The Brief History of Sacred Heart Parish, Cabramatta

History of Cabramatta parish – from the Aboriginal, the word Cabra means a white grub and Matta  means a point, or jutting out place.

Sacred Heart Cabramatta has always been a multicultural parish – from the influx of migrants and refugees in 1946 when the first displaced people arrived in Australia, these new settlers were mainly from European countries such as Poland, Italy, Germany and Yugoslavia.  In the 1950-1960 our parish was further enriched by migrants from the United Kingdom.  The 1980 -1990’s saw more arrivals join our community especially from Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand.

The diverse backgrounds of past and present parishioners at Sacred Heart, Cabramatta, has brought with it, the Christian values of Love, Respect and Tolerance, this being the mark of a true Parish Family.

The 1st Catholic Church at Cabramatta was an Australian Army Hut.  His Grace Archbishop Kelly from the Army purchased the hut and had it transported to a site alongside the Cabramatta Vale Park in September 1919.  Mass was first celebrated by the priests from Liverpool parish, and on the 19th January, 1935 Sacred Heart School was opened with an enrolment of 75 children.  The Sisters of Charity resided at Liverpool and travelled daily by train.  During the school week the hut was used as classrooms and at the weekend, the parishioners would prepare the hut for Sunday Mass.

With the tremendous growth of the area after World War two, Cabramatta was inaugurated as a new parish in its own right on 1st February 1949.  The 1st parish priest was Fr Michael Kiely.  That same year, the first land was purchased for the parish for 400 pounds and work on buildings and extensions costing 277 pounds were carried out.  In 1950 a cottage was bought in Bartley Street and a brick presbytery was constructed in 1952 at 13 Park Road, allowing the sisters of Charity to move into the Bartley Street and establish a convent.  1963 saw a new convent built on parish land at 1 Park Road and the parish sold the Bartley Street cottage (now the RSL Club).

As the enrolments at the school increased and the parish continued to expand a new brick school was built in 1953.  More land was purchased to consolidate the church and school ground and to accommodate the increasing need for playground and building space.

In 1957 the men of the parish formed a “Men’s Club’ to provide as much voluntary labour as possible for parish works.

Fr Darcy O’Keefe arrived as the 2nd Parish priest in March 1959, and it soon became obvious that more funds were needed for parish growth.  The Canvass committee was formed to raise funds,  – they begun the Planned giving scheme (Weekly envelopes) but also to meet new parishioners and welcomed them into the parish.  The present parish is a result of the success of that venture and the work or that and subsequent committees.

On Christmas Eve in 1961 our new (current) church was blessed with the 1st mass celebrated by Cardinal Gilroy. The Canvass committee continue with fund raising and were able to purchase the total area of the school grounds, construct a parish hall, school canteen, administration block and add classrooms as required.  Fr O’Keefe is considered the driving force behind much of the construction and business practices of the parish. He left in September 1974 to take up his new appointment at Balgowlah.

Our 3rd Parish priest, Fr Patrick McAuliffe arrived in October 1974.  During his stewardship over the years he had ministered over an increasingly challenging and diverse Parish and taken it into the 21st century.  We were all guided by his rally cry of “not a worry in the world”

The parish has seen tremendous change in the spiritual and physical needs of the Parish.   When the parish started in 1949 there were two Masses – 8.30am and 10am as well as daily Mass at 7am, today we celebrate Mass in English, Polish and Vietnamese with 9 Masses each weekend and daily Masses at 7am and 7pm Mass on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.  The Italian community celebrated a further Mass on Sundays until numbers grew too small a few years ago.

Father McAuliffe welcomed the Vietnamese community and their 1st Mass was on the 20th June 1982 and they continue to grow strong.  Land was allocated for a statue of Our Lady and Her Divine Child and this was blessed in 1990.

1999 saw the Golden Jubilee of our Parish, with a new Sacred Heart statue being blessed and the Polish community donating a Shrine to the Divine Mercy.

The parish school has expanded greatly and several building projects have been overseen by Fr McAuliffe with the last one just in the process of being finalised.  2006 saw the closure of Patrician Bros Primary with more classrooms needed to accommodate the boys thus seeing our boys stay at Cabramatta from K – 6.  2008 Sacred Heart parish and school welcomed Pilgrims from all over the world as Australia hosted World Youth Day.

The Parish purchased its 1st computer in 2000 with the introduction of GST and the need for instant call up of records.  We have progressed from floppy disks to CD ROMs to USB sticks.  Now there is ‘the cloud’ where information goes to.   Registers were updated to data bases, banking done at the click of a few keys and password a constant headache when you forget them.

Over the years, there has been continual renovation, extension and improvement to the parish property and school to meet the needs of all who worship here. And Fr Mac has worked energetically until his retirement in January 2016 and still continues to support our parish and parishioners.

We live in an electronic age where changes occur daily, and Sacred Heart Parish is moving with the changes to continue serving our community.  However the care and personal contact with parishioners will always be the top priority as we begin our next journey with our 4th Parish Priest Father Liem Duong.   His story is still to come……

What makes Cabramatta unique?

We seem follow the motto of Saint Mary MacKillop ‘Never see a need without doing something about it’

Cabramatta parishioners seem to make things happen when they put their collective thoughts into action.  We meet, discuss, make a plan and execute it.  Sometimes it takes a while but it does happen.

We have always had priests who care about the parish and involve the people to own the parish and work together.

Our diverse communities try to fit in and work together to the benefit of the whole parish.

We welcome new groups and embrace ideas of others.

You can read the full history of the Parish here

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