Mavis Power says the turning point for the troubled Diocese of Toowoomba in Australia was Oct. 13, 2000, the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima. That was the day that Eucharistic adoration began at the heart of Toowoomba.
Power and others believe that Eucharistic devotion helped eventually lead to the ouster of the diocese’s Bishop Bill Morris. He was removed from office May 2 by Pope Benedict XVI, reportedly for his continued disregard for Catholic Church teaching during his 18 years as bishop.
“The power of prayer is the biggest factor in any change that’s occurred, really. I see a lot of power in adoration. It’s the best prayer outside the Mass and, of course, it flows from the Mass,” says Power, a mother of five who works with disabled people.
Power asked for permission to hold the adoration in the chapel of a former monastery that was turned into the diocesan office.
The decision to allow it was all the more surprising since it came from the man who encouraged people to call him “Bishop Bill.” Until then the bishop had been largely unsupportive of efforts to restore traditional Catholic devotional practices in his diocese.
Was Power surprised Bishop Morris allowed adoration?
“No. Everyone else was surprised. But we’d been praying, and I’d put all my trust in God,” she told EWTN News. “In fact, I got a lovely letter back from the bishop. Everybody was saying to me that he was only being nice because he was in trouble politically. But I don’t think so. I think he was being genuine.”
One of those also praying with Power – who asked not to be named - remembers the time well.
“Mavis would never say this, but she’s a very holy woman. She came to us one day and told us to pray a novena as she was going to ask the bishop for Eucharistic adoration. We all said, ‘no way. He’ll never allow it.’ But ask she did and, incredibly, ‘yes’ was the answer.”
So for the past 11 years a group of Toowoomban Catholics have kept a prayerful vigil before the Blessed Sacrament.
Power says that one of their foremost petitions was “praying for the bishop’s conversion.”
“Not to get rid of him, just for his conversion,” she explained. And we also prayed for the Church in general, priests and families who’d left the Church.”
“We always understood the power of prayer because we were a tiny minority in the diocese. So the only power we had was the power of prayer,” adds Powers’ friend. “We had to trust in God. What chance otherwise did we have, up against the powers-that-be and the establishment?”
Over those years the prayers of this committed group have yielded, they firmly believe, grace after grace.
“We used to have a bookshop in the building run by nuns. It was very New Age,” says Power, recounting just one such example. “I even remember my brother-in-law going in to ask for a book on Our Lady of Fatima. The nuns told him that Fatima had been discredited and directed him towards books on feminism instead.”
“They’ve now gone out of business and a wonderful new bookshop – St. Paul’s Press – has opened selling lots of beautiful books. All Catholic. All good.”
The prayers continue for renewal in Toowoomba, which spans more than 188,000 square miles and has a Catholic population of roughly 66,000 served by 35 parishes.
Pope Benedict has appointed Bishop Brian Finnegan of Brisbane as administrator of the diocese until a new bishop can be found.
In the meantime, Power and her friends they continue to pray for their departed and for Bishop Morris. As Power’s friend puts it:
“We’ve always been praying for the bishop – as people we were always charitable towards him – and so we’re still praying for him. At the end of the day he’s a soul, and nobody wants to see him lost.”