Early Catholics in Finley
Early writers record the fact that ministers of religion travelling through the remote district (now known as Finley), notified their movements and held church services where possible. Early Priests travelled from Corowa. Pre 1878 Fr.M.Slattery and his curate Fr.Richard Keily.

The Finley district was not opened up for close settlement until 1878 and the township of Finley was not proclaimed until 1893. New settlers were so sparsely spaced, schools and churches could not be supported. Pupils were sent to board in established towns and people travelled great distances to worship.

Late in the September of 1879, the Murray Hut, situated on William McNamara’s property, was first licensed and became a venue for periodical worship, baptisms and marriages. Private homes were also made available for these needs. In 1891 John Joseph Howe took up land in the Geraki area and made his home available to travelling priests who conducted masses.

By 1894, Finley’s growth as a town indicated that it would be a settlement of importance. In that year, the School of Arts opened and every three weeks it became the venue for Sunday Mass.

1889 Fr T Gray and Fr Terrence O’Shaughnessy from Corowa visited the Finley district. When Berrigan became a Parish in 1892, Finley formed part of the Berrigan Parish, serviced by Fr T O’Shaughnessy and Fr J.Hennessy became the First Parish Priest in 1898.

When the School of Arts was almost totally destroyed by fire in 1901, Mass was celebrated in the Billiard Room of the Murray Hut Hotel for the next three and a half years.

At a meeting reported in the Finley Free Press of August 9 1901, it was decided to seek permission of the Bishop to erect a new brick Church at Finley and call it St. Mary’s.

1903 saw the arrival of Fr J.J.Fogarty (Rector) and Martin Vaughan (The first Resident Priest of Jerilderie).

On October 7 1903, the church building committee met and accepted J.T.Close’s tender for the building of the church at a cost of 323.14 pounds ($647.40). The block of land was donated by William Tindale of the Murray Hut Hotel. Fr Peter McAlroy (stationed Jerilderie) arrived 1903 served to 1909.

The original St Mary’s Church comprised of the front section of the present church including the porch and as far forward as the fourth gothic window.

September 25 1904, The Reverend Dr. Gallagher, Bishop of Goulburn, opened and blessed the new Roman Catholic Church. The Bishop complimented the parishioners as he considered the building to be one of the finest in his diocese and spoke principally about the necessity of training and teaching the children in practice of the Catholic Faith. During the ceremony, the congregation walked in procession around the building preceded by the children, His Lordship and Father McAlroy. Thirty pounds was raised in the collection including five guineas from His Lordship. The debt upon the church was then about one hundred pounds.
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