St Patrick’s Parish, Parramatta is known as The Cradle of Catholicism in Australia. Why? Because it has the oldest Catholic Parish School in Australia, the oldest mortuary Chapel, the first convent (Sisters of Charity) was here and the first nun was professed in Parramatta. It’s parish registers are full of pioneer names of both priests and laity.
On 19th April 1803 at Government House Parramatta, Governor King’s proclamation was read to the assembled Catholics permitting Rev Fr Dixon to say Mass on a rotation basis at Sydney, Parramatta and Hawkesbury. Parramatta’s first Mass was said on 22nd May.
In 1820-21, Father J J Therry established a school in Hunter Street Parramatta and there has been a school attached to the parish ever since.
Thomas Nugent’s headstone dated 29th April 1824 is the oldest surviving monument in St Patrick’s Cemetery, the land of which was granted to the Catholic Church through the efforts of Father Therry. In 1846 a Mortuary Chapel was built over the remains of Father McCarthy OFM Cap. and on All Souls’ Day Mass is celebrated in this tiny chapel for all those pioneers and early priests who are buried in its sacred ground.
In 1839 at the invitation of Dr Polding, the Sisters of Charity came to the Colony to help the women in the Parramatta Female Factory. Their Convent, the first in the Colony, was across the road from the present Church and on March 9th 1839, in St Patrick’s Church, a novice, Sister Mary Xavier Williams became the first nun professed on Australian soil.
As early as 1822 Father Therry recognised the need for a Church at Parramatta, a subscription list was organised and the grand sum of £109.60s. was raised from the early settlers, most of whom had been convicts and were now respectable farmers. Father Therry’s replacement Rev Fr Daniel Power started building the first church in 1827. It was still unroofed in 1835 when Bishop Polding OSB arrived and when finished became a schoolhouse.
The Foundation Stone for the first St Patrick’s Church was laid on St Patrick’s Day 1836 and was consecrated ‘with all the pomp and formality of the Romish Church’, on May 28th 1837. By 1854 the existing Church was in poor repair and Dean Coffey OFM commissioned a new Church the Foundation stone of which was laid on August 13th 1854. The tower and spire were not added until the 1880’s.
In 1936 a new church was built on the site to meet the needs of a growing congregation. The main body of the church was demolished leaving the tower and spire intact, the stone was cut in half, the windows, corbels and crosses were all reused and a new St Patrick’s emerged looking very similar to the old, but larger overall.
In 1986 St Patrick’s became the Cathedral Church in the new diocese of Parramatta, an area, which stretches in a wedge from Rydalmere to Blackheath. On 19th February 1996 this beautiful though small cathedral was destroyed by fire - only the stonewalls remained. Our Bishop at the time, Very Rev Bede Heather, said then ‘a new St, Patrick’s will rise from these ashes’ and it has.
On November 29th 2003 the new St Patrick’s Cathedral was dedicated. The old St Patrick’s Cathedral is now a Blessed Sacrament Chapel and adjoining it is a large contemporary Cathedral. The design of Mitchell, Giurgola and Thorp incorporates the dictums of Vatican 11 and is beautified with the work of Australian artists and craftsmen and women. As can be seen in its innovative architecture, St Patrick’s the first Australian Cathedral of the new millennium continues its tradition of breaking new ground.
PARISH PRIESTS AND DEANS
Fr Brennan 1839-42 & 47-52
Dean Coffey OSF 1852-1857
Dean Sumner OSB 1857-1864
Dean Forde 1864-1874
Mons Rigney 1874-1889
Mons O’Reilly 1889-1919
Mons O’Gorman 1919-1931
Mons Patrick O`Donnell 1931-1953
Mons Joseph McGovern 1953-1964
Mons Frank Kerr 1964-1974
Fr Joseph Weaver March-June 1974
Fr Don Peisley 1974-1976
Dean Brian Larkey 1976-1991
Dean John Boyle 1991-2000
Dean Kevin Walsh 2000-2004
Dean Peter Williams 2004-2006
Dean Wim Hoekstra 2006-2012
Rev John McSweeney 2012-2014
Very Rev Fr Robert Bossini 2014-present
The Diocese of Parramatta takes in seven local government divisions: Baulkham Hills Shire, Blacktown City, the City of the Blue Mountains, Hawkesbury Shire, the Municipality of Holroyd, Parramatta City and Penrith City and parts of Wollondilly and Liverpool. This area encompasses the lands of the Darrug people.
Although the Diocese was established in 1986, there was already a vibrant Catholic life in the area stretching back to the beginning of European settlement.
22 May 1803
Rev James Dixon celebrated the first Mass in Parramatta within the vicinity of the present day St Patrick’s. It was at Old Government House in Parramatta Park that the 1803 Proclamation requiring all Catholics to register for the first official Masses in the colony was read. Rev James Dixon celebrated the second and third official Masses in Australia in Parramatta and the Hawkesbury respectively in May 1803.
05 March 1804
Vinegar Hill Rebellion
After the Vinegar Hill Rebellion of 1804 in Castle Hill, the privilege of mass was withdrawn.
05 May 1820
It was not until Rev Therry's arrival in 1820 that Mass was again celebrated. Rev Therry and Rev Power ministered in the region in the 1820s. An inquest recorded the latter’s death in 1830 as a “visitation of God”.
05 November 1820
First Catholic School in Parramatta
Fr Therry opens the first Catholic school in Parramatta and lobbies Governor Macquarie for land on which to build the settlement's first Catholic church.
17 March 1836
First Church in Parramatta
Rev Daniel Power replaced Fr Therry and began the first church in Parramatta in 1827. It was still unroofed in 1835 when Archbishop Polding OSB arrived, and when finally completed, it became a schoolhouse. Archbishop Polding OSB laid the Foundation Stone on 17 March 1836 and the church was consecrated on 28 May 1837.
13 August 1854
Larger Church is Constructed
By 1854, the existing church was too small so Fr Coffey OFM Conv commissioned a larger church and the Foundation Stone was laid on 13 August 1854.
17 March 1880
On 10 November 1878, Dean Rigney laid the Foundation Stone for the Pugin Tower to be added to the existing church. The tower was consecrated on 17 March 1880. The spire was blessed in January 1883.
31 May 1936
The New Church
A new church was built on the site in 1936 to meet the needs of a growing congregation. It incorporated the existing tower and spire. The Foundation Stone was laid on 26 May 1935 and the church opened on 31 May 1936.
08 April 1986
The Catholic Diocese of Parramatta
In 1986, the Catholic Diocese of Parramatta was established and St Patrick's Church was designated a Cathedral. The present Cathedral was the fourth on the site.
19 February 1996
On 19 February 1996, The Cathedral was destroyed by fire. The destruction of the Cathedral evoked extraordinary feeling in the community. The Premier, Prime Minister and Governor-General all visited the site to inspect the ruins.
29 November 2003
A New St Patrick’s
The Bishop of Parramatta at the time, Most Rev Bede Heather, promised parishioners “A new St Patrick’s will rise from these ashes.” The work towards this goal continued, with an announcement by the second Bishop of Parramatta, Most Rev Kevin Manning, that St Patrick's Cathedral would be restored to regain its place as a building of historical significance in the local landscape. The new St Patrick’s Cathedral was dedicated on 29 November 2003.