried here, and it’s a beautiful feeling when you come into the church,” she said.
Nell Wiseman comes to the church’s monthly Sunday Mass to catch up with twin sister Belle Belford.
Mrs Wiseman said as a young girl she loved St Michael’s.
“I loved the stillness, the silence,” she said. “It all seemed so much in touch with Jesus and Mary.”
When this extended family meets again on March 28 to commemorate the church’s 150th anniversary, they hope for a full church, the way it was when they were children..
Their only other hope is that the next generations keep returning to pray with their ancestors.
“We just pray that our children and children’s children will please come back,” fifth-generation Catholic Betty Edbrooke said.
“We hope they will cherish it like we do,” Mrs Edbrooke said.