Bush and beach priests prepare for Christmas

Fr Brian Mathews at Uluru (ACBC)

From isolated outback mining towns to Queensland’s surf beach holiday spots, parish communities are listening to the Spirit and preparing for Christmas. Source: ACBC Media Blog.

As the Inland Mission’s parish priest for the past four years, Fr Brian Mathews is looking forward to celebrating the last Christmas Mass in the local pub of the soon-to-be-closed mining town of Mintabie, more than 1100km northwest of Adelaide.

The Inland Mission is a vast parish roughly the size of the state of Texas or about the same size as France and Spain combined. It includes the towns of Coober Pedy, Mintabie, Uluru, Marla, Oodnadatta, William Creek, Innamincka, Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands and Marree and, when Fr Mathews travels that way, Birdsville.

Fr Mathews happily attends to the spiritual needs of his far-flung flock of around 200 parishioners who call the isolated mining towns and outback stations home.

“On the Friday before Christmas, I will drive to Mintabie for Christmas Mass with the people there, a small opal mining town, which the South Australian Government is closing down, so this will be their last Christmas Mass in the local pub!” Fr Mathews said from his base in Coober Pedy.

“I will then visit a station or two on the way home and it will be a round trip of 600km. Monday evening, Christmas Eve, we have Mass in the church (an underground church in Coober Pedy) for our families and children at 7.30 pm. Christmas morning Mass is at 10am before the day gets too hot.”

While many locals leave the inland area for cooler coastal areas at this time of year, Fr Mathews said a hardy group of parishioners and many children would stay and attend Mass.

Meanwhile, on the Gold Coast, Burleigh Parish pews are expected to once again be brimming as the already large Catholic population swells with sun-and surf-seeking holidaymakers.

“We have 52,000 Catholics in this parish – it’s the largest parish in Australia statistically for historical, lifestyle and all sort of reasons. We also have a lot of retirees who come from Melbourne and Sydney,” parish priest Fr Morgan Batt said.

“Usually we get 2000 to 3000 at Mass, and at Christmas Mass attendance can go up to 5000 or 6000."


Bush and beach priests prepare for Christmas (ACBC Media Blog

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