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Parish History

Milestones of our Parish History...

1788 21 January Governor Arthur Phillip entered Sydney Harbour and landed at Camp Cove in the territory of what would one day be our parish; a few days later he moved the settlement further in, to Sydney Cove
1790s South Head Lookout established by Captain John Hunter; Robert Watson, a seaman on the First Fleet ship HMS Sirius, appointed Signalman and later Harbour Master and granted land later known as ‘Watson’s Bay’
1800s - 1860s Watson’s Bay became a village of whalers, fisherman, marine pilots and signalmen
1802 The first known Catholic family, Patrick and Catherine Humphries and sons, lived in what is believed to be the first cottage in Watson’s Bay on what was known as ‘Humphrey’s four acres’; Mass was celebrated from time to time in the cottage (and later in the house of Francis Atton in Hopetoun Ave) by Frs Norbert Woolfrey OCSO (PP of Kincumber, then of Waverley), Eugene Luckie OSB (who started the Missions to Illawarra and Ipswich), Patrick Newman and Frs Leeming and Fr Garvey
1849 Crown grant of two acres at ‘Kutti’ to the Catholic Church for a church, school and presbytery (the grant was not finalised until 1914)
1850 The new parish of Sacred Heart Darlinghurst covered most of Eastern Sydney
1850s Military fortifications began at South Head (for fear of the French, later the Russians, and later the Japanese); Watson’s Bay was subdivided and the population increased significantly
1857 Wreck of the Dunbar at the Gap with the loss of 121 lives and of the Catherine Adamson with 21 lives; parishioner Frederick Thomas Dunn, captain of the Watsons Bay Lifeboat Patrol,  was one of the first to the scene to assist the rescue efforts
1858 South Head Public School (later renamed Watson’s Bay School) built next to the Catholic Church property; transferred to Vaucluse in 1924 and, from 1928, the building became a Scout Hall
1860s onwards A horse-drawn bus service operating from Circular Quay brought tourists to this increasingly popular recreation area, with its hotel, beaches, views from ‘The Gap’ and a private zoo (with a lion which the children could ride, a tiger which took the zoo-keeper’s arm, and a retired elephant). One of the services was operated by John Dykes, who later had an avenue in the area named after him.
1867 - 1970 St Anthony’s Church Watson’s Bay built by Fr Newman; locals, including Portuguese fishermen, quarried the stone from the site under the direction of Joseph de Silva; Mass celebrated about every three months by Fr J J Garvey
1870s onwards as the Eastern suburbs were developed, distinct parishes were created at Edgecliff (St Joseph’s 1874), Paddington (St Francis’ 1889), Woollahra (Holy Cross 1906) and Rose Bay (St Mary Magdalene’s 1914)
1870s The first attempt at a Catholic school (by Mr Hynes) failed; members of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine came to Watson’s Bay each Sunday to conduct a Sunday School for the children
1879 Franciscan Fathers took charge of the ‘Paddington-Woollahra Mission’, extending from Paddington ‘as far out as Watson’s Bay’ (Frs Holohan, Hanrahan, Joyce, Dunne, Cavanagh, Slattery, Birch, Kennedy, Gaynor, Sheehan, Mullan and Birch osf)
1880 27 June Archbishop Roger Bede Vaughan made the first episcopal visitation of Watson’s Bay for the purpose of conferring Confirmation; glass windows were introduced for the event
1880 - 1981 Church improvements included plastering the walls, painting the wood-work, erecting a wooden ceiling, introducing a cedar altar and altar rails, new carpet for the sanctuary and proper benches; the church land was fenced and ornamental trees planted, but in the next cold winter the fence disappeared for firewood and grazing cattle ate the trees
1882 Convent of the Sacred Heart founded at Rose Bay; the people of Watson’s Bay were invited to attend daily Mass and Benediction at the convent
1884 Primary school erected at corner of Vaucluse and South Head Roads by the Sacred Heart sisters and blessed by Cardinal Patrick Moran; attended by children from the district
1885 Parishioner William Bede Dalley, son of Irish convicts, became Acting Premier of NSW; he was Solicitor-General, Attorney-General and adjudicator of disputes with the local Aborigines (who lived at what is now Neilsen Park)
1893 A parish mission conducted at Watson’s Bay was so overcrowded that discussions began about building a larger church; leading parish families such as the de Frazers, Whites, Dunns, Avelars, Attons, Silvas, Dawsons and others began a fund for a new church
1898 Front porch and back sacristy were added to St Anthony’s Church
1900s Considerable growth in the local population (especially due to subdivision of the Wentworth estate at Vaucluse) meant the parish needed a bigger church...
1901 - 1909 City tramline extended (from Rose Bay Pier) to South Head (operated until 1960)
1906 – 1907 The Franciscans were relieved of the care of Watson’s Bay which was transferred to Fr Patrick O’Reilly, PP of Woollahra; he came regularly to celebrate Mass and supervise the building of a new church
1908 Sr M Marcellus and Sr M Aloysius rsm, Monte Mercies, came each day by ferry from St Patrick’s Harrington Street to instruct the local children; for a time they lived with the Norrie family
1909 28 February Cardinal Moran made his first visit to Watson’s Bay to bless a foundation stone for Our Lady Star of the Sea Church and another for a Convent of Mercy
First wedding in the still-incomplete church was of RJ Whealan and Margaret Kurtz
1910 Cardinal Moran returned to open the new church which had cost of £1548 and been built from sandstone quarried on the church land, with a varnished kauri ceiling and with plain lead-lighting
1910 - 1975 The Convent of Mercy operated (with up to 7 sisters) adjacent St Anthony’s Hall with a lower primary school (and boarders until the early 1960s)
1911 Conference of the St Vincent de Paul Society founded
1912 The Watson’s Bay Children of Mary Sodality founded
1913 Care of Watson’s Bay transferred from Woollahra to Bondi under Fr Michael Fitzpatrick PP
1917 Care of Watson’s Bay passed to Rose Bay under Fr Richard O’Reagan (who rode an Indian Motor Cycle to Mass sporting leather gauntlets to the elbows)
1919 Mass celebrated in the open air on front veranda of the Convent during the swine flu epidemic; many wore masks
1920s First enlargement of the parish school; Archbishop Kelly laid a new foundation stone in 1924
1927 Greycliffe Ferry Disaster: ‘The School Boat’ from the City to Watson’s Bay collided with RMS Tahiti and sank; 39 were drowned, many of them children; this was the beginning-of-the-end for private ferries to area
Our Lady Star of the Sea Watson’s Bay was made a separate parish
1928 A new presbytery was built and blessed by Archbishop Michael Kelly on 20 May
1927 - 1932 Fr John Halpin OBE, a veteran of Anzac Cove and former Dean of the Cathedral, was the first Parish Priest of the new parish; in his period St Mary’s Hall was famous for its dances, musicals and cinematographs
1929 – 1930 New Stations of the Cross, pictures of the Sacred Heart and Our Lady Help of Christians and altar rails installed; the boys’ sacristy was added to the Eastern end of the church
1932 Fr Callaghan administered the parish
1932 - 1936 Fr John Muirhead was the second Parish Priest; he introduced a new altar and the church Chronicle
1935 Parishioner Francis Brian McGinley was ordained to the priesthood at St Mary’s Cathedral and celebrated his ‘First Mass’ at Star of the Sea
1936 - 1963 Fr (later Monsignor) Daniel Hannan BA was the third Parish Priest
1937 Star of the Sea Holy Name Society established
1938 Fr W Hudson Administrator of the Parish while Fr Hannan holidayed in Ireland
1938 Parishioner William Malone ordained to the priesthood at St Mary’s and celebrated his ‘First Mass’ at Star of the Sea
1940 The church was extended by 26 ft on the front and new confessionals, font, choir and façade introduced and blessed by Mons. Richard Collender vg
1941, 1944 and 1947 Sir Norman Cardinal Gilroy visitated the Parish and confirmed the children
1942 A Civilian War Emergency Aid Service Organisation was established by the ladies of the parish
1942 Solemn High Mass to mark Fr Hannan’s silver jubilee of priesthood
1944 Fr Hannan recorded that of 1068 parishioners, 80 were absent on military service; Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament was held on days of special prayer during the war
1944 Parishioner Bernard Hawke ssc was ordained to the priesthood in Nebraska USA for the Chinese Missions; his sister, Dorothy, entered the Sisters of Mercy, as did Marie Theresa Dunn of the parish
1940s, 50s & early 60s in this period the two Sunday Masses could draw over 700 people in total (weekday Mass around 30); there were many devotions and parish missions; parish groups included the Holy Childhood Sodality (around 50 children), Holy Name Society (70-80 men), Children of Mary (around 20-30 young women), Sacred Heart Sodality (80-120 older women) and the St Vincent de Paul Society (around 9-15 members)
1948 Parishioner Patrick Sullivan ordained priest at St Mary’s and celebrated ‘First Mass’ at Our Lady Star of the Sea
1949 St Thérèse Dover Heights became a separate parish
1949 Parishioner, Dr GG McDonald (eventually Chancellor of the University of Sydney), led a local protest against the imprisonment of Cardinal Mindszenty of Poland; his son Charles was ordained a Jesuit priest in 1959
1950 Archbishop Eris O’Brien, long time friend of the parish, conducted the episcopal visitation and Confirmations
1950 Stone wall extended along Robertson Place
1951 Frs Francis Reilly and Gregory Madden administered the Parish while Fr Hannan was in Ireland
1951 Our Lady of Fatima statue given by Woodward family
1958 Extensions of the parish school blessed by Cardinal Gilroy
1960 Carrara marble statue of Our Lady Star of the Sea erected on the façade
1960s Memorial Chapel of St George the Martyr erected at HMAS Watson; Mass celebrated there from time to time
1963 Fr Francis Reilly administered the parish
1963 - 1996 Fr Patrick Ford was the fourth Parish Priest
1966 The church was enlarged, the approach to the church altered, the spire was added and stained glass windows from Grenoble installed; a new sanctuary was added, including the great Southern Cross window and Tom Bass pulpit under the direction of Fr Ford; Cardinal Gilroy blessed the improvements on 31 July
1970s Presbytery enlarged and number of Masses increased with introduction of evening Masses; Fr (later Monsignor) Tony Doherty was briefly curate; but the number of attending parishioners was declining and most parish groups ceased; there were fewer young people in the parish
1971 New Carrara marble altar erected in memory of the O’Connell, Hutchison and Inglis families
1972 Parishioner Geoff Plant ordained as a Franciscan Priest at Our Lady Star of the Sea on 13th May
1973 Parishioner John Willis ordained a priest at Star of the Sea on 23rd August
1982 Closure of parish school: student numbers had fallen from around 100 at its height to below 30 by the 1970s
1983 A second lectern was erected in honour of Monsignor Thomas Veech
1985 - 1988 Erection of Vaughan Village and renovation of the Hall; opened by Sir James Cardinal Freeman
1980s onwards Number of attending parishioners levelled out at around 100
1990 Ahlborn pipeless organ from Stuttgart installed in place of 1887 Walcker et Cie pipe organ
1991 New Paschal candle stand erected in memory of Monsignor John Leonard
1997-2003 Fr Kevin Burton was the fifth Parish Priest
2003 Parish administered from Rose Bay by Monsignor John Walsh; Fr Bernard Moylan assisted from Dover Heights
2003 Bishop Anthony Fisher OP was the sixth Parish Priest
2004 - 1909 Restoration works undertaken on the Church, hall and presbytery in preparation for the centenary of the new church
2009 On 16 August George Cardinal Pell consecrated the church and altar
2010 Bishop Anthony Fisher OP appointed Bishop of Parramatta
2011 Bishop Peter A. Comensoli appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Sydney and seventh Parish Priest
   

 


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