The History of The Sacred Heart Parish, Cabramatta (Long Version)

The Story of Our Parish

The first Catholic Church at Cabramatta was an Australian Army hut which had been used by Catholic soldiers during World War I. At the time of purchase by His Grace Archbishop Kelly, this hut was situated on Army grounds at Liverpool. Father Walsh, who was Pastor at Liverpool, arranged for the hut to be transported to a site previously purchased alongside the Cabra-Vale Park. The hut was placed in position on 21 September 1919.

Father Walsh was the officiating priest for Holy Mass and other requirements as Cabramatta was at the time, incorporated into the Parish of Liverpool. His means of transport consisted of a horse drawn carriage.

Before the arrival of the Hut, Mass was celebrated in Cabramatta Town Hall but had only half the seating capacity.

Records indicate that Arthur Sharpe and Ellen Dixon were united as husband and wife in the Holy Sacrament of Marriage, which was first conducted in the new Church in September 1919.

Preparation for the coming of the Sisters of Charity began about September 1934. The date of the opening of the School was 19 January 1935, when seventy-five children answered the roll call. The Sisters of Charity resided at St Mary’s Convent, Liverpool, and commuted daily by train. The children attending the school were from the area bounded by St John’s Park, Edensor Park, Hollywood and Canley Vale.

Progress was continuous and at a steady pace until the period when World War II came to an end. The Federal Government decided on a migrant policy to supplement our labour force and acquire the much-needed skills for the further development and growth of our country. Cabramatta became a receiving centre for this initiative, which resulted in a tremendous growth for the area – many of the new arrivals were Catholics. The population continued to increase and eventually the decision was made that Liverpool could not manage this growth within such a large area.

Cabramatta remained within the Parish of Liverpool until the beginning of 1949. Ori the 1st February 1949, Cabramatta was inaugurated as a new parish in its own right. Sacred Heart Parish, Cabramatta was formed consisting of those areas bounded by Green Valley, Lansvale, Canley Vale and Hollywood.

On February 6, 1949, the first Parish Priest, Rev. Father M. J. Kiely, administered the Sacrament of Baptism to Peter James Kelleher (of Pevensey street) – the first child to be baptised in the Sacred Heart Church, after the formation of the new parish. Peter is now Rev Peter Kelleher and was also ordained in Cabramatta Church. The first girl baptised in the new parish was Marea Thornton. Marea is the youngest daughter of Jim and Pat Thornton. That same year, the first land was bought (for £400) and works on building and extensions, costing £277, were carried out.

On 7 April 1949, “The Biz” reported:

“Two hundred Catholics and friends from the newly-established Parish of Cabramatta assembled in the Cabramatta Council Chambers on the evening of March 30 to pay tribute to Fathers Collins and Ekerech and at the same time to show appreciation and the esteem in which the guests of honour were held during the period when Cabra- Vale portion of Liverpool Parish was under their care. The visitors included Fathers Harrington and McGovern, Mr. S J Freeman, MLA, the Mayoress (Mrs. James – daughter of Mayor) and Mr. James, and Mrs. Henshaw, Mr. Lazzarini, MHR, and Mrs. Lazzarini, and Mrs. and Miss Dahl. An apology was received from the Mayor, Aid Henshaw.

A most enjoyable concert program ably compered by Mr. Ted Noonan included songs by Mrs. Heyborn, Mrs. Leonard, Marie Leonard, Joyce Lanham, Shiela Wilden, Sam Dixon, with humorous items by Ted Noonan. The obliging and accomplished accompaniate was Mrs. N Tom who excellently rendered two piano solos.

Rev Fr Kiely, pp, of the newly-formed Cabramatta Parish (chairman) referred to the splendid work carried out in the district by Fr Collins, whom he had known for 20 years. He spoke of the early days of Liverpool Parish, which had been established 110 years ago, and the difficulties experienced by Fr J Walsh as pp.

Frs Harrington and McGovern then, in humorous and breesy manner, expressed their admiration and good wishes for Frs Collins and Ekerech.

The Mayoress, Messrs Lazzarini and Freeman added eulogistic remarks concerning the guests of the evening.

Mr. Pat Noonan, with a few appropriate remarks, presented to Frs Collins and Ekerech, a wallet of notes each.

Fr Collins replied, with some humour, voicing sincere appreciation for the kind expressions of goodwill.

Fr Ekerech responded in similar strain, and gave great credit to the Parish Priest for the excellent conditions existing when he joined the parish as parish priest.

Mrs Melville warmly thanked the artists, and presented them and the Mayoress with lovely bouquets.

On behalf of the parishioners, Mr. Trott heartily welcomed Fr Kiely to the parish.

Concluding a notable and happy party, Fr Kiely thanked all for friendly greetings and warm welcome, also Fairfield Council for the use of the Council Chambers that night.”

In 1950, a cottage was bought at 9 Bartley street – where the Priest took up residence on the 22nd Sunday after Pentecost. This is the building that became the Convent.

Notable donations in 1950 – among other generous gifts – were the donation of £500 by Mrs. Toohey, to the Church Building Fund, and the gift of land adjacent to the church, by Mr. John McKenna. In 1951, the amount of funds raised was £3,538. At the end of that year the Parish debt stood at £1710. A special appeal at the blessing and opening of the brick Presbytery, in 1952, by Bishop Lyons, raised £829. The balance sheet at the end of 1952 revealed that £13,000 had been spent on Church works in less than three years. This figure included the cost of two new school buildings at Cabramatta – one costing £6,678 and the other £2,312.

A brick presbytery was constructed in 1952 on 13 Park Road, which was occupied by the Parish Priest towards the end of the year. This released the building in Bartley street which was then occupied by the Sisters of Charity on 15 January 1953, – the 3rd Sunday after the Epiphany. The first Mass in the Convent was offered on the Monday after the Third Sunday of Lent.

A new brick school building was commenced shortly after Easter in 1953, which was opened and blessed that same year, on September 13 by Archbishop O’Brien. It is believed that the construction of this school was based on Franki-Pile Girders which allows for the addition of a second story if required.

Rev. Father Denis Ryan became Administrator of the Parish in August 1954, when Fr Kiely returned to Ireland to attend to legal matters associated with the passing away of his parents. Cabramatta’s first Assistant Priest was Father D McAuliffe, who took up residence in August 1955. Considered an accomplished orator, he was later transferred to St Marys Cathedral and eventually became the official spokesman for the Catholic Church on television.

His Eminence Cardinal Gilroy, made his first official visit to the parish on September 16, 1956 when he opened and blessed the additions to the brick school. A guard of honour was formed by the children of the parish from the Civic Hall to the gates of the school grounds, and the Ryde Holy Cross College band “played” His Eminence from the Civic Hall to the school.

In 1957 the men of the Parish formed a “Men’s Club” – the principal object of which was to provide as much voluntary labour as possible for parish works. A timber classroom extension and much painting work were among the first results. His Lordship, Bishop Freeman, blessed and opened the new weatherboard school building in 1958. The appeal raised £790. The school building was painted blue and has been known as the “blue school” ever since.

In April 1958, Father B. Charlton was appointed Assistant to the Administrator, Father McAuliffe (Father Kiely being absent on a Pilgrimage to Lourdes). The following year Father Kiely became Parish Priest of Enmore.

Rev. Father D. O’Keeffe arrived at Cabramatta, March 1959, and Father McAuliffe left in April, on appointment to the Cathedral. Father R Hickman arrived here, to take up duties, in April 1959, when Father Charlton was transferred to Parramatta.

Within twelve months of the arrival of Fr O’Keefe, the need for funds to finance parish growth and development became obvious. A Catholic Loyalty Dinner was held on 20 March 1960 to present the problem to parishioners. As a result, a Canvass Committee was formed which undertook the task of preparing a program by which funds could be raised and at the same time, new parishioners could be met and welcomed into the parish. The present Parish is a result of the success of that venture and the work of that, and subsequent, committees.

The first committee prepared itself for its task through meetings held in the old red cottage which was on the site of the present Convent. The cottage was named “Hickman House” after the Assistant Priest. The cottage was in the final stages of collapse, but it served the purpose.

Events moved smoothly from that time. In early 1961, the Army Hut was moved to the rear of the church grounds, near the site of the Hall, and work commenced on the new Church. The Foundation stone was set and blessed by His Eminence Cardinal Gilroy on 11 June 1961. Six months later, on Christmas Eve, the Cardinal solemnly blessed the completed church and celebrated the first Mass at 10am that day.

The completed Sacred Heart Church was built to seat 500 with further space for 250 standing. This figure has been exceeded on many occasions, especially at the Christmas Midnight Mass.

The original Canvass Committee was successful with the introduction of the Planned Giving Scheme and after three years, decided to continue with its fund raising. The target for the additional funds was the construction of a Convent for the teaching Sisters on the site where the Canvass group first met. The old home did not require demolition; it collapsed on its own accord.

Volunteer labour was used to remove the remains and pave the way for a start on the Convent. On 18 August 1963, 125 years to the day when the first Sisters of Charity sailed from Ireland to Australia, the Convent was completed and blessed by Monsignor H Kennedy. When preparing the altar for the Chapel of the new Convent, it was discovered that the consecrated stone containing relics of martyrs was inserted into the Table of the Altar in October 1855. This represents a link to early parish days of the historic Parish of All Saints, Liverpool. Father Bataillon, a Missionary Vicar Apostolic, who was later martyred, consecrated this stone.

The Canvass Committee, with support from the parishioners, agreed to continue with the fund raising and utilise the finances to seal the total area of the school grounds, construct a Parish Hall, school canteen, administration block and add classrooms as required.

Father O’Keefe, our second Parish Priest, is considered the driving force behind much of the construction and business practices of the Parish. Father O’Keefe was Parish Priest for over fifteen years – arriving in March 1959 and departing September 1974. Father O’Keefe was ably assisted by his curate, Father Hickman – who unfortunately was plagued with an ear affliction, but that did not deter his appetite for work.

Father p McAuliffe, our third Parish Priest, arrived in October 1974 and found himself aided by another capable curate, Father M Malone.

(Much of the history of our Parish has been transcribed from the numerous writings of Jim M Thornton, published from time to time, in Parish bulletins. We are indebted to Jim for the work he has undertaken and voluntarily given, for the Parish of the Sacred Heart.)

Father Michael Joseph Kiely 1949-1959

Father Kiely was born in Listowel, County Kerry, Eire in 1904. He was ordained at All Hallows, Dublin on 6 June 1929. He set sail for Australia, from London in September 1929. His first appointment was a Bankstown, where he stayed for six years. This was followed by duty at Bondi Beach and Darlinghurst. In 1939, he returned to Ireland for holidays where he was trapped by the War. He worked in Scotland for seven years. On his return to Australia, he was sent to Maroubra. He was appointed Administrator at Baulkham Hills in 1947 and Albion street in 1948 before coming to Cabramatta in 1949.

After his ten years at Cabramatta, Father Kiely went to Enmore for six years and then to Punchbowl from 31 December 1965 to early 1972 when he retired and returned to Eire. He died in his hometown, Listowel, in January 1982. He was remembered with a Pontifical Concelebrated Requiem Mass with His Eminence, Cardinal Freeman, as the Presiding Celebrant at St Jerome’s Punchbowl on 13 January 1982.




Father D’Arcy O’Keefe 1959-1974

Father O’Keefe was born in Auburn, NSW. His parents, John and Ada, lived there most of their lives. He was educated at the Sisters of Charity, Auburn, Christian Brothers, Burwood and Parramatta High School.

Father O’Keefe trained as a teacher and spent five years in state schools, such as Lidcombe Commercial Public, before his vocation took him into the Priesthood.

He studied for the Priesthood at Springwood and Manly for seven years and was ordained in St Mary’s Cathedral on 25 July 1941. He celebrated his Silver Jubilee as a Priest at Cabramatta on 25 July 1966.

Father O’Keefe served in the parishes of Concord, Haymarket, Katoomba, Woollahra and Lewisham prior to five years at St Mary’s Cathedral before he arrived at Cabramatta in 1959. He was transferred to Balgowlah in 1974.

A week before Christmas 1998, Father O’Keefe advised that in his 25th year of residence at St Cecilia, Balgowlah, he has accepted retirement from the Parish Ministry and has joined the priests at St John Vianney Villa, Randwick, NSW.


Father Patrick McAuliffe 1974-2016

Father McAuliffe is the eldest child of Molly and Jack McAuliffe. On 21 July 1956, Father McAuliffe was ordained in St Mary’s Cathedral by Cardinal Gilroy. He worked in other parishes such as Surry Hills, Eastwood, Pagewood, Lane Cove and Kingsgrove.


On October 1, 1974, he became the third Parish Priest of Sacred Heart, Cabramatta.







Over the last fifty years, we have seen many assistant priests come and go from our Parish Family. Some arrived with many years of experience from other parishes, some straight from the seminary. All came with a sense of God’s love and with enthusiasm for the work to be undertaken.

We look back over the many assistant priests that have worked for us here in Cabramatta and recall many fond memories. We acknowledge the contribution each has made in building our Parish Family.

  1. Father Daniel McAuliffe
  2. Father Brian Charlton
  3. Father Dennis Ryan
  4. Father Ron Hickman
  5. Father Neil Brown
  6. Father Michael O’Byrne
  7. Father Mark Spora
  8. Father Fergus Breslin
  9. Father Jim Boland
  10. Father Michael Malone
  11. Father Anton Totonjian
  12. Father Paul Sheehy
  13. Father Phil Zadro
  14. Father Martin Langron
  15. Father Robert Kidd
  16. Father Chris Toohey
  17. Father Michael Foster
  18. Father Dominic Teychenne
  19. Deacon William Milstead
  20. Father Martin Nicol
  21. Father Josef Kolodziej
  22. Father Peter Ha
  23. Father Jerzy Chrzcronowicz


The name Cabramatta is believed to be from the Aboriginal words Cabra (a white grub) and Matta (a point or, jutting out place).

Back in 1795 the district west of Cabramatta was referred to in the maps as the ‘Moonshine” Run and the area from Joseph street to Humphries Road was shown as such on a District Map of Liverpool state Electorate. The name of Moonshine Run is said to have originated from a man named Hatfield who remarked to a Mr. Murphy that the timber on the run was so dense that It was “impossible tor the Moon to shine through.”

One of the first residents was Hughie O’Toole an old Irishman. Another celebrity was “Big Eliza” a women of Amazonian proportions. Renowned as the tallest and strongest woman for many miles around she would walk bare foot over Bulls Hill into Liverpool where observers would comment “there goes a Moonshiner.”

The oldest building in Cabramatta was the home of the original James Hoy. The ruins may still be seen off old Hume Highway opposite the residence of Cecil Battye. When James Hoy first came to the district, settlers were only just beginning to move out from the city. James Hoy had under his charge a gang of 20 convicts who lived on the property and it is said that they made the bricks of which the home was built. James Hoy passes away in 1949 at the age of 81, just a short time after the establishment of the Cabramatta Parish of the Sacred Heart.

The great Southern Road was partly formed in 1806, and as usual followed the Bullock Track to Sydney. On Hoy’s Hill stood a refreshment room kept by a man named Potter.

Mr. Thomas Kelly was an early maintenance roadman between Lansdowne and Bankstown before being appointed Toll Keeper at Lansdowne Bridge. On the abolition of the Toll in 1873, he acquired the Property now known as Hargrave Park. (Excerpt from “The Biz”, Wednesday April 20, 1964).

John Street, Cabramatta 1923


Sacred Heart Parish has been blessed with many gifts over the years. Among these are the vocations to either the priesthood or religious. On our records we have the following:

To Priesthood

Father Peter Kelleher                  23 February 1974 at Sacred Heart by Archbishop Carroll

Father Paul Finucane                  22 August 1981 at St Mary’s by Cardinal Freeman

Father Christopher Wilcock SJ

To Religious

Sister Ellen O’Carrigan RSC

Sister Catherine Duxbury RSU

Sister Joan Goodwin RSV

Sister Frances Graham RSC

Sister Anne Mayberry RSC

Sister Margaret Valentine RSC

Sister Jennifer Downes RSC

Brother Cedric Harrison CFC

Brother Vincent O’Carrigan CFC

Brother Christopher Finucan FSP

Brother Michael Vella FSP

Other important religious events at Cabramatta include:

To Deaconate

Paul Finucane                       2 December 1980 by Bishop Cremin

First Mass of Thanksgiving

Father Peter Kelleher            24 February 1974

Father Paul Finucane            23 August 1986

Silver Jubilee of Priesthood

Father D’Arcy O’Keefe          25 July 1966

Father Patrick McAuliffe        21 July 1981

Final Professions

Sister Anne Mayberry          8 September 1973

Sister Laureen Dixon           27 November 1982


Father  Kelleher’s Ordination…

Scenes from the ordination ceremony (top right) the newly ordained bestows his first Messing on his parents Mr. and Mrs. Kelleher

Old Boy Ordained to Priesthood

February 23rd was a happy day for the parish of Cabramatta when well-known and popular young parishioner Peter Kelleher was raised to the dignity of the priesthood. The ordination was carried out by Archbishop Carroll in the presence of a packed church of parishioners and visiting friends.

A combined choir of Patrician Brothers led the congregation in Singing during the impressive and moving ceremony.

Father Kelleher would have been ordained last year in St. Mary’s Cathedral with his fellow seminarians but he was hospitalised at the time because of an accident in which he sustained a broken arm.

Peter Kelleher came to the college from the Cabramatta convent and after nine years of active participation in all aspects of school activities he passed his Leaving Certificate and went to the diocesan seminary at Springwood During his seminary years he was a regular visitor back to his alma mater and on numerous occasions he helped out in practical ways around the school.

Since his ordination he has been most generous with his spare time in helping the minister to the spiritual needs of the students— especially at the annual camps.

Fr. Kelleher is stationed in the Lakemba parish at present where he has plenty of scope for his enthusiasm.

(From “The Rosarian”, Patrician Brothers’ Fairfield)




The FIRST BOY Baptism:

Peter James Kelleher

6 February 1949

Canley Vale Road, Canley Vale

Ordained a priest 23 February 1974 at Sacred Heart

by Archbishop Carroll

The FIRST GIRL Baptism

Marea Margaret Thornton 20 February 1949 Pevensey street, Canley Vale

First Holy Communion

15 August 1949

19 boys, 28 girls

First Confirmation

23 November 1950

75 children confirmed by Bishop Lyons

First Marriage

Samuel Allan Stewart of Bankstown Monica Kathleen O’Hare of Lansdowne Road 2 April 1949

First Sick Call

Elizabeth Kiely Mulgoa Road 23 February 1949

First Death recorded

David Hilton Nash (age 4 days)

Hill Street, Cabramatta 4 April 1949

First President of Parish Council

Bruce Mayberry

First Readers

6am Mass – Michael Percival 7am Holy Name – Tony Grace

Children of Mary – Pat Carey 8.30am Mass – Vince Cummins

First Mass in new Church

10am 24 December 1961

First Baptisms in new Church

Michelle Patricia COTT, Frank Thomas HARDI, Maria Connie LUCIANO, Anthony James WATSON

First Marriage in new Church

Tadiusz Michael MAZUR of Liverpool Maria Zofia LYP of Gladstone Street

26 December 1961

First Acolytes

Ian Dickson, Brian Hislop, Paul Newell, George Sepulueda

October 1978, commissioned by Bishop Cremin


  • 1977 Sister Antonita Duthy
  • 1980 Sister Margaret Case
  • 1985 Sister Jean Montgomery

Sister Antonita Duthy of the Order of the Sisters of Charity, was the first Pastoral Sister to be introduced to the parish. Her Apostolate was to share the responsibility for the Sacramental Programme in the state schools with other members of the parish team. During her time here, she worked untiringly as part of the Parish Team. This took her into the area of catechetics, adult education and home visitation. Sister brought new life into the Sunday School classes with the training of team helpers to assist the Catechists. After working in the parish for three years, Sister was appointed as regional Superior of her Order.

Sister Margaret Case was welcomed to the Parish Team in 1980 and built on the Programme already now well established with workshops to assist the Catechists in planning interesting lessons. Sister had the gift of music and singing which proved valuable in the Liturgy and for the Masses for special occasions such as First Holy Communion, Easter and Christmas. In 1984, Sister was appointed to St Vincent’s School, Strathmore, Victoria.

Sister Jean Montgomery came to the Parish in 1985 as a member of the Pastoral Team and also as Superior of the Convent. She has worked with tremendous zeal, fulfilling her duties to the Sisters, interviewing parents and children for the Sacramental Programme, supporting the priests in taking Holy Communion to the sick and many other duties, including taking classes in the state schools.


The Reredos are the wood carvings on the front wall of the Sanctuary, crafted by Mr Taylor, formerly of McBurney Road. His work can also be seen in other churches in Cabramatta.

The three carvings on the left (Sacristy side), backed in blue, represent the three main Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary:

The Annunciation

The Nativity

The Presentation

Christ on the Cross represents the Sorrowful Mysteries.

The three carvings on the right, backed in red, portray the three main Glorious Mysteries:

The Resurrection

The Descent of the Holy Spirit

The Crowning of Our Lady


Sacred Heart School had its founding in 1935 with 75 pupils enrolled. The Sisters of Charity came each day from their convent in Liverpool. On the 26 January 1953, the Sisters of Charity took up their residence at the Sacred Heart Convent, Gilmore street, Cabramatta.

The foundation members for this community were: MM Loyola Pollack (Rectress), SM le Merci Walsh, SM Brendan O’Flaherty, SM Philip Maher, SM Virginia Wilkinson and SM Marina Guilfoyle.

In 1954, the school commenced with 380 pupils in the first week, but due to the influx of New Australians, this soon rose to above 400. For the first time in Parish history, the devotion of Forty Hours took place with 3rd and 4th Class children forming a choir conducted by SM John B Dwyer. The altar was decorated with pink carnations and gypsofola.

On the 16 June 1954, Father Kiely celebrated his Silver Jubilee as a priest with a special Mass. The children’s choir sang beautifully and presented Father Kiely with a Spiritual Bouquet. Father thanked the children and they were then given a holiday.

Sacred Heart School has always been an integral part of the Parish. The Sisters of Charity have conducted the school since 1935 until the first lay Principal was appointed.

The history of the school is well covered in two publications available: the now famous “Golden Book”, covering the first 50 years of the school, and the subsequent book published in 1996 by Shirley Jackson as a tribute to the achievements of the school since 1986.

Principals of Sacred Heart School
1935-41 Sr M Hubert
1941 -42 Sr M Syra
1943-46 Sr M Brigid
1946-52 Sr M Marcian
1953-54 Sr M Loyola
1955-60 Sr M Frances Therese
1961 – 66 Sr M Marie Bourke
1967-72 Sr Marina Ward
1973-78 Sr Mary Maquire
1979-85 Sr Enid Doherty
1986-87 Sr Margaret Valentine
1988-96 Shirley Jackson
1997- Sybil Dickens


The following article was included in the special publication that marked the 25th Anniversary of our new Church in 1986. It gives an interesting insight to the changes in Liturgy, especially in relation to the outcomes of Vatican II.

“The liturgy that was celebrated in our Church in 1961 is outwardly very different from the liturgy we celebrate in 1986. There have been many changes in the liturgy since the time of the Apostles, but basic elements have never changed. The Word of God and the Sacrament of the Eucharist have always been central to the Mass.

In 1961, the Mass was celebrated in Latin, according to the Roman Missal of Pious V, set down in 1570. In 400 years, the Mass changed very little. The priest faced the altar with his back to the people. The emphasis was on prayerful devotion and reverence for the Blessed Eucharist. There was an element of mystery in the liturgy, a sense of being removed from the everyday world. The liturgy had a beauty and solemnity about it, which is never forgotten. It gave Catholics their identity as people who possessed something very precious.

In 1963, Pope John XXIII called the Second Vatican Council. The Bishops at that Council reconsidered many aspects of Catholic life. The first document they produced was Sacrosanctum Concilium on the sacred liturgy. This fact highlights the importance of the liturgy in Catholic life. Vatican II began the process that gave us the liturgy we know today.

The liturgy we celebrate in 1986 is not a complete break with the past. The essential elements of the Mass – the Word of God and the Sacrament of the Eucharist, remain. There is a new emphasis on full and active participation by all members of the community. The most obvious change is the use of English, or the native language of the congregation. This allows each particular group to express its faith in its own culture more freely and fully. Our own experience of the various language Masses in out Church shows very clearly that we are united in one faith and one Eucharist, no matter what language we use.

The liturgy has always been a focus of our lives as Catholics. It expresses the way that we meet God in our everyday life, and therefore, each celebration is unique and special. We know that the externals of the Mass have changed, and may continue to change, but we also know that its essential meaning will never change. We gather together to praise and thank Jesus Christ, to ask His forgiveness, to listen to His Word, to receive Him into our hearts and to share His love with our sisters and brothers. ” (Author unknown).


Parish 2000 examined the needs of Sacred Heart Parish and its vision for the future. A Liturgy Committee was one of the recommendations. This required interested parishioners to work closely with the clergy to develop our liturgical celebrations. Initially, formal meetings were scheduled on a regular basis. The Committee planned ahead and shared the work necessary to develop meaningful participation in the Liturgy by all parishioners.

Some of the developments have come about by a sharing of ideas amongst parishioners, through readings about liturgy, and through the willingness of parishioners with a wide variety of talents to participate.

Consider some of the ideas that have been brought into practice.

Commentators and Readers are rostered at weekend Masses. They have been commissioned to prepare and present their readings in a prayerful manner. Have you noticed the recent development where Readers now remain at the altar until the conclusion of the Gospel Reading? This was a result of comments from Parishioners who reflected on the unity of the Readings and made a suggestion for such a development.

Planning is intensified for special occasions. Notices are prepared at Christmas and Easier time so that parishioners are made aware of times of Masses and Reconciliation. Perhaps you may have participated in reaching non-practising Catholics in our Parish, by dropping such notices into letterboxes or delivering them personally, thus extending the invitation to be part of liturgical celebrations. Banners are organised or created so we are immediately aware of themes and events in the liturgical calendar.

The Liturgy team is not a separate entity, but works in collaboration with the whole Parish. Outdoor Masses have been held in our school grounds. Consider the Sacred Heart Feast Day Mass which was a concelebrated Mass which brought out multicultural groups together to pray and worship in unity.

The Year of the Family Mass brought us together to pray and focus on our individual families, as well as our belonging to the family of Christ. Later as a Parish family, we enjoyed the food which had been organised for us all to share, and to encourage us to stay and enjoy each other’s company and stories.

Mothers’ Day brings a greater awareness of Mary our Mother. Mothers of various ages are encouraged to participate in the procession which leads to the crowning with flowers of the Statue of Mary. In various years, mothers have been presented with holy cards, medallions, book marks, as a memento of this special day.

Australia Day and ANZAC Day are also given special attention. Who can forget the church full of gum trees and native flowers or the sound of the Last Post with the Australian Flag prominently displayed.

Lent and Advent receive special consideration with banners displayed either on the walls or on the Altar. Parishioners have become more involved with Liturgy by taking an active role in processions, readings and activities throughout the Mass. The school children have always been encouraged to participate and they have frequently added that “extra” atmosphere to our special events.

At Christmas time, the Advent Candle, the Jesse Tree and crib are also used effectively as liturgical symbols. The Jesse Tree holds symbols which link our Church history. It has also become a focus for the St Vincent de Paul Society who place tags on the tree as a reminder of the needs of others at this time, and parishioners have responded with donations of money and goods.

Organists and the choir encourage us to participate through music, and hymns are selected to develop the themes of the Eucharistic celebrations. The screen, the use of large print on overheads and the purchase of hymn books have been considered thoughtfully so that they will assist the congregation to become involved.

The Liturgy Team, guided by the clergy, develops an awareness of our*shared experience when we come together for liturgical celebrations.

A special liturgy celebrating the fact that we are truly “One Family” through the gift of Baptism.


The post war migration of the early 1950’s brought about 60,000 Polish refugees to the shores of New South Wales. Most were accommodated in the outlying migrant camps of Bathurst, Parkes, Greta, etc. From there, the great majority of males were sent to various locations within the state, to fulfil obligatory two-year government work contracts, a condition of their admittance into the country.

A substantial number of Poles were, however, also housed in the migrant accommodation centres of South West Sydney, including Cabramatta and Villawood. it was natural for these people to settle in the area, once they had financially ‘landed on their feet’. The word soon went out to their ‘country cousins’ of this ‘Little Poland’ in the ‘big smoke’, where friends and relatives were putting down roots.

As individual work contracts were gradually fulfilled, a steady trickle of Poles began to arrive from the country camps, and, by 1956, about 700 had made Cabramatta and it’s surrounding districts, their home.

At first, the spiritual needs of these predominantly Catholic people were met on an ad-hoc basis by itinerant priests of various European nationalities. A regular monthly Sunday Mass for the Polish community was inaugurated at Sacred Heart towards the end of 1952, by Father Stanislaw Mika CSSR,.a Czech Redemptorist who also ministered to the refugees at the Villawood Migrant Hostel.

Father Mika was eventually joined by Father Franciszek Arciszewski CM, a Vincentian who also served a burgeoning Polish community at Ashfield. They alternated in celebrating what was to become the traditional 11.00 am weekly Sunday Mass for the Polish community at Sacred Heart. This arrangement could only ever be temporary however, and it soon became apparent that a permanent chaplain to the Polish community of Cabramatta would have to be found.

The man to take up the challenge was Father Sadok Mackowiak OP, a Dominican friar fresh from the missions in China. He celebrated his first Mass at Sacred Heart in January 1955, and was to remain chaplain to the Polish community for the next seven years. A teaching professor during the week at his Order’s seminary at Wahroonga, Father Sadok would travel to Cabramatta on the weekend, at first by train, and then later in the prized Hillman Minx purchased for him by his parishioners, to celebrate Mass for them on Sunday. With his white habit and matching, trim beard, Father Sadok cut an imposing figure in the church grounds. His impressive linguistic skills (he had a command of nine languages), also endeared him to people of other ethnic groups in the parish, whom he sought to assist at every opportunity.

Father Sadok set about building up the spiritual and community life of his fledgling flock with verve and vigour. One of his first initiatives was the institution of a Rosary Circle, members of which undertook to say a daily decade of the rosary for the specific and general needs of the local and wider church communities. The ambit of the Circle soon widened to embrace charitable works and fundraising activities. In 1959, after Father Sadok’s ministry was extended to include the parish of Fairfield, a second Rosary Circle was established there. Members of the two Circles were later to form the core of a joint Cabramatta/Fairfield Church Committee, which continues to serve the Polish people of both parishes to this day.

One of the highlights of the early years was the visit to Cabramatta in March 1958, of the Spiritual Guardian of Polish Emigrants, Archbishop Jozef Gawlina. The visit was a great boost to the morale of the Polish people, many of whom still bore the scars of World War II, deeply embedded in their consciousness. As a moving finale to the visit, the Archbishop administered the Sacrament of Confirmation to a large number of young adults, who had been deprived of the Sacrament in their younger years by the intervening war.

Father Sadok’s influence extended beyond the clerical. He was instrumental in establishing a branch of the Polish Association of New South Wales at Cabramatta in 1955 – indeed; he was to serve a term as its second president. He was also the driving force behind the building of White Eagle Hall at Canley Vale, home to the branch for the past 40 years, and latterly to its successor, the Polish Association of Cabramatta Inc. The hall also served for a time as a chapel for the celebration of the traditional Polish midnight Mass on Christmas Day, which drew a large congregation of not only Poles, but also people of other ethnic groups.

The original, wooden parish church at Sacred Heart was proving too small for the growing Catholic community of Cabramatta. Accordingly, in late 1959, the parish priest, Father D’Arcy O’Keeffe, put plans in place for the building of a new, modern brick church. The Polish community had previously joined in the Planned Giving Envelope Scheme, for the extension and upkeep of parish school facilities. It now enthusiastically supported and contributed to the Church Building Fund, which was incorporated into the Scheme.

At the request of Father Sadok, provision was made for the erection of a small chapel in the rear of the new church, which was to accommodate a picture of Our Lady of Czestochowa, the most revered of Polish Marian icons. The picture, painted in Poland and brought to Australia via Rome, where it was blessed by Pope John XXIII, was ceremoniously installed by Father Sadok, shortly after the consecration of the new church on Christmas Eve, 1961.

The chapel of Our Lady of Czestochowa is perhaps Father Sadok’s most lasting and symbolic legacy to the Polish, and indeed, wider Australian communities of Cabramatta. Over the years, the steps of her chapel have been worn thin by the knees of countless supplicants, seeking solace in the compassionate gaze of the “Black Madonna”.

For many years, the Poles of Cabramatta would carry the picture with pride in the Corpus Christi procession at Manly, where it always attracted special attention, and on various other feast days of the Polish religious calendar. A special note of appreciation must go to the Rosary Circle, which has been responsible for the upkeep and decoration of Our Lady’s picture and chapel over the years, a work it continues to this day.

It was not known at the time, but Father Sadok’s days as chaplain to the Polish communities of Cabramatta and Fairfield were numbered. Rome beckoned, and in October 1962, he was summoned to the eternal city by the Vicar General of the Dominican Order, to assist him in the administration of the Order’s houses in the Eastern Bloc. His departure was mourned by all. Father Sadok had nurtured his flock through difficult times, leaving a strong and vibrant community for his successor to inherit.

His successor was none other than Father Jozef Kolodziej SC, whose arrival on 26 October 1962 heralded a new era in the pastoral care of the Polish communities of Cabramatta and Fairfield. Indeed, it marked the beginning of the ministry to these parishes of the Society of Christ, a ministry which continues to this day, and which has since spread to Polish communities throughout Australia.

The Order of the Society of Christ was founded in 1932 at the behest of Pope Pius XI, by the then Primate of Poland, Cardinal August Hlond, for the express purpose of serving Polish emigrants around the world. It continues to carry out its mission to this very day, wherever there are Poles to be met.

Father Jozef, young and energetic, set to work with a will to build on the foundations laid by Father Sadok. As the Polish communities’ first ‘full-time’ chaplain, he was able to greatly expand and diversify his ministry, with home visits to his parishioners and the sick high on his list of priorities. He also took on the added responsibility of celebrating a periodic Sunday evening Mass for the Polish community of Liverpool, which was not to receive a chaplain of it’s own until 1984.

Father Jozef instituted a range of new devotions for his parishioners, including First Friday Masses, and devotions to Our Lady in May and October. He also introduced some traditional Polish devotions, such as the singing of the ‘Lamentations’ during Lent, and communal prayer for deceased relatives and friends of his parishioners during November. A further commemoration of the dead was the All Saints Day procession at Liverpool Cemetery. Traditional Polish festive ceremonies, such as the sharing of blessed eggs at Easter and blessed wafers at Christmas, became annual events at White Eagle Hall.

The hail had indeed become the hub of Polish community life in the area, with people attending functions and events from all over Sydney and beyond. There was rarely a weekend without a dance or fund raising event of some description. Indeed, the motor car used by Father Jozef was funded from the proceeds of dances organised by the church committee.

Among the Polish organisations who regularly used the hall was the Polish Saturday School, which had recently moved its classes there from Sacred Heart. The school had been established as early as 1951, to provide children with basic Polish language skills, as well as a grounding in the history, geography and cultural traditions of the mother country. Father Jozef was a regular visitor to the school, providing the children with religious instruction.

Father Jozef also initiated a religious discussion group for older youth, which met regularly at the hall on Friday evenings. Friday night was also dance practice time at the hall for ‘Kujawy’, the Polish Association’s folkloric dance ensemble. Established in 1956, the ensemble performed at many venues around the state, including a number of appearances at Sacred Heart. A highlight was its performance in 1967 on the Bobby Limb “Sound of Music” television show.

Another group to use the hall for practice was the Polish church choir, which was formed by Father Jozef in 1963. It grew quite accomplished under his direction, and performed at many social events, as well as leading the congregation in singing at Mass.

Father Jozef, noted for his own silky-smooth baritone, also honed the singing skills of the Polish Scout Troop ‘Polesie’, which had its headquarters at White Eagle Hall. Father Jozef was the troop’s chaplain for many years, accompanying it on many of its camps and bivouacs. He was eventually to be honoured for his work by the Polish Scouting Association, which bestowed on him the rank of Commissioner.

The contribution of all these organisations in perpetuating Polish culture and heritage in the area cannot be underestimated. Their active participation in the many National Day celebrations held at White Eagle Hall over the years speaks loudly of their commitment and dedication.

The year 1965 heralded the 10th Anniversary of the Rosary Circle at Cabramatta. To mark the occasion, a huge wooden rosary was commissioned, which has been carried in procession by Rosary Circle members on many feast days, including the Corpus Christi procession, first at Manly, and more recently at Our Lady of Czestochowa War Memorial Chapel, Marayong.

1966 was also a year of celebrations – for one person, and for a whole people. The one person was none other than the parish priest of Sacred Heart, Father D’Arcy O’Keeffe, who celebrated his Silver Jubilee of priesthood that year. He was congratulated on behalf of the Polish community by Father Jozef during Sunday Mass, and presented with a gift of green vestments by the Rosary Circle.

Perhaps of more moment, in a symbolic sense, and in the sheer span of time it represented was the celebration in the same year of 1000 years of Polish Christianity. To mark the occasion, the Primate of Poland, Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski, made a gift of a copy of the picture of Our Lady of Czestochowa to the Poles of Australia and New Zealand. Blessed en route from Poland by Pope John XXIII, the picture travelled all over Australia and New Zealand, wherever there was a Polish community to be found. Locally, the picture was carried in procession from Our Lady of the Rosary, Fairfield, to Sacred Heart, where it remained for a whole week, during which a mission was held. A moving finale to the picture’s sojourn at Sacred Heart was another procession through the streets of Cabramatta, during which the picture changed hands four times, with groups of women, men, girls and boys taking turns to carry it. Following its final visitation of a Polish community in Australia, the picture was ceremoniously installed in Our Lady of Czestochowa War Memorial Chapel, Marayong, where it occupies pride of place above the altar.

In February 1968, the Poles of Cabramatta were blessed with another visit by the Spiritual Guardian of Polish Emigrants, this time in the person of Bishop Wladyslaw Rubin, who had taken over the posting following the death of Archbishop Gawlina. The Bishop celebrated a special Mass at Sacred Heart for the Polish youth of the area, after which he was welcomed to a function in his honour at White Eagle Hall.

With its use of the new church by the Polish community came a shared responsibility for its upkeep. The Poles readily applied themselves to church cleaning duties after their First Friday masses, which they continue to do to this day. Father Jozef led by example, plying away with a mop, with his sleeves rolled up and a bucket in tow.

Eventually, Father Jozef’s sleeves were to be rolled down for the last time. News of his impending move to a new parish in Brisbane in 1971 was greeted with as much sadness as Father Sadok’s departure, nine years earlier. In 1998, Father Jozef was to make a brief return to his ‘stamping ground’, to preach the Lenten homilies at Our Lady of the Rosary, Fairfield. He was greeted warmly by many of his former parishioners from both Fairfield and Cabramatta, with whom he relived many fond memories.

Father Jozef was followed by a succession of priests of the Society of Christ; each of whom has brought his own special charisma to the ministry entrusted to him. These chaplains have been, in order of succession:

Rev Fr Miroslaw Gebicki sc (1971 -72)
Rev Fr Stanislaw Marut sc (1972-74)
Rev Fr Kazimierz Bojda sc (1974-81)
Rev Fr Maksimilian Szura sc (1981 -87)
Rev Fr Antoni Szewczyk sc (1987-89)
Rev Fr Mieczyslaw Kolodziej sc (1989-91)
Rev Fr Jacek Cichy sc (1991 -98)
Rev Fr Rafal Rucinski sc (1998-)

Mindful of the magnitude of its mission, and in faithful response to its motto- “All for God, and for the Polish Emigration”, successive post-war Superiors General of the Society of Christ have sought to acquaint themselves first hand with the needs of Polish communities in their care. Their periodic visits to Cabramatta (the most recent being that of Father Tadeusz Winnicki in 1998) have been greatly appreciated by clergy and laity alike.

Perhaps the most momentous and memorable visit by a Polish church dignitary to Cabramatta has been that of Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, in February 1973. Then Metropolitan Archbishop of Krakow, the future Pope John Paul II was in Australia for the International Eucharistic Congress, being held in Melbourne that year. Whilst in the country, he took the opportunity of visiting several Polish communities in various states. His meeting with the Poles of Cabramatta and other areas of Sydney at White Eagle Hall was a moving occasion, with many people struck by the sentient power of his personality. In a poignant speech, the Cardinal communicated his understanding of the many problems faced by the Polish people in their adopted country. He urged them to keep the faith that had supported them through years of struggle and adversity, during the Nazi occupation of their homeland. The Cardinal later moved freely amongst those in attendance, showing himself to be a true ‘man of the people’, with whom persons of all age groups and from all walks of life could feel at ease.

With the passage of time, the pews at Sacred Heart during the Sunday Polish mass began to show some empty spaces. Age had begun to take its toll on the early migrants, whilst their children had mostly assimilated into the ‘Aussie’ fold, or had moved out of the neighbourhood to other parishes. The spaces were soon to be filled however, with a new wave of ‘émigrés’, spawned by the political upheavals in Poland of the early 1980’s. Mostly young and educated, the needs of these people were vastly different to those of the post-war migrants. With their profound understanding of the political system which had sought to shape the lives of these people, the priests of the Society of Christ were well equipped to assist the new arrivals with the inevitable ‘culture shock’ which awaited them. Through their publication of the monthly ‘Polish Catholic Review’, the Society was also well placed to communicate the practical needs of these people to those in a position to render assistance.

Many of the new immigrants had young children, for whom they were anxious to find a means of furthering their Polish language skills. With the gradual assimilation into Australian society of the post-war migrants’ own children, the local Polish Saturday School had fallen somewhat into decline. It was now to be dusted off and given a new lease of life. Through the efforts of Chaplain Father Maksimilian Szura, and the generosity of parish priest Father Pat McAuliffe, the school was re-established in 1984 at Sacred Heart, where it continues to operate to this day. In the same year, the school took as its namesake and patron Father Jerzy Popieluszko, the Solidarity priest murdered by the Polish Communist authorities for his outspokenness against human rights abuses. The Polish chaplains continue to provide the school’s children with religious instruction, including their preparation for the Sacraments of Holy Communion and Confirmation. Indeed, 1984 saw the first group of Polish children receive their first Holy Communion at Sacred Heart, in a moving ceremony during the 11.00 am Sunday Mass. A special honour was the Confirmation in 1988 of a group of Polish children by the visiting Primate of Poland, Cardinal Jozef Glemp, at Our Lady of Czestochowa War Memorial Chapel, Marayong.

Father Maksimilian was also not forgetful of the needs of the older generation. Of all the migrant nationalities in the state, the Poles constitute the highest percentage of persons aged 70 years and over. Mindful of the loneliness and isolation being experienced by many of these people, Father Maksimilian determined to form a Seniors Club, which could act as a permanent point of contact and support for them. Established in 1987, the Club today has over 100 members, who meet every week at White Eagle Hall for a program of games and various activities. A hot European style lunch is also made available on the premises, for a very affordable price. Through the years, the Polish chaplains have played an integral role in the life of the club, providing spiritual and emotional support for its members. Many a member’s heart has been warmed by the sight of our current chaplain, Father Rafal, moving among tables with plates of hot food in his hands, which he places before them with great dexterity, before sitting down to a well-earned repast himself.

In 1988, the spiritual life of the Polish Community was further enhanced by the introduction of a monthly novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Help (including Mass and litany), by Father Antoni Szewczyk. A further devotion was added in 1992 by Father Jacek Cichy, when he introduced the singing of Vespers at Our Lady of the Rosary, Fairfield, also on a monthly basis The service has proved popular to the parishioners of Fairfield and Cabramatta alike.

The Polish community has also participated enthusiastically in the devotional life of the wider Australian community. Devotions that proved popular to the Polish community in the early years of the parish were the Sunday evening Rosary and Benediction, as well as the Thursday night Novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Help. The “40 Hours Devotion” was also well attended by the Poles, as were the Lenten missions, preached regularly by the Redemptorist Fathers.

In more recent years, the Polish together with the other ethnic groups of the parish have joined with the wider Australian community to celebrate the Feast of the Sacred Heart, in what has become a truly ‘multicultural’, outdoor, liturgical event. The spirit of mutual fellowship and cooperation experienced there has also been evidenced in the work of the Parish Council, and in the various lay ministries of the parish. Father Rafal and Acolyte Joe Cichocki represent the Polish community on the Council, while a number of parishioners of Polish background are actively involved in the various committees and ministries which support it.

The contribution of the Polish altar servers also deserves special mention. From the earliest days of the Polish community’s presence in the parish, the Polish altar servers assisted in all forms of parish worship, including daily early morning Masses and evening devotions. They also assisted at Baptisms, weddings and funerals, as well as at Holy Week celebrations and the Lenten missions. A spirit of camaraderie developed among the various teams of altar servers, which was reflection of their commitment and dedication to their ministry. This spirit was always noticeable at the annual altar servers’ picnic, which was traditionally held on St Patrick’s Day. The picnic was organised by the assistant priest of the parish and was always looked forward to eagerly by all altar servers. Also much appreciated have been the various outings and summer camps organised for their altar servers by the Polish chaplains of recent years. The number of Polish altar servers rose to record levels under the chaplaincy of Father Kazimierz Bojda, with as many as twenty altar servers assisting at any one Mass. In more recent years, the number of Polish altar servers has been augmented by the welcome introduction of girls into the ministry.

The assistance rendered the Polish chaplain and his congregation over the years by Father Pat McAuliffe and his team of priests cannot be left unmentioned. Of particular note are the many hours spent in the confessional during the 11.00am Sunday Mass by former assistant priest, Father Jozef Kolodziej, while his successor, Father Jerzy Chrzczonowicz, has made many welcome visits to sick Polish people in the district. Father Pat himself rarely misses an opportunity to assist in the distribution of Holy Communion to the Polish congregation during Sunday Mass. His reassuring presence reminds us that the Parish of the Sacred Heart is in good hands.

As we celebrate this Golden Jubilee of our parish, the Polish community joins with its chaplain, Father Rafal Rucinski, in congratulating our fellow parishioners on their 50 years of service to God and the people of Cabramatta.

We pledge our continued loyalty and support to Father Pat and his team of priests, and to all our fellow parishioners, with whom together we constitute the Family of God at Sacred Heart.

Our Lady of Czestochowa


The order of acolyte is the oldest in the Roman Church. The role of the Acolyte lapsed for a number of years until the Second Vatican Council when, at the request of many pastors, it was re-examined.

During the early years of Cabramatta as a faith community, priests attended to the spiritual needs of parishioners. Firstly, the priests of Liverpool travelled to Cabramatta a weekly basis to celebrate Mass on Sundays. When the Parish of the Sacred Heart was established, the pastoral role was the responsibility of the Parish Priest and any assistant priests that were in residence.

With the growth of the parish, the spiritual needs of parishioners also increased and it was evident that additional ministers were required to assist the priests in providing spiritual support.

In October 1978, His Lordship, Bishop Cremin, installed the first acolytes into the Ministry of Acolyte. They were: Ian Dickson, Brian Hislop, Paul Newell and George Sepulueda. The men chosen for this vocation were those identified by the Parish Priest, Fr. McAuliffe, as displaying a reverence appropriate for the role. Acolytes are trained for the position by attending a series of talks given by the priest or participate in regional courses, upon successful completion, the candidates are installed as Acolytes by either the priest or a bishop (if available). The Acolytes duty is to attend to the service of the altar. To offer assistance to the deacon or priest and to distribute the Eucharist to the faithful. The faithful include the sick either in their home or in hospital. These functions are similar to those carried out in the early days of the church.

The spiritual needs of the parish continued to grow and by 1990, Eucharistic Ministers were introduced. These ministers supplemented the role of the Acolytes and now assist during Mass and visit the elderly and sick. Every Saturday and Sunday morning, the Eucharist is taken to these people in their homes, in nursing homes and in hospital.

Acolytes and Eucharistic Ministers are special people, of all nationalities, who give generously of their time to serve their fellow parishioners. It is to these people, both past and present, that I would like to thank of behalf of the Parish.

The challenges in the future are yet to be identified but I am sure that the good work of these ministers will continue. As they have done in the past, and with the support and encouragement of the priests and parishioners, these ministers will attend to the spiritual needs of the parish.

On a personal note, I would like to thank all these people for their time and effort, for their support and encouragement, and trust that they will continue to do God’s work.

Bill Downey

Head Acolyte

The following list represents those who have been commissioned as Acolytes and Special Ministers, either at Cabramatta or elsewhere, who have served the Parish:



Some 14 years ago, the assistant priest at the time, Fr Chris Toohey, had the idea of a Baptismal Team for the parish. He invited 18 parishioners to a meeting in the presbytery and although very excited, would not disclose what was to be discussed. Father Chris treated us all to a slide show accompanied by a commentary and background music. Following the slide show, we were all asked our thoughts on what Baptism meant to us and how each of us, as practising Catholics, fulfilled our roles within the Church as a family.

Given some time to think about the meeting, 16 of those originally present came back and established a team. A roster was made up with one male and one female (not a husband and wife), together with two women who provided a supper for all those present. Following the slide presentation, the supper provided the opportunity to talk to fellow parishioners on a more personal level. This Baptismal Preparation Night has become a monthly event. It ensures that those parents wanting to have their children Baptised at Cabramatta were aware that the welcoming of a new member into the house of God was a community affair, with support from parish members.

Some of the original team members have left and Father McAuliffe has found suitable replacements. There are still three of the original team members left today. Two of the original team have left the parish and have successfully established a similar team in their new parish.

The Baptismal Team continues with its work today with nine active members. I hope that the work started many years ago will continue and that more parishioners will undertake this task as the need dictates. Commitment to this programme within Sacred Heart Parish helps establish a link amongst parishioners and displays the true meaning of belonging to a Parish Family.

Pam Downey

As related in the Parish Bulletin, 10 January 1999, The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, the following update on the Baptismal Team is provided

“Congratulations, thanks and farewell to those team members who have moved out of the Parish. The team is down to ten (10)- Pat & Hal Baker, Lucy & Ray Bristow, Gail & Harold Zammit, Gloria Murphy, Carol Field, Francis Haller & Helen Leibrandt.

What do they do? Every first Friday of the month, they meet the young people who are asking to have their children join the family of the Church of Baptism. Usually 2 of the team pass on their experiences of Baptism, especially their own children’s Baptism and upbringing. Two others usually give a cup of tea and biscuits. But most importantly, the team mixes with the young people while the priest takes details for the Baptism. This part makes a huge impression on the young people. At the actual Baptism ceremony, they talk about the welcome they received from the team.”


Vietnam is a small country situated in South-East Asia. It has a population of approximately 70 million.

The events of 30 April 1975, the day when South Vietnam was occupied by Communist troops, resulted in all of Vietnam being ruled by a Communist Party, and had a terrible impact on the future of so many Vietnamese people.

Leaving behind relatives and property, more than one million people fled their country by any way they could. The threat of death at sea or in the deep jungle was accepted as a possibility in exchange for a free land to be found somewhere. However, only the fortunate ones survived and reached the sanctuary of a free country. From the first batch of refugees to arrive, the Australian Government accepted about 201 for resettlement. They arrived in Sydney in June 1975.

The formation of the Vietnamese Catholic Community in Sydney can be divided into three main stages as follows:

First Stage (1975 -1982)

The very early stage of the Vietnamese Catholic Community:

In the beginning, the first group of Vietnamese refugees were assisted by several Catholic priests, one among them was Father Joseph Nguyen Hoang Phuoc, a Vietnamese sent to study in Australia by the Vietnamese Catholic Church before the events of 30 April 1975. These priests were taking turns to celebrate Mass at the following migrant hostels: Cabramatta, East Hills; Westbridge; Endeavour and Fairy Meadow (Wollongong).

When the number of refugees increased rapidly, the need to organise a Vietnamese Catholic Community was considered and met promptly by the Australian Catholic Church. At the request of the late Cardinal James Freeman, Father Dinh Cong Uan from Noumea, New Caledonia, arrived in Sydney in October 1975.

In 1980, another Vietnamese priest came from America. Father Marco Tran An Thac was invited to come to Australia, to replace Father Dinh Cong Uan in his role as Chaplain for the Vietnamese Catholic Community; however, he only served the Community for a very short period.

In the meantime, a number of Vietnamese Brothers of De La Salle in Sydney were engaged eagerly in giving help to the Vietnamese people. On 17 December 1981, two priests with refugee status, Father John Tran Quang Thien and Father Dominic Nguyen Van Doi, came to settle in Sydney. They were promptly appointed by the Archdiocese of Sydney as Chaplains for the Vietnamese Catholic Community.

The Vietnamese settlers in Sydney were overjoyed and very conscious of the Divine’s hand in assisting them in their journey of Faith. The Mass and sacraments were continued at the migrant hostels and in the small St Anthony’s Church at Chester Hill on Saturday at 5pm.

Furthermore, in the length of time between 1975 to 1981, when there was no Chaplain coming to celebrate Mass and administer religious rites at different congregations, the Vietnamese Catholics, although they couldn’t understand English very well, continued to rush to local Churches to attend Mass and receive Holy Communion.

By the end of 1977, an official Committee of Representatives of the Vietnamese Catholics in Cabramatta area was elected and introduced to the Community on the Feast of Christ the King on 21 November 1977. The leader of this committee was Mr Lam Tien Hai; his assistant was Mr Dinh Van Cuong.

Second stage (1982 -1985)

The formation of the Vietnamese Catholic Community in the Sacred Heart Parish, Cabramatta:

In 1982, the Vietnamese Catholic Community and in its surrounding areas have been developed rapidly under the spiritual leadership of Father John Tran Quang Thien.

Vietnamese Mass commenced in Cabramatta Parish on 20 June 1982.

The St Anthony’s Church at Chester Hill couldn’t accommodate the increasing numbers of people attending Mass. Therefore, according to Mr Le Dang Can’s suggestion, Father John Tran Quang Thien tried to reach Father Patrick McAuliffe, the Parish Priest at Cabramatta, for permission to use the Sacred Heart Church for saying Mass in mother-tongue Vietnamese. Father McAuliffe agreed and extended a warm welcome.

Firstly, the Sunday Mass was celebrated in the Sacred Heart Church at 4:00pm. Afterwards, when St Anthony’s was totally closed, the Saturday evening Mass was moved to Cabramatta and started at 7:30pm. The Sunday congregation numbered from 600 to 850.

The Cabramatta “Our Lady of La Vang” Community was the  first Regional Community in the Archdiocese of Sydney, among the other 10 Regional Communities.

Third Stage Progressive Development:

How to prepare for this very important step?

Cardinal Edward Bede Clancy, Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Sydney, organised a three day retreat on 27, 28 and 29 December 1986, for the Vietnamese Chaplains. His Eminence joined in for all activities, conducted the Retreat, as well as chaired important meetings, in order to determine a new and more effective direction for the Vietnamese Community.

After this historical Retreat, an official Chaplains’ Team was formed on 5 January 1987, and composed of:

Principal Chaplain:       Father Dominic Nguyen Van Doi

Chaplains:                    Father John Tran Quang Thien

Father Joseph Vu Due Thong Father Joseph Nguyen Quang Thanh A short time after this reorganisation making, Father John Tran Quang Thien gave up his position as Chaplain and officially took up the position of Assistant Parish Priest of Balmain.

Since then, the Vietnamese Catholics have been integrating themselves properly into the mainstream of Parish life at Sacred Heart, Cabramatta.

During the second term (1988 – 1990), under Mr Dong Van An’s presidency for Cabramatta Regional Community:

In recognition and thanks to Our Holy Mother for the deliverance and safe resettlement of the Vietnamese Catholic refugees in Sydney, a space was provided by Father McAuliffe and the Parish Council to the Vietnamese Catholic Community for the erection of a special Shrine to Our Lady and Her Divine Child.

The statue in the Shrine, named MATER MISERICORDIAE in Latin, and ME TU Al in Vietnamese, was raised and blessed by Bishop David Cremin on 26 August 1990.

Vietnamese groups and organisations within the Parish include:

Legio Mariea

Dominican Laity

The Marian Family Devotion Prayer Groups of Our Lady

The Vietnamese Eucharistic Children Association Sydney/NSW “Our Queen of Peace” The Our Lady’s Choir

The Vietnamese Catholic Youth Association

The Cursillo Movement


In November of 1887, more than a century ago, Bishop Gianbattista Scalabrini, founder of the Scalabrini Fathers, responded to the cry of some of his emigrant faithful and founded the Congregation of the Scalabrini Missionaries.

The goal of the missionaries was to travel to the many parts of the world where Italians had migrated, understand their new found land, assist them with their many difficulties and help them keep their faith alive by celebrating Mass in their native tongue.

The missionaries first visited the South West of Sydney in 1975, After a period of experimentation in Liverpool, the provincial administration of the Scalabrini Fathers made the decision to assign two young Scalabrini Missionaries by the names of p Luciano Ferrecin and p Angelo Buffalo to the zone of Liverpool, Cabramatta, Moorebank, Mt Pritchard, Austral and Punchbowl.

With the approval of Father McAuliffe, p Angelo Buffalo celebrated the first Italian Mass at Sacred Heart, Cabramatta, in 1977. This 7.30am Sunday Mass was the start to the building of the Italian community in Cabramatta.

P Angelo commenced visiting as many Italian families as possible, informing them of the Scalabrini presence and their mission. This initiative and the celebration of Mass in Italian was enthusiastically welcomed. Attendance of the Mass was overwhelming, but moreover, activity groups started to sprout and old Italian traditions were revived.

The Italian Community in Cabramatta was born, coming together with a common purpose to reinvigorate the faith for all the elderly, who perhaps had lost touch as a result of the language barriers and to introduce the young to the Italian traditions and to participate in the work of the Sacred Heart Parish.

The pleasing aspect relating to the assemblage of the Italian Community was the willingness of many lay people to participate in a number of roles in order to ensure that the movement remained vibrant. The roles ranged from assisting the Scalabrini Fathers in the celebration of Mass, helping with the repairs, maintenance and cleaning needed in the Parish, to the baking of bread loaves during the celebration of Saint’s Feasts for blessing and distribution amongst parishioners in accordance with old Italian tradition.

The surprising and encouraging aspect of the assemblage was the number of young Italo- Australians embracing the Italian Mass and the activities of their parents and grandparents. Attendance of the Italian Mass by the young generation was encouraging and they were eager to participate. This eagerness culminated in the formation of a youth choir, which partook in the celebration of Mass and added passion by performing a number of traditional Italian hymns.

The participation by the young generation was the sign that something good was happening and that the Scalabrini mission was a success. The Italian youth was the go-between that facilitated the breaking of the cultural barriers that existed in Sacred Heart Parish. By playing common roles in both cultures and by understanding and explaining differences, they aided acceptance by the older generation and assimilation into one unified Parish.

The Scalabrini Fathers assigned to Cabramatta over the last twenty years have been in the main: p Angelo, p Vito, p Lauro, p Luigi and p Bruno. Each have played a vital role in their mission and have gained the respect and admiration of the Italian Community for their work. It must be said that the last ten years have seen a considerable change in the make-up of the Italian Community in Cabramatta. However, the core of the Italian Community is still present and the spirit to continue is as strong as it was some twenty years ago.

The reason we will survive is because we have the will to do so, but moreover, because the hard work has been done and a nexus has been built between the Italian Community and the rest of the community of Sacred Heart. We are one Parish.

For all this, we give thanks to God, to Father McAuliffe and to our Scalabrini Fathers who have assisted us and helped our community along this path.

Vicky Daniele


At the conclusion of the three year Parish 2000 renewal program, when parishioners had the opportunity to express different needs of our Parish through the medium of the Parish Assembly, a few members gathered together to review the final results. They felt that through this committee, Catholics living on the fringe could be reached.

The first meeting occurred in November 1993. Over the six years of operation, the Reaching Out committee has had 16 embers. Naturally, not all of them working at the same time. Presently, there are some on leave due to work or family commitments.

What have we achieved? Perhaps Catholics living on the fringe have not all been reached yet. Some have. We have the following results:

  • 3 bus trips to visit Mary McKillop’s Place at North Sydney
  • 2 Reflection Days led by Father Chris Toohey
  • Morning tea for the elderly
  • Organised lifts to Mass for some who have difficulty getting there on their own
  • Celebrated Australia Day with damper and ANZAC biscuits after Masses
  • Invited all babies baptised during the year (since 1994) to a special Mass the following year, to consecrate them to Our Lady
  • Offered 4 trips ranging from Canberra to Cronulla and tours to St Mary’s Cathedral and Parliament House, Sydney
  • Prepared Parish Information booklets for new parishioners, parents of new children to the school and those who come to prepare for Baptism
  • Encouraged parishioners to join groups for the annual Lenten Programme, and finally
  • Invited the Year 12 students to a special Mass before their examinations commenced. Obviously, there is more work to be done and this can be achieved by more members joining this group. You are most welcome to come to any of our meetings which are always advertised in the Weekly Bulletin. You are equally invited to join any of the outings or activities, which are organised for you, the Sacred Heart parishioners.


The Parish was offering something for toddlers, teenagers and ladies, so why could it not offer something for the “more mature” parishioners?

In the late 1970’s, Father McAuliffe advertised a meeting for these parishioners, invited the late Lorraine Downes and Serena Breese to meet one Wednesday afternoon in the hall, and encouraged them to start a group. There the Friendship Club was born.

Joe Weir offered his services to lead the group. This was a great scoop as his leadership in the “housie world” from which he had recently resigned, was well known. Wednesday afternoon was to remain for this get-together. The members would meet to chat over beautiful food and a cuppa and plan for the future: Sunday outings; lunches at the Catholic Club; different day trips (one of them being the Hawkesbury Mail Run); and much more. Games of Bingo and Carpet Bowls were also introduced.

Later, Bernie Hill was the caller of the ever popular Bingo with cards which became the most regular game played. Bernie was extremely lucky to have some twenty ladies listen to his every word. He did great work to keep the members motivated and the club gong. (These are just some members that could be remembered: Ursula and Em Dixon; Sister Mary; Molly Denton; Eileen Perram; Ada Verhovc; Julie Creary; Carmel Zanki).

Due to some changes to the school curriculum, the hall was needed and the Friendship Club was asked to change its meeting day to Thursday afternoons. As some parishioners left the Parish or became too ill to attend, the number of members decreased and so the group felt it would be more comfortable to meet in the Resource Room. All visitors, including those who chose to do the Lenten Programme with them, were spoilt by the welcome they received.

The members chose to end their meetings when the numbers were too low in 1995.

LEGION OF MARY (To Jesus through Mary)

In 1961, Father O’Keefe encouraged a Praesidium of the Legion of Mary to commence in the Parish. They met on Thursday nights after the weekly Novena to Our Lady. The Praesidium was dedicated to Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. Bill Stewart was the first President with Doug McConnell as Secretary, Pat Koopman, Pat Stewart, Kath O’Connor, Gordon Watson, Mr and Mrs Houkstra were amongst the first members. Father O’Keefe was present at all meetings, but once month, priests from nearby parishes, Father O’Sullivan and Father Spillane, also came.

When Father Neil Brown came into our Parish as a new curate, he asked permission from Father O’Keefe to form an afternoon Praesidium of the Legion of Mary. This was far more suitable for those who had young families. On 21 May 1963, the first meeting was held in the old church was now the school and Parish hall. At the back of the hall was a beautiful picture of Our Lady of Victories and that was chosen to be the name of the new Praesidium.

Twelve parishioners came together for the meeting, but only 10 remained. The meeting commenced with The Rosary followed by a spiritual reading and a discussion on future plans. A selection of the officers was made and the Magnificat was recited. All present received a Handbook from which a page was to be studied each week. Father Brown addressed the aims of the Legion and explained the work to be undertaken, ie, “Jesus through Mary”. Work for the week was allocated and the meeting ended.

Over the years, this represents the achievements of the Legion:

  • Visit the homes of all Catholics and the elderly in our Parish
  • Altar cleaning
  • Visit Nursing Homes and attend the Masses
  • Catechist work
  • Tuck Shop work in the school
  • Washing, ironing, mending and making clothes for the Misions
  • Visit the Russian Nursing Home
  • Visit new babies and give them Miraculous Medals
  • Lead the Parish with The Rosary during May and October
  • Hosted the Western Area of the Acies Ceremony about 4 times
  • Promoted and found homes for the statue of Mary for saying The Rosary throughout the Parish
  • Washing and ironing the Altar linen
  • Meals on Wheels

During the last five years, many members have passed away. For the moment, the Legion is resting. When the last surviving member, Pat Rae, hears the words “In my father’s house there are many mansions”, she thinks of the many people who gave happiness and joy to others through their work and so must be in one of God’s mansions.


Many years of hospital visitations have seen many changes. Patients come and go, staff change, but our work never changes.

We have visited Canley Vale and Lansdowne Nursing Homes every week. Mass on the first Friday of every month at Canley Vale Nursing Home and at Lansdowne on the third Thursday of the month. We also celebrate Christmas and Easter with Mass and morning tea is provided by the SVDP ladies. This helps make the occasion very special.

Both nursing homes have made extensive renovations over the years to accommodate the growing needs of the aged within the districư

The number of patients has escalated in the last couple of years, making our job that little bit harder.

It seems so long ago since the first team started with Lorraine Downes, Nora Thackery, Marie Benson, Ann-Maree Olsson and Dawn Olsson.

Staff have been very cooperative with us and we join in most of their activities.

Our work is both rewarding and special which is why we keep going week after week.


We all know that our Parish of Cabramatta is dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The Sacred Heart has been a popular focus of Catholic devotion since the eighteenth century, however, the cult of devotion to the Sacred Heart can be traced back much further in the history of the Church.

The basic elements of devotion to the Sacred Heart can be found in Scripture which is the story of God’s everlasting and saving love for his people summed up in Jesus Christ, the man who is God. In John 7:37-39, we are told, “From his heart shall flow fountains of living water”. The piecing of Jesus’ side before his death on the Cross is a symbol of the spirit of love being poured out on God’s people.

The early Fathers of the Church and the theologians of the Middle Ages had a devotion to the “Wound in the Side” and the “Sacred Heart”. St Bonaventure (1217-1274) wrote two beautiful treatises on the Sacred Heart. Until the visions of St Margaret Mary Alacoque (1673-1675), devotion to the Sacred Heart was confined to a small number of mystics and saints. The visions of St Margaret Mary popularised the devotion and it spread to the Universal Church.

St Margaret Mary Allocate was a Visitandine nun. While in the Convent of the Visitation at Paray-le-Monial in Central France, she received several revelations of the Sacred Heart. The first in December 1673 and the final one eighteen months later. The visions revealed to her the form of devotion to the Sacred Heart most familiar and popular in the Church. The chief features of the devotion are Holy Communion on First Fridays and the Holy Hour on Thursdays and the Feast of the Sacred Heart. The most prominent aspect of devotion to the Sacred Heart is an emphasis on a spirit of reparation and penance, with devotion to the Eucharist. St Margaret Mary’s visions were treated at first with scepticism by Church authorities. She died in 1690 and the devotion to the Sacred Heart was not officially recognised until 75 years after her death. St Margaret Mary Alacoque was canonised by Benedict XV in 1920.

The Feast of the Sacred Heart was first authorised by Clement XIII in 1795. It is observed on the Friday after Corpus Christi. In recent times, Popes have promoted devotion to the Sacred Heart and it was common to dedicate churches, parishes, even the whole world to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In the revised Roman Calendar of 1969, the Feast of the Sacred Heart is classed as a Solemnity of Our Lord.


Hal and Pat Baker (nee Hart) enrolled at Sacred Heart School in 1948 and 1951 respectively. Hal had moved from Surry Hills with parents Jack and Mary in 1945 and Pat was born in Cabramatta to Tom and Mary.

Memories of their years as members of the Catholic community of Sacred Heart include:

  • Initial fear of the nuns in black habits, soon replaced by adoration, especially for Sr Virginia, Sr Cacilda, Sr Venantius, Sr Mark, Sr Phillip and Sr Marcian.
  • Lessons in the 1935 classroom with reading of the alphabet, arithmetic and hymns, all taught from linen charts hung on a large easel. Religion was taught from the green Catechism.
  • The stand of five paperbark trees outside the old classroom, greatly appreciated by the boys as a good source of hairy itchy grubs to be placed on the heads and shoulders of the girls with spectacular results.
  • The old timber church with its two sets of large folding doors which divided it into three classrooms.
  • The boys (Hal included) digging booby-trap holes under the church and enticing others, male and female, to chase them between the piers in the hope of snaring them in their traps.
  • First Communion training with strict instructions that the host was not to touch the teeth and should it stick to the roof of the mouth, could only be dislodged with the tongue.
  • Hal’s First Communion in 1949, the first as a parish, with a boy and girl communicant dressed in white, leading our procession, carrying the Communion Banner depicting the Last Supper as they made their way to the old 1935 classroom for the Communion Breakfast, hosted by Fr Michael Kiely.
  • Fr Kiely residing at the old Cabramatta Hotel (Tooheys) until moving to the Bartley Street cottage in 1951. Fr Kiely walked the district visiting Catholic homes until the licensee of the hotel, Mrs Maud Toohey and husband Septimus Toohey, bought him his black FJ Holden.
  • The old inkwell timber desks with folding tops which were lowered on Friday afternoons so people could kneel for weekend Masses and the coloured matting rolled down the centre aisle before Mass, with stools at the back of the sixth class girls’ classroom for the choir members to stand on.
  • The majority of men wearing suits and ties to Mass and everyone’s head turning to see the various hat styles worn by the ladies and girls whose heads had to be covered for Mass.
  • Masses said in Latin by Fr Kiely with his back to the congregation
  • Kneeling at cloth-draped altar rails to receive communion
  • Altar boys striking the gong with gusto (prior to bells being introduced) at the Consecration and wearing reversible collars (black one side – red the other) on their cassocks for ordinary or Requiem Mass.
  • Frosted glass side-hopper windows on the church with the heavy timber framed Stations of the Cross around the walls with a large framed picture of Mary on the rear wall.
  • Parish picnics at Hollywood Picnic Grounds on the George’s River.

The confessional varying between the Sacristy and the nuns’ meal-room and finally in the 60’s, to the rear entry vestibule area of the old church. A heavy green curtain from floor to ceiling divided the altar from the first classroom.

  • Ringing of the bells at noon each day bringing classes to a silent standstill whilst the Angelas was said.
  • Friday Benediction at which boys not normally enrolled as Sunday Altar Boys, had the opportunity to act as Altar Servers.
  • Baptismal Font at the rear vestibule of the old church for all Baptisms.
  • Church volunteer, Mrs Rose, training and leading the choir, teaching singing and piano and making everyone feel loved and special.
  • Mr Pat Koppman washing the Parish cars every Saturday afternoon while priests heard confessions.
  • The Tabernacle enclosed by a circular white curtain on drawstrings.
  • Parish school balls in costume, elves, fairies, etc. At the Butterfly Hall in Fairfield and later in the Town Hall, Cabramatta, with local dry cleaning proprietor, Mr Roy McKay as MC.
  • Silver Circle fundraiser with an opportunity of winning ten pounds (£10) for the last three numbers of each Monday’s winning lottery for a two shilling (2/-) donation.
  • Gambling Night fundraisers with pea soup and barbecued sausages for the men at Canley Heights residence, the home of Jean McKibben.
  • Parish group Masses with their banners and standards proudly displayed at the ends of church pews; Holy Name Society on the 1st Sunday – Sacred Heart Sodality on the 2nd and Children of Mary on the 3rd.
  • Fr Kiely’s favourite joke from the pulpit when extra funds were needed: An old lady took her grandson to Mass and at the first collection, gave him a halfpenny to put on the plate and put one herself. At the second collection, she gave him a penny for the plate and put on one herself. On the way home, she complained that the church was too hot, the seats and kneelers too hard, the choir badly off key and the sermon boring. “But granny”, said the boy, “you can’t expect too much for a lousy thruppence”. (Irish pronunciation).
  • Fr Kiely expelling (never carried out) most of the third grade boys for their dirt bomb war under the old grandstand in CabraVale Park where we believed (wrongly) that bodies of the World War II soldiers from Cabramatta were buried.
  • Parish Balls at the Civic Hall, Cabramatta, bring your own Esky and footwarmers. Great nights with the hall always packed to the rafters.
  • First Friday Masses by Fr Dennis Ryan said in a record 29 minutes gave those attending secondary colleges at Fairfield, Liverpool, Auburn, Lidcombe, Parramatta, Ashfield and strathfield, time to catch their trains and make it to school on time.
  • CYO meetings with Fr Ron Hickman in the old cottage, later named “Hickman House” and the great bus picnics to Thirroul Beach, Carss Park, stanwell Park and the taxing Burning Palms bushwalk.
  • CYO Sports Nights and Judo classes by Leo Maloney on mats from the maternity wards of St Margaret’s hospital, held together in a hardwood frame constructed by Hal.
  • CYO members Housie sellers’ teams under the charge of Mr Joe Weir. If you were alive and breathing on a Monday night, there were no excuses for non-attendance. Should you fail to appear on time, Joe would arrive at your home in his car and personally deliver you to the Housie game at the Civic Hall.
  • Church fundraising Fashion Parades in the brick infant classrooms facing Bartley street at which Pat and her younger sister, Sue Hart, along with Livia Favott, June and Colleen Forbes, Rosemary Zammit, Helen Carrick and others, modelled “Rumpus” fashion clothes and sportswear arranged by Phonse Zammit. Later parades at the Cabramatta Belvedere Ballrooms.]
  • Teenage boys jockeying to sit near local MD, Dr Fidelis John Musso, in order to see him place a ten pound note on the second collection. (A small fortune in the late fifties).
  • Watching the young ladies of our parish being presented at their debuts at Parish balls following their expert training by Mrs Shirley Kelly over many years.
  • Our marriage by Father D O’Keefe, the first nuptial Mass with a Papal Blessing in the new church on 24 April 1965 and having to leave the altar and sign the Marriage Register in the Sacristy – a system now obsolete.
  • The Baptism, Communion and Confirmation of our children, David and Kerrie-Ann Baker. Their participation in Catechist Team helper Groups – APO Group – SPRC – Netball – Basketball – Football Teams and as debutante instructors for Parish Balls between 1988 – 1993.
  • Pat’s pride in being a foundation member of the Ladies St Vincent de Paul.
  • Our own involvement in Children of Mary – CYO – Junior St Vincent de Paul – Housie Teams – 31 Club – Prayer Group run by Mrs Lorraine Smith and Sr Kerry Barrass – as Committee Members for Netball and Rugby League – Speakers for First Communion classes – Foundation members of Baptismal Team – special Minister – Canteen Worker – Reading Programme participants – Teaching Aids manufacturing – Vocation Home Masses – Parish Renewal with Fr Phil Zadro and Fr Martin Langron – Host family for Antioch weekends and numerous church and school functions over the years and acquaintances and a store of treasured memories as part of the Sacred Heart Community.


1963 was the year I became associated with the Sacred Heart Choir when Sr Jean was in control of the choir. Then we had Sr Grata and when she was being transferred, she decided and told me I was to take over – you didn’t argue with an order.

We have been blessed with such good organists as Doreen Wheeler, Mary Sayers, Dorothy Elvidge and over the last 5 years, Jenny Birett, Megan & Karen Lang, Ami Pham, Laura & Rosalba Daniele.

We are fortunate in having as instrumentalists; Teyet-Van, Monique, Krystal, Danielle, Alice, Denise, Renee, Annette. Also thanks to Kathryn Birett for her good work with overheads and those who help her from time to time.

Long standing choir members still warbling are Beryl & Vince Cummins and Marie Atkinson.

We also remember those members no longer with us: George Carlin, Sue McBain, Marj Nicole or as she was better known – Nicky. May they be singing with the choir of angels.

Some years back, the choir took part in the Parish Concert for the Feast of the Sacred Heart. The first year we did “The Sound of Music” and the next time it was “The King and I”. Both were good nights, though “The King and I” more so because it involved so many children.

I would like to thank our cantors at special Masses: Beryl & Vince Cummins, Mary Puskas, David Field, Marie Atkinson, Brian Fletcher and Eva Barbara. Also a warm thank you to all the choir members who help out all year and especially Christmas and Easter for your time and effort.

Thanks to Mary Puskas who undertook to lead the young singers at the 10am Sunday Mass and is doing a good job.

At the conclusion of the Mass, the Bishop, other celebrants and the congregation participated in supper provided by all the groups of the church community. Again, the Italian Community surpassed itself with the provision of delicious pasta that was consumed by all with relish.

In conjunction with the celebration of Mass, Mrs Pat Percival and Mrs Pam O’Connell arranged an interesting and informative display of memorabilia including photographs extending back more than fifty years. A set of Vestments lent by the Polish Community for the display, indicated that priests of 40 years or more ago, had to be strong physically, as well as spiritually strong, to perform their duties. The display located at the front of the Church was enjoyed by all who viewed it and evoked many pleasant memories.

The Silver Anniversary Bulletin, including a short history of the Parish and building of the new church was prepared for the occasion. Some articles, particularly that of Father Patrick O’Rourke, Emeritus pp of Epping and a curate of Liverpool in the 40’s, reminded us many of the wonderful times of their youth and the young Parish. Father O’Rourke, earlier in 1986, celebrated the Golden Anniversary of his Ordination to the Priesthood.

Pat Carey


When Fr Kiely arrived at Cabramatta from Surry Hills, he soon realised the Parish needed extra financial support for it to expand and succeed. Having been associated with Housie at Surry Hills, he decided that we should introduce the game here, thus supplying the additional funds our Parish so desperately needed.

The Surry Hills parish workers were most generous with their time, advice and financial help. They travelled to Fairfield for the first four weeks to get us started, and to our amazement, supplemented our weekly income from their own Housie profits for the first twelve months of our operations.

After considering the Halls that were available, it was decided to hire the Butterfly Hall opposite Fairfield Railway station, The Fairfield RSL Club now occupies the site.

The property adjacent to the Butterfly Hall had an empty garage which was offered to us for the storage of tables and chairs. Every Monday night, the tables and chairs were carried to the hall, set up and returned to the garage at the completion of the night’s game.

In the early years, 35 people were required to operate the Housie. However, with the introduction of book sales instead of single tickets, the weekly requirement of workers was reduced to 18.

A note of interest from the past is that of the original team that started the Housie in this Parish, there was still two of them actively working for it after some 35 years.

Ken Thackery

The Parish economy relied on the success of Housie for many years and enabled many projects to be undertaken, and paid for!

It was with great trepidation that the Parish decided to cease the running of Housie. Social changes within the community and very strong competition from other Housie and Bingo nights within the community has led to the Parish looking at other avenues to locate sufficient funds to continue with the much needed works within Sacred Heart, Cabramatta.


“Following the Little Way”

The Theresian Club was founded by Sister M Therese RSC, 80 years ago. Cabramatta branch was established in the 1950’s with Father Ron Hickman as Chaplain.

The main purpose of the club was to help women spiritually, to instruct the children from State schools and to take them to Sunday Mass.

The names of some of the Theresians from Sacred Heart are:

Beryl Bloomfield, Mary Boehn, Doreen Townsend, Maureen Windred, Margaret Sharpe and Sr Margaret Valentine.

Nancy Green


We, the O’Neill family, came to live in Canley Vale in 1963, after having lived in Lismore for the previous 9 years. Greg, who worked for the Public Works Department, was transferred to Sydney.

After reading in the Catholic Weekly that the convent in Bartley street was for sale, we consulted Fr O’Keeffe and agreed to buy.

Our seven children enjoyed the spaciousness of the house, affectionately known as the “Old Convent”, and the large yard was a delight and great for us parents as well. A place of escape was the “sewing room”, a free standing room in the back yard – it also served as a dormitory for “stopovers”.

The kids were excited when the club established a bowling green at the back of our land, thinking it was for general use. Armed with bat and cricket ball, they set out for a game on the green. Needless to say, that idea was very short lived.

We moved to Concord in 1971 with reluctance, knowing we would miss the friendship and assistance given to us by Father O’Keeffe and Father O’Byrne, and our many special friends, especially in the Sacred Heart Parish and School.

Cabramatta and Canley Vale hold many special memories.

Jackie O’Neill


When the large tent was erected in the CabraVale Park for the Planned Giving Dinner, Bob Rodoneda slept in the tent as Security Guard.

Bob and his dog, Banjo, patrolled the area outside to ensure everything was kept secure.


Sacred Heart Cabramatta has a long tradition of providing worthwhile groups and activities to its young parishioners. Perhaps it is this fact, which has seen many of our youth grow up to live and work in the Parish. In the case of the CYO, its success can be measured by the few marriages which it helped to produce over the years.


Throughout the 60’s and 70’s, the CYO was well established in Sydney and in other parts of Australia. What made the CYO differ from its contemporaries, was its strong link to the Parish. Under the guidance of the Parish Priest and his assistant Priests, the CYO had a well organised structure and leadership to allow for a group, guided by the young people themselves to provide a social outlet for them to enjoy.

As illustration of the groups ability to be flexible and meet the ever changing needs of its membership, over the years CYO organised outings, picnic days, liturgies, dances, in-house activities, car rallies and was even able to field a competitive Football team for many years. On top of all of this, the group met regularly to plan and organise their activities.


By the late 70’s, CYO had lost relevance to many of its members and gradually faded until it ceased, still, a need existed in the Parish for a social outlet, but more so for those still at School in Years 8-12. Driven more by the parents than by the young people themselves, SPRC began. In its early days, it was modelled very much on the CYO having an elected student executive that guided its membership. While its true to say that the parents did much of the work, the young people were responsible for publicity and recruiting new members.

The chaplainship of the assistant Priest was still an important part of this group and contributed enormously to connecting SPRC to the Parish. As is only natural, some Priests’ enthusiasm for this work was greater than others and its fair to say that the Priests’ enthusiasm was matched by the members.

By the mid 80’s, SPRC had found a niche for itself, servicing those in Years 7-10 at School. By this time, it had passed its peak in popularity and much of the work had fallen to the Priests. During the late 80’s, the group floundered for a number of years and at different times was being kept afloat by a couple of parents and in one instance, a couple of the members, who solicited the support of Parishioners to supervise outings or to drive the bus for them.

In 1993, almost a year after the last SPRC activity, Fr McAuliffe established the Parish Youth Team, a group of young adults who would go on to resurrect SPRC and venture into other youth activities. Under his chaplainship, SPRC still operates today, despite fluctuating membership over the last six years. Today, half of its membership is drawn from outside the Parish.


In March of 1987, the Hurstville Parish sponsored a group of twelve young people, two parent couples and a Priest to establish an Antioch community in Cabramatta. From that small beginning, grew a large community which was very active, catering for young people who had completed Year 10. What made Antioch different from other groups offered by the Parish, was that it provided an opportunity for young people to explore and develop their faith, rather than to sociaiise.

Team members met every Sunday night for Mass in the Church, in which they led the singing, did the readings and took up the collections. After which, they met for more singing, faith exploration and prayer. Twice a year, Antioch would invite new members to join them for a weekend, often visiting young people at home, in order to recruit them.

For ten years, Antioch was guided by a number of Priests, and Parent Couples who devoted an enormous part of their lives to this group. In the end, the changing dynamics in the Parish made it difficult to recruit new members, support for their weekends or new Couples to carry on the mission. On the tenth Anniversary of the original weekend at Hurstville, a reunion was held to formally close the Cabramatta community.


Many of the Ethnic communities in the Parish, at times have run groups for their young. Most notably, the Polish and Vietnamese communities. Although there are still ethnic youth groups in the Parish, SPRC has many members from these communities.

In the early 80’s, APO (A Place of our Own) was available for student in Year 7 as a prelude to SPRC. APO met every Friday in the Parish Hall for games and once a month for outings. Eventually, this group was combined with SPRC.

In 1995, the Parish Youth Team experimented with a Senior Youth Group for Years 10-12, which was successful for two years then ceased to exist. This group adopted a CYO approach to its organisation with an elected executive, responsible for largely determining the groups direction. Although at present a Senior Youth Group does not exist, it may possibly, in the future.

At about the same time as the Senior Youth Group was in existence, the Parish Youth Team conducted youth forums for young people to discuss topics of importance to them. These forums were very successful, but ended with the Senior Youth Group.

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