History of the James Byrne Centre

Bishop Edward Kelly M.S.C. D.D. (pictured below) was the instigator for the centre.

The land comprising approx. 130 acres was donated to the Toowoomba Catholic Diocese pre 1979, by Mr Bob Hoey and the gravelling of the road into James Byrne Centre was donated by the Costello’s of Cabarlah.

The first building constructed was Sanctuary House about 1979. This was a dormitory styled building with kitchen and dining room that remains in place today.  The next building was the ‘old hall’ donated by Fr Skehan, which was relocated from another parish.  The Chapel was also built in 1979. The cottage, a transportable building, was also brought up from Brisbane at this time. 

The centre was opened Feb 1st 1980. It was named after the 1st Bishop of Toowoomba, pictured below.

Marian hall was the next construction in 1981. This was the first of the buildings to attract a government subsidy. Substantial finance was also supplied by a bequest from the Marrinan Family of Dalby.

The Main accommodation block was built in 1982 and also attracted a government subsidy. A legacy from Miss Anne Agnes Brennan also contributed to the financing of this building. The dining hall was the last building to be constructed in 1986. This building attracted a grant from the State Government.

Initial Intentions for the James Byrne Centre

Below is an excerpt from a letter from Bishop Edward Kelly M.S.C. D.D. which provides clarity in regards to the initial intended use of the James Byrne Centre:

“My aim in setting up the centre at Highfields is twofold.

To give young people the opportunity of solid character formation by providing accommodation and an atmosphere which will enable them, under guidance and supervision, to form deep convictions about the purpose of human life and the correct attitudes towards one’s fellow man and the nation of Australia.  

To help adults who have great influence on young people, such as parents, educators and sportsmen by providing them with facilities through which they consider how they are fulfilling their obligation to help young people.”