Fr Thomas Moore of Gooloogong
Any study of the story of our Archdiocese would reveal instances where the appointed priest of a parish has become so closely identified with it that he has become an integral part of the wider community as well. And where this has occurred it has often involved one of our priests of Irish background.
During the past 12 months the story of one such priest, Fr Thomas Moore, has been featured in the Gooloogong Historical Society publication From Island Magee to Gooloogong written by Cowra historian Marianne Payten. Marianne consulted sources held by the Archdiocesan Archives in preparing this work.
Ordained after studies for the priesthood at Thurles, County Tipperary, Ireland in June 1934, Fr Moore arrived in Australia for service in the Goulburn Diocese early in 1935. He served in the parishes of Goulburn, Milton, Crookwell and Yass and in central diocesan roles before appointment as parish priest of Gooloogong in 1947 where he remained for 19 years.
Fr Moore soon won the hearts of the Gooloogong community. A keen golfer he presented a competition trophy – the Father Moore Challenge Cup – to the local club and served several terms as club president. He was also a driving force in the Gooloogong Development League, which was focussed on the creation and improvement of local facilities.
Under Fr Moore’s leadership two new churches were built in the parish – a new St Malachy’s Church in Gooloogong, completed in 1953, and a rural church in the locality of Mulyandry dedicated to St Pius X and opened in 1955. In 1959, Gooloogong became one of the earliest parishes of the Archdiocese to introduce a planned giving program.
Two of Fr Moore’s altar boys of the 1960s, brothers Greg and Laurie Beath, took up vocations to the priesthood.
Fr Moore’s parents, George and Carrie, had migrated to Sydney in the 1930s, but returned to Ireland before the outbreak of World War II. After the war they again came to Australia and joined their son in Gooloogong. They initially lived with Fr Moore in the presbytery until moving to their own accommodation. Both embraced and were embraced by the Gooloogong community. Carrie Moore died in 1957 and is buried in Gooloogong cemetery. ‘Poppa’ Moore, as he was known, became an identity in the village until his death in 1964.
Fr Moore’s younger sister, Caroline, joined the religious order of Sisters of the Holy Cross and, as Sister Louise Carmel, served for much of her adult life as a missionary in South Africa. They met up in Switzerland in 1965 while Fr Moore was holidaying.
Fr Moore was a gifted public speaker – described as an eloquent preacher and noted orator – and was often called upon to speak at formal gatherings of clergy. It was on one such occasion in August 1966 – the dinner at Harden to note the golden jubilee of ordination of Monsignor Austin O’Connor – that Fr Moore tragically collapsed and died while at the microphone.
News of his death brought letters of condolence from his state member of parliament and from the three local government councils surrounding Gooloogong; a fitting tribute to his importance to his community.
From Archbishop Eris O’Brien came the words: “As a pastor he was excellent. His Catholic people loved him and he loved them. Also within the general community he was esteemed by all citizens.”
Fr Moore was buried beside his parents in Gooloogong Cemetery.
Gooloogong is no longer within the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn. It was transferred to the Diocese of Bathurst in 1978.
Copies of From Island Magee to Gooloogong are available from the Gooloogong Historical Society, Gooloogong.
- Denis Connor is the Archdiocesan Archivist for the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn