Pastoral associate calls finding miners alive "a miracle"

The pastoral associate of Beaconsfield parish in northern Tasmania, Sr Frances McShane, has said she believes that finding two miners alive in the local gold mine was the result of masses and prayers offered for them and their families from all over Australia.

"Miracles come in many different ways and in the midst of the families' tears they told me I had a good boss," Sr McShane said.

The Catholic Weekly reports that Sr Frances has offered comfort and support to the families of miners Todd Russell, 34, Brant Webb, 37, and Larry Knight, 44, who were trapped by a rock fall one kilometre underground at Beaconsfield Gold Mine, 40km from Launceston.

Todd and Brant were found alive after enduring more than a week underground. Larry Knight was killed by the rock fall.

"I have been inundated with letters, faxes, messages, phone calls, cards and emails from across the nation assuring me - and through me the families and the wider grieving local community - of the love and concern of everyone. There have been many miracles here," Sr McShane said.

She says from the time Larry Knight's body was found there had been "a pall gradually spreading over the community".

"They kept saying, in the midst of their fears, that they were sure their loved ones would come out safely. I did not share their hope as it seemed an impossibility as I listened to the descriptions of other miners regarding the conditions that they would probably have been facing," she said.

Then, Sr McShane says, she got the news about the surviving miners.

"The streets were filled with locals coming out to see what was happening as horns were blowing up and down the main street and people were waving and shouting to each other.

"One of the most moving moments in the midst of this wild excitement was the visit of members of the Knight family to the Russell and Webb families to rejoice in their good news. That was an extraordinary gesture on their part and one that touched us all."

Sr Frances says the ecumenical spirit in Beaconsfield is "alive and well".

"We have kept the Catholic Church open 24 hours and have had the candles burning day and night since the news broke. I could not tell you how many people have tracked down to our end of town to make a visit, but I know there have been people in and appreciation has been expressed for the opportunity for quiet prayer," she said.

Finding men alive 'a miracle' (Catholic Weekly 3/5/06)

4 May 2006