Parish history

The dream of a parish of St Thomas More slumbered through the 1950s in an old farm house in South Street. It was the inspiration of the then Bishop of Toowoomba, Bishop Roper. He organised the purchase of the house and five acres of farmland in 1951 and in that year the house was blessed by him and dedicated to the English martyr, St Thomas More, to whom Bishop Roper had ancestral connections.

Throughout the 1950s, a small but growing community gathered there to attend Sunday mass. Various priests from St Patrick’s Cathedral celebrated the masses, one of them being the recently ordained young Father Leonard.  Father Bill Hall was the principal celebrant. It was, therefore, no surprise that, when in September 1960 St Thomas More’s was officially declared a parish by Bishop Brennan, Father Hall was appointed parish priest.  He was provided with a residence at 176 Geddes Street. The foundation of the parish had been firmly established in the 1950s by Father Hall and his devoted band of parishioners.

In January 1961, Bishop Brennan and Father Hall welcomed the Sisters of St Joseph to the parish and under the guidance of Sisters Finbar and Anna Maria classes were commenced in the farm house, which served for the first years as church and school. Conditions initially were primitive with church pews used as desks and the children sitting or kneeling on the kneelers.

However, all this changed rapidly on 9 July, 1961, when a newly constructed church and convent were blessed and opened by Bishop Brennan. Again the church doubled as classrooms during the week and the farm house became Father Hall’s presbytery.

In 1965, an army hut was purchased and sited in Ramsay St. With extensions and renovations it served as the church for the next twenty-six years.

In July 1971, a brand new presbytery, adjacent to the church, was blessed and opened – it was virtually debt free thanks to the generosity of parishioners, the late Mrs Jessie Kane and the late Mr Les Dillon.

In 1979, Father Hall left St Thomas More’s to become parish priest at Allora.  He left behind a flourishing parish and school, a great tribute to a true visionary.

Father Frank Leonard became parish priest and he continued the prosperity of the parish overseeing building projects in the school area. He guided the parish towards the construction of our new church which was blessed and opened in November, 1991.

The 1988 school year commenced with the enrolment of over 400 students. Sadly in 1995, the sisters of St Joseph ceased their teaching role in the school but they continued to have a presence in the life of the parish for several more years.

In 1999, Father Frank retired to Lourdes Home, his forward thinking ministry leaving a strong imprint on the history of St Thomas More’s. His going marked the end of the era of a permanent priest for the parish and a new way of parish life unfolded as St Thomas More’s emerged as a leader in Toowoomba city with a new model of pastoral leadership.

In response to the changing needs in the Church, the parishioners have been willing to face some of the hard questions concerning a new model of parish leadership.  This model involved a priest director, a pastoral leader, a lay pastoral associate and pastoral council working together with community to spread the mission of Jesus.

During the transitional stage of 2002-2001, Father Jim Cronin was appointed Administrator of St Thomas More’s until he became Administrator of the Cathedral. He took on the role of Priest Director for the parish when in 2003, Sr Patricia (Patsy) Grundy, a Presentation Sister, was appointed as Pastoral Leader.  Following on from Fr Jim Cronin in 2008, Fr Peter Dorfield was appointed as Priest Director.

In 2010 St Thomas More’s celebrated the 50th anniversary of its establishment. The year provided the opportunity for us to reflect on our story in the light of the idea of Jubilee as found in the Scriptures.  

Sr Patsy finished as Pastoral Leader in October 2014 and moved to Brisbane to take up a role as a member of the Leadership Team of the Presentation Sisters Congregation. Michael Bermingham commenced in the role of Parish Leader in March 2015.

In November 2016 the Parish commemorated 25 years since the opening of the current Church on 3 November 1991.

This new form of Leadership encourages the people who form the faith community to be more aware of their baptismal commitment and its call to be disciples of Jesus in building God’s reign in our world.

Our 60th anniversary of the parish in 2020 will be remembered as the year when, as a result of the COVID-19 coronavirus, our church was closed for a significant period of time and we learnt new ways to connect with each other and to nourish and grow our faith and our relationship with our loving God.

The people of St Thomas More’s are committed to nurturing a vibrant faith community through many and varied ministries. The faith life of the community continues to flourish as the community celebrates further milestones in its journey.

We are grateful that we can say that the spiritual and social needs of the people of our church, as well as an awareness of the needs of the wider community, are being addressed by our people.  St Thomas More – a man for all seasons – has set us an example as we adapt to the changing seasons of our life in contemporary society.