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Q&A with Fr Peter Brannelly

The Cathedral of St Stephen has welcomed a new Dean – Father Peter Brannelly.

In a tough start to his tenure, Fr Peter faced a grilling from The Precinct on matters of great importance:

Q: Do you prefer coffee or tea in the morning?

A: After years of being a tea drinker, I have developed the habit of starting the day with a flat white coffee.

Q: What’s your earliest memory of the Cathedral?

A: I have many memories of visiting the Cathedral as a young child. The smaller you are the bigger the building seemed to be. I can distinctly remember it being dark and smelling like a Cathedral. Down the main aisle were wooden confessional boxes and many votive candle stands illuminating different statues and the ornate spiral stairs to the pulpit that wrapped around the first pillar. The other vivid memory of the Cathedral I have is gazing at the murals on the transept walls and trying to make sense of the scene – the welcoming of Bishop Quinn and the Sisters of Mercy to Brisbane in 1861.

Q: What are the key differences between a suburban parish and the Cathedral parish?

A: While there are obvious similarities between a Cathedral and a parish I have been surprised by what is different. In a suburban parish your weekly pressure comes from the unexpected funeral, the interaction with the schools, the coordinating and energizing of the different groups that make up parish life.

The Cathedral has a different clientele and rhythm. For a start, geographically, the parishioners come from all over Brisbane. More importantly, unlike other Cathedrals, St Stephen’s is in the heart of the city which means it is very much a working Cathedral with thousands of people visiting the church and passing through the precinct every day. That is where I see one of our great challenges; how do we create a more welcoming Catholic precinct that engages more meaningfully with the many thousands who pass our way each day?

Q: The English rugby union team used the Precinct as a training ground last year. What’s your stance on foreign sporting teams using our Precinct?

A: With the current condition of the Cathedral lawn I could not have cared less if the All Blacks trained there before last month’s match. Might have done them some good! But in three weeks’ time, when the new lawn is laid, it will be a strictly no go zone for all foreign sporting teams.

Q: Favourite movie or TV show:

A: Yes, Minister.

Q: You’ve travelled widely, if you could go to one place only for a holiday, where would that be?

From 1995 to 2006 I worked in the West Indies and during that time I had the opportunity to visit many of the different islands of the region. Each one is different, with a unique culture, linguistic turn of phrase and gastronomic specialities. Just thinking about saltfish and Johnny cake, conch fritters and perhaps a little tipple of Macoucherie bush rum is mouth-watering! Five weeks ago, for the first time since leaving, I was looking forward to returning to Tortola and the British Virgin islands and catching up with friends and parishioners. I had made it to New York but unfortunately Hurricane Irma struck decimating my island and leaving me stranded. The West Indies are not on the way to anywhere – you have to deliberately plan to go there. There was a saying on my little island that “the West Indies was a place where you did very little – and then you rest!”. That’s the place where I want to go for holidays!

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