End of an era: Dominicans leave legacy of ‘great pastoral service’ to Canberra

Fr Tellis (c) cuts the ‘Rosary’ cake at the farewell gathering along with (left)Fr Renoir Oliver (incoming priest, Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament)

Six decades of service to the faithful of Canberra by the Dominican order has come to an end.

As the Catholic Voice earlier foreshadowed (Dominicans to depart Canberra), the order had made the difficult decision to leave the national capital due to declining numbers of religious and the inability to maintain a viable local clerical community.

Their departure was marked by a final Mass of thanksgiving at the Blackfriars Parish in the Church of the Holy Rosary at Watson in Canberra’s north on 3 December.

Archbishop Christopher Prowse was the principal celebrant for the historic Mass. During his homily, he thanked the Dominicans for their “tremendous contribution” to the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn over such a long period of time.

They were the “specialists” in teaching and preaching, he said, who had provided “great pastoral service” and were farewelled “with a great deal of love and graciousness”.

He noted that perhaps over 100 Dominican priests, brothers, and sisters had contributed to the Archdiocese over the sixty years.

“We regret they are leaving us but we understand the challenges they face in Australia in these troubled times.”

Outgoing parish priest Fr Tellis had earlier told the Catholic Voice he would take with him memories of the “kindness and fraternity” of the Archdiocese’s priests.

He also said his parishioners had been an “incredible support”.

“They are wonderful – they have a lot of talent and organisational skills and have taken on board a lot of things for the parish.”

Roger Paul has been a Blackfriars parishioner for 40 years. He paid tribute to the Dominicans for “journeying with us as a parish community”, especially through adult faith education, teaching at Signadou College and Rosary Primary School, and preaching at Mass.

“We understand…their need for community and their withdrawal in the face of declining vocations.  We wish them well in their ministry in other faith communities.”

Keith Linard, another parishioner, said the Dominicans had been part of his family for over 45 years. An enduring memory for him would be of their powerful and punchy sermons.

“I love the Dominicans. It’s sad to see them go, but [the future for the parish],…it’s just a new adventure.

The farewell Mass for the Dominicans was concelebrated by Fr Dominic Murphy (current provincial Dominican Fathers), Fr Mannes Tellis (outgoing parish priest), Fr Kevin Saunders (a previous Provincial), Fr Lawrie Foot, and Fr Renoir Oliver (incoming priest, Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament).

The Catholic Voice is grateful to the Blackfriars Parish for historical data and other input into this story.


Wordpress (3)
  • John F. 6 months

    The Dominicans are great. Sad to see them leave Canberra. May their preaching of the Word continue to bear fruit wherever they go.

  • G Herg 6 months

    A sad day for Canberra. Having studied at Signadou when it was a Dominican university was special. I wish their Order all the best and give them my thanks. 

  • Christine Riley 2 months

    My sister Pauline Riley O.P. Was on the staff at Signadou university for a few years when the University was there.