History of the Parish by Elizabeth Vandeleur




























Mother of Good Counsel Parish - Innisfail

The large, sprawling community ministered to by the priests of Mother of Good Counsel Church in Innisfail was declared a parish in 1898.  Its first parish priest was Father Michael Martin Clancy, a member of the Order of St Augustine, an Irish Missionary Order who served in the Cairns Diocese led by Bishops of the Order until 1941.  In 1898, the town was known as Geraldton, named for the Irishman Thomas Henry Fitzgerald who settled here in 1880 and who was followed by a large Irish contingent, for many years the dominant group in the parish.  The town’s name was changed to Innisfail in 1910 following confusion with Geraldton in Western Australia.  ‘Innisfail’ is derived from the ancient name for Ireland and also means ‘The Meeting of the Waters’, aptly describing the junction of the beautiful North and South Johnstone Rivers, where Innisfail stands.

Father Clancy was the first of a long line of Augustinian Friars who devoted their lives to the parish from 1898 to 1993, as many as three and even four priests serving together, occasionally joined by Augustinians from Malta and Spain and by Scalabrinian priests who served in Mourilyan and South Johnstone. The parish came under the administration of diocesan clergy with the appointment of Father Frank Gordon as parish priest (1993-2010.)  The parish was cared for by Father Karel Duivenvoorden for some months until the appointment of Father Kerry Crowley as parish priest in 2011. 

The parish and schools reaped great benefit from the support of the Good Samaritan Sisters from 1903 to 1992 and of the Marist Brothers from 1938 to 1983.  One would be hard-pressed to estimate the value of their presence in the parish.

Nearly every decade of the twentieth century saw migration from Europe and Asia and, more recently, from The Philippines and other nearby Islands.  The Innisfail district became a veritable melting-pot of nationalities and smaller churches were built and/or planned for outlying areas, for example, Mena Creek, Moresby, Mourilyan, Garradunga, South Johnstone, Wangan, Flying Fish Point…..  The first census within the parish, in 1939, revealed 13 nationalities in 31 localities.  Mother of Good Counsel parish experienced first contraction with the excising of smaller parishes and later, expansion, when, in 1996, the smaller parishes of Mourilyan and South Johnstone merged with Innisfail so that Mother of Good Counsel Parish encompasses all of the Northern end of the Cassowary Coast Shire.

Mother of Good Counsel Church has the distinction of being Consecrated – in 1950. In1992, the National Heritage Commission placed the church on the interim list in the Register of the National Estate.  The church, on perhaps the highest of the town’s  many hills, is in fact the third Mother of Good Counsel Church.  The first was a wooden structure built in 1891 and destroyed by a cyclone in 1906.   The second, also of wood, was destroyed by the severe cyclone of March,1918 which did enormous damage to the town as well.  Father Clancy, learning the lessons of the past and with an eye to the future, planned a church that would last.  In 1928, his dream of a magnificent ‘cathedral’ was realised with the blessing and opening of the present church by the Apostolic Delegate to Australia.  The church of reinforced concrete stood fast for many years, a beacon on that hill; until the devastating cyclone of March 2006 wrought its destruction, taking the roof and then leaving the Sanctuary in ruins, the Main Altar shattered and the Table of Sacrifice badly damaged.  Major repairs, re-placement and some re-design of the worship space, including a Baptistery, were completed in October, 2008, when Bishop James Foley presided over the Re-opening of the Church and Consecration of the Altar. 

“Give glory to God always,
in whom all grace and peace is found.”


by Elizabeth Vandeleur