KATHY Duff was four years old when she met her first Archbishop outside a small church in the rural town of Durong.
It was March 6, 1966, and despite such a grand figure visiting, the deputy mayor of the South Burnett Regional Council only remembers a sibling dispute about fancy hats.
“I had a white hat that sat at an angle like a discus,” Cr Duff said.
“I thought I looked really smart in my Sunday hat and my little sister Susan had a hat that was white in a tiered shape.
“She didn’t like it when I told her I thought she looked like a mushroom in it.”
Last month, Cr Duff relived the childhood memories when she and more than a dozen other original parishioners including her father, Mick Duff, welcomed only the second Archbishop to Sacred Heart Church in 50 years for their golden anniversary.
On September 11, Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge broke the visiting drought by being the first Archbishop to visit since Archbishop Patrick O’Donnell opened the Church in 1966.
A welcoming group of 50 people greeted the archbishop, who concelebrated Mass with parish priest Marist Father Michael Carroll and former pastor Fr Mark Franklin.
“It was absolutely fantastic to have the Archbishop in Durong,” Cr Duff told The Catholic Leader.
“I’ve been part of the Durong Catholic Church since I was born.”
In fact, Cr Duff’s father had built the fence for the small Sacred Heart Church.
The Church was built in memory of the soldiers who died in the Second World War and opened to the public on March 10, 1966.
Cr Duff gave a speech at a luncheon to celebrate the historic visit, detailing the history of the Catholic community in Durong.
Over the past 50 years, many priests had left their mark on the community, including parish priests and missionary priests.
“I can remember when they stayed a few nights at our home “Di Di”,” Cr Duff said in her speech.
“My brother Michael who is here today was only just learning to put sentences together.
“Our family were embarrassed when little Michael said to the Missionary priest ‘Shut up or I’ll rip your bloody arms off’ a popular saying at the time and taught to Michael by my Uncle Paddy.”
The family spirit is obvious at Sacred Heart, a church in the Murgon parish, which has about 20 regular parishioners at its monthly Sunday Mass.
They include Fay Kruger, the Church’s organist since its opening, Margaret Burns a regular reader, and Laughline White and Annette McKeefe who are co-ordinating the building’s maintenance.
Cr Duff said while the community was small, Durong Catholics wanted to retain the town’s Christian roots.
“There’s a lot of support for retaining the churches,” she said.
“Half the reason there is so many mental health issues is the Sunday tradition of going to Mass is not taken seriously.
“The rural areas see less and less young people, and it’s hard to fill the Church, but we still have a strong, committed community who want to keep it going.”
Parish priest Fr Carroll said the Archbishop’s visit was “a great celebration”.
By Emilie Ng