Our history of praying for rains
Across the Archdiocese the effects of the drought – that many have endured through the last 12 months or more – and the bushfires of recent weeks, have been a cause of deep concern. As a people of faith our first recourse is to prayer; that God might relieve His people of their distress. For many weeks now the Prayer for the Blessing of Rain, issued by the Australian Bishops, has been prayed in our parishes and mass centres. Over recent weeks too, the Prayer in Times of Bushfires has been included as that threat had been over our countryside.
This similar call to prayer by the faithful across the Archdiocese can be found during the drought years of the early 1940s. Not only was the country in the troubled times of World War II, but its rural people were also in a period of severe drought. Bishop Terence McGuire (Bishop of Goulburn, 1938–1948; Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn, 1948–1953) was a product of country New South Wales and well knew the effect that drought meant to his flock. Terence McGuire was born in Moree in 1881, and was ordained to the priesthood in 1904 for the regional Diocese of Lismore. He served as Bishop of Townsville for 8 years before accepting a transfer to the then Diocese of Goulburn in 1938.
In January 1940 Bishop McGuire directed that prayers for rain be included in masses offered across the Diocese. His pastoral letter read, in part:
The continued drought in the Diocese of Goulburn is becoming very serious. Added to the difficulties of war it threatens to disrupt many homes and rural industry.
Let us treasure our true Catholic faith and exercise it for our own temporal needs and those of our neighbours. Our Lord tells us that by faith we can move mountains.
A later request for prayers came in August 1940. On this occasion Bishop McGuire appealed to the people to also include prayers for rain in their personal prayer. And then in May 1942, once steady drought-relieving rains had been received, the Bishop asked that prayers of thanksgiving be offered.
Records held by the Archdiocesan archives show that in 1945, the final year of World War II, the Diocese was again in the grip of drought. In March of that year, Bishop McGuire was to again direct that prayers for rain again be offered in all parishes. And again by June as drought-relieving rains were received, he was able to ask for prayers of thanksgiving.
As Archbishop of the new Archdiocese (from 1948), McGuire continued to show his commitment to supporting his people on the land. He was an enthusiastic supporter of the establishment of St Michaels Agricultural and Trades College, Inveralochy, a farm-based boarding college for boys, which opened in 1954.
Terence McGuire retired as Archbishop thought ill-health in 1953. In retirement he lived mainly in Sydney until his death in July 1957.
Until drought-relieving-rains are received, we can all take inspiration from the words of Bishop McGuire in 1940 that by prayer and by our faith ‘we can move mountains’.