History of our parish
1928 was an historic year for the Catholic community in Sydney and indeed for the whole of Australia, as St Mary’s Cathedral was officially openned and the Archdiocese hosted the 29th International Eucharistic Congress. Of significance locally, the new parochial district of Ashbury was named St. Francis Xavier and the first parish priest was Father Edward McMahon. Marie Quinlan’s father, James Quinlan, and Phyllis Farrell’s father-in-law, Cyril Farrell, erected a tent for the celebration of the first Sunday Mass. When a house was purchased Mass was moved to the garage and then as the community grew, into the first church. The foundation stone for this first building was laid in 1929 and into the foundations was buried a stone which had come from the church in Malacca where St. Francis Xavier had preached the Gospel.
An important event occurred in 1930 which was to have a significant and continuing influence on the life of the parish when five Ursuline sisters began teaching in the new primary school. As our first building was a church and a school, on Friday afternoons parishioners would clean, move desks, remove the sanctuary screen and set up for Mass. After Sunday Mass preparations were made for school on Monday.
The sisters lived in a small cottage until 1935 when they were able to move into their new convent on the corner of Leopold and Alison Streets. Four years later, in 1939, they opened St. Ursula’s Secondary College.
By 1951, the parish had grown to the extent that it was difficult to accommodate the Mass-goers, so fund raising was organised and architectural plans drawn up. As a result, in 1955, our present church was opened and blessed by Cardinal Gilroy. The bell tower is 50 feet high and above the main entrance is a bronze figure of our patron St. Francis Xavier.
Building continued – in 1961 the two storey presbytery was completed. The parish office and meeting rooms are on the ground floor. Over the years the school buildings have expanded and the original church space is being renovated as part of the construction of our new primary school.
We must pick up where our forbears left off, continue to care for the present and provide for the next generation. We have much to be thankful to God.