This year of Our Lord 1939 will be a memorable one for the present and future generations of Catholic Cowra. It is the Golden Jubilee Year of the creation of their Parish, and likewise the Golden Jubilee of their first and only Parish Priest, the Venerable Archdeacon O’Kennedy. The blessing and opening of the beautiful new Church of St. Raphael on Wednesday, 19th April, will be the crowning event of these celebrations. It will stand as a lasting monument to the living faith of the people and the devoted labours of their pastor. With His Lordship Dr. Norton, Bishop of Bathurst, presiding, supported by the neighbouring Bishops of the province and numbers of the clergy, and the Archbishop of Brisbane preaching the occasional sermon, the ceremony will be performed, please God, with all prescribed solemnity.
Fifty golden years have fled since this beautiful district of the Mid-Lachlan was separated from the parent Parish of Carcoar, and in that span, Cowra rejoiced to witness the birth of two flourishing daughters, the Parishes of Canowindra and Eugowra. To describe this growth of the Church in Cowra, one must necessarily consider the roots from which it sprang, and we go back to the valiant priests, and the no-less valiant people, who cherished the faith in by-gone days in the district known as the Bathurst Mission. The men who planted the seeds of the faith in the hearts of the people of Cowra, or carefully fostered what they had already found, were those who blazed the trail in the early days, and defined the paths for the future. How zealously they fulfilled their Mission is clearly manifested in the abundance God has granted as increase. If by their fruits we can know them, then surely they were God’s people, who gave forth such a flourishing spiritual harvest. His Lordship Dr. Norton gave apt expression to this fact when he laid the foundation stone of the new St Raphael’s. He recalled it was the third occasion within the span of eighty years,that the people of Cowra had put their hands to the building of a Church suitable to their needs. This, he averred, was sufficient indication of the strong faith that enlivened them.
If we turn over the pages of history in the light of local tradition, it becomes evident that the first Apostle to minister to the ancestors of our people in these parts was none other than Father John J. Therry, and the people who have grown up in the territory of the Bathurst Mission have an especial right to be called his spiritual children. This is a heritage we should not regard lightly, rather we should grip it with tenacious memory, and considering our faith in retrospect, we should endeavour to glean whatever knowledge may be had, if we would rightly know the source from which our faith springs. For, under God, it was the steadfastness of these pioneer Catholics, supported by the constant encouragement of their beloved Fr. Therry, which enabled the faith to triumph over so many difficulties. It must not be forgotten that these, our ancestors, suffered a withering and protracted persecution for conscience sake as recently as eighty years ago, and it is through their fidelity we are blessed with the gift that only God can bestow.
Historical works dealing with the spread of the Gospel and the building up of the Catholic Church in Australia have already run into many volumes, On reading them, one beholds a glorious record of ‘courage and loyalty, a tale of heroism and long suffering, unfolding itself over the short space of 150 years, Their authors love to trace the footsteps of the first few messengers of Christ, pursuing with intense earnestness the work of the Master in scattered settlements of Sydney and its surroundings, From there, as from a beacon tower, they illuminate the periodical excursions of the missionaries Into the bushland spaces, until the man and his work are necessarily obscured in the dim distance, But the ambassador of Christ was no less zealous when he had crossed the Mountains, and the light of faith he brought with him shone no less brightly, for it penetrated these bushlands like a searchlight and swept over the plains like a veritable visitation of grace, Those who have received such light, in what was once the hinterland, should bear testimony to it, and gratitude should urge us to cherish the memory of these men of renown who have made the faith, that is in our midst, a living reality.
This little booklet is a humble contribution to perpetuate the memory of our spiritual Fathers, and a record, however meagre, to spur someone more competent to enshrine the glorious memories of these Men of God in a more honourable tome, It is issued to honour the jubilee of a Parish Priest who is the main strong link with the past and whose life work is worthily ranked with theirs, For he belongs to the rear-guard of that first troop of gallant horsemen who went thundering through the virgin forests, and the bridle paths of these priests of the saddle were heavily pounded by his horses’ hoof’s. They had stretched the mountain trails and the winding by-paths down the valley; he, with others, in glorious cavalcade, has beaten them steadily into grand high roads.