Parish History

Parish History

When Penrith parish was created, St Mary’s and surrounding districts were included in its boundaries which included Austral. Austral remained in the Penrith parish until 1946.

In December 1946 St Mary’s was formally established as a Parish in its own right of which Austral was included in this parish. (2) On august 1 1956 Rooty Hill, Horsley Park, and Austral were cut off, Rooty Hill and Horsley Park as a Parish and Austral ceded to Liverpool. In 1965 Austral, St Anthony was formally established as a parish.

But let us go back to the beginning again. The Catholic Church in St Mary’s was known as ‘St Mary’s Catholic Church’ or St Mary’s Western Line’. The first parish priest was Reverend Michael Nelan 1946 – 1947 followed by Reverend Thomas Kerr 1947 – 1954 and then Reverend James Page 1954 – 1982.

The parish priest Reverend Kerr named the church at St Mary’s, Our Lady of the Rosary in 1948. Reverend James Page was appointed to replace Rev. Kerr and he took up duties on August 18, 1954.

The St Mary’s parish was geographically very large and was widely scattered with boundaries that were not precisely marked.’ The western boundary was the Bringelly-Northern Road and the Eastern boundary was Eastern Creek. The boundary to the north was for the most part the Richmond Road and the south were Elizabeth drive but it included Austral and Horsley’ (4).

In this vast parish, seven masses were celebrated by the priest and his Curet every Sunday. 2 at St Mary’s, 2 at Rooty Hill, 1 at Mt Druitt, 1 at Horsley Park and 1 at Austral. Mass at Austral at that time was held in the Progress hall (H.J.Starr Progress Hall), 264 Edmondson Avenue Austral.

Unfortunately in those times priest were not given permission to celebrate 3 masses in a day so migrant chaplains were called upon. ‘Many parishioners were migrants and had come from traditions where going to confession before mass was the norm, so mass was often delayed even up to an hour, thereby delaying Masses at other centers. Again these were times when people receiving communion, including the priests, had to fast from midnight.’ (reference name??)

Rev Page recollects that the ‘Croatian Chaplain usually helped with mass once a month at Austral but it was not unusual to get a phone call on Friday night with someone telling us that the priest was in Melbourne. That meant Austral fell to us on that Sunday as well as the other 3 Sundays a month.’ (3)

Rev Page also recollects ‘The Austral trip entailed leaving home just after 6am taking 2 of the nuns to Rooty Hill going on to The Progress Hall (at Horsley Park) for mass at 7am with confession before hand. The population of Horsley Park was largely Maltese and streams of children use to go to confession, the result been that it was often 8am before the 7am mass began. Mass over we left Horsley Park about 8.40am to cover the 12 miles further on to Austral before the 8.30am Mass there began again a Progress Hall (if it was raining Gurner ave would be flooded so it was necessary then to go into Liverpool to get to Austral). More confessions at Austral. If we were lucky we would begin mass by 9.30pm. All this was in the days of the Eucharistic fast from previous midnight. Nellie Bridge, who looked after the erection of the Altar in the Progress Hall use to give me a banana to break my fast after the mass. The same Nellie Bridge wrote to Cardinal Gilroy with the request to have Benediction in her house on Christmas day. He sent the letter on to me with his handwritten question on the top, ‘What do you think of this?’ As we were not able to provide Austral with mass on days of obligation that were not Sunday’s. You can imagine what I thought of a trip to Austral to give Benediction in Nellie’s house. She was a widow of a sea captain and the house had many features of a ship’s layout including the bridge (no pun on his name intended). On the way home we had to take an elderly Yugoslav woman to Hoxton Park and then home by the Cowpasture road, which was a soft dirt road. If it rained it was fatal to use this road – I was bogged twice. Home via Rooty Hill to do the Baptisms from there and Horsley Park pick up the nuns to get home for lunch.’ (3)

There were social events within the austral parish community including Barn dances in the Progress hall with the Penrith priests in the 1950 – 1960.

Along with Nellie Bridge (auntie Nellie), Mrs. Josephine Bauer and Mrs. Burkhard (who had 18 or 19 children) helped take care and looked after the Altar and preparing the Progress hall for mass. Les Hamori was an altar boy during that time and in the new St Anthony’s church. Also, Mrs. Josephine Bauer was the first organist in the Austral parish when mass was celebrated in the Progress Hall and then in the new Church on Eleventh Avenue from 1962.

The Progress Hall at Austral burnt down in 1962. A group of Men from All Saints Liverpool formed the Fund Raising Committee included Mr. Nucifora of Mc Iver Avenue West Hoxton, which led to the building of the St. Anthony’s church on Eleventh Avenue Austral. The ‘old St Anthony’s church was officially Blessed by Cardinal Gilroy on the 4th March 1962 and the area remained part of the Liverpool parish.

Father Richard Davey was appointed to All Saints Liverpool between 1961 and1973. He oversaw masses at Austral parish from 1962 to 1965.

June 1965 – March 1974: Father Joe Weaver

Father Joe Weaver, a frail man was appointed St Anthony’s parish first parish priest 30th June 1965 in the newly built St Anthony’s church (currently our parish hall) on Eleventh Avenue, Austral.

At the time there was no presbytery and Father Weaver boarded at Aunty Nellie’s home on Eleventh Avenue until the Catholic Church bought Mr. and Mrs. Rose’s house on the corner of Edmondson and Eleventh Avenue which became Father Weaver’s residence and presbytery.

Father Weaver developed St Anthony’s parish by connecting with Catholic families in the area. There were many newly arrived European immigrants living in Austral and surrounding regions who were involved in farming and some attended mass at All Saints church Liverpool until they realised the new church was there, as parishioners Anton and Lucija Beuk experienced.

Father Weaver started the first Catholic Youth Organisation (CYO) in St Anthony’s parish which provided a social outlet for teenage Catholics. Due to Faye Hocking’s strict parents, she was not allowed to participate in the CYO until Father Weaver had to ask her dad. Faye recalls when a bush walking activity was organised by the CYO she was allowed to attend as her parents did not approve of her wearing slacks. After Father Weaver approached Faye’s parents and reassured them she was allowed to attend and wear slacks.

Some of the first Catechists, scripture teachers, in the parish were Emily Shoesmith, Jim Madden and Frank Gillich. Faye Hocking recalls that Father Weaver use to pick up the catechists and drive them to Austral Public School as some of them didn’t drive. Scripture teachers also assisted Father Weaver in preparing children for sacraments and providing a celebratory party for children receiving First Holy Communion which was held in the Austral Progress Hall (newly built H.J.Starr Hall) Edmondson Avenue Austral.

Even in those early years, St Anthony’s parish was very rural there was the talk of building a Catholic school so the community attempted raising funds by holding cakes stalls and growing and selling vegetables on the plot of land where the current St Anthony’s church stands.

During this time St Anthony’s parish provided the nurturing of a young man’s entry into the vocation of priesthood. In 2012 Father Zvonimir Gavranovic of Luddenham-Warragamba parish had celebrated 40years in the priesthood.

The first baptism was on the 8th August 1965 to Sonija Matich of Eleventh avenue Austral.

The first funeral was that of Anna Prokoph of Edmondson avenue who was 76 years and died on 15th September 1965.

The first wedding was of Christopher Ehmann (19years old) of Auburn to Dianna Maurphy (18 years old) of Eigth Avenue Austral on 16th October 1965.

Confrimation was conferred for the first time by Bishop Ignatus Doggeth to 109 children on 17th august 1969.

Father Weaver rarely enjoyed good health and while he was away from January to June 1973 Father K. Cox was Administrator.

Father Weaver was Parish Priest until March 1974 and died 2nd April 1990. Austral had a special place in Father Weaver’s heart. He made friends with whom he contacted and regularly shared a meal until just before his death. Father Noel Short wrote in the parish newsletter, 8th April 1990. “Though never physically robust, Father Weaver had a strong spirit and a wonderful spirituality. I spent a number of years with him in the Manly parish and can well remember the occasion when he divested himself of a brand new cardigan (purchased the day before) and gave it to an alcoholic destitute in the street one winter’s evening. Material possessions were of little interest to Joe”

April – July 1974

Father Jim Stack appointed parish administrator

July 1974 – June 1975: Father Les Campion

Father Les Campion was appointed parish Administrator from July 1974 to June 1975. Parishioners Karlo Cselka and Josephine Pace both recall Father Campion very well and distinctly remember him moving to the Granville parish after Austral and being an integral part in helping those impacted by the Granville train disaster in January 1977.

June 1975 – 1985: Father Michael O’Byrne

Father Michael O’Byrne took residence as Parish Priest in June 1975 at St Anthony’s parish Austral.

Father Michael or Mick O’Byrne is remembered as having an Irish accent, loved football and enjoyed mingling with parishioners.

During Father O’Byrne’s time as a Parish Priest there were parishioners involved in St Vincent De Paul Society, Reg and Joan Lowry, teaching scripture, Joan Lowry, cleaning and making altar linen Christine Cselka and Hilda Mundweil, those who were involved in organising the parish barbeques and the ever popular annual parish fetes, with Ziggy Mundweil at the helm.

Mrs Bauer continued as organist until she retired early 1980’s and Margaret Beuk (Cvetko) took over. There were parishioners who were continually involved in the choir and teenagers were encouraged to participate.

A particular memory during this time was the young adult Catholic youth group formed which provided many social outings and activities and included parishioners Diedre and Michelle Mundweil, Noel Lowry, John and Tony Rakuljic, Sam Cavallaro, Svitlana Simat, Caroline ( Banjavcic) Tony and Margaret (Cvetko) Beuk. This group provided a wonderful grounding to developing friendships and social network in the parish.

Father O’Byrne died from a massive heart attack in the parish on the eve of the Feast of the assumption in 1985.

1985 – 2013 Father Noel Short

Father Noel Short came to St Anthony’s church Austral in 1985. Coming from Bankstown parish he was a little shell shocked as he came to a then very remote and semi rural parish. The farming and European community living at Austral in the 80’s was very different to the suburban parish he had come from.

Father Short initially built the now present presbytery and only in those early years did he have a house cleaner. For a majority of his residence at Austral Father Short managed his own home duties. He enjoyed playing squash in the very early years and then golf in the later years but stopped due to an arm injury.

During Father Short’s time at Austral he celebrated 25 years of his ordination on 21st August 1992. and St Anthony’s parish celebrated its 25 years on November 11th 1990 with a mass and dinner organised and food prepared by parishioners.

The parish already had a strong community feel with parishioners involved in being catechetics who taught at Hoxton Park and Austral Public primary schools in the 80’s and early 90’s and then only Austral Public primary school of which Carolynn Reilly and Isabel Scullino achieving 30 years of service, Joe Cilia achieving 29 years and John Camilleri 25 years of service, Money collectors were many long-serving parishioners Anton Beuk providing up to 40-45 years of continual service, Karlo Cselka, Jim and Joe Vella giving up to 20 years service, Karlo Cselka, Tony Rudan, Tony Marcri and Tony Casha 10 years. Music with keyboardist Margaret Cvetko, Bruno Favretti and son with guitar group, Paul Dicondio singing, Debbie Schweigler conductor and singing and Peter Novakovic recording music (born into St Anthony’s parish but family moved) and Pam Ajkay, cleaning church with up to 70 ladies that have been involved in cleaning of which Teresa Gimellaro, Josephine Pace, S. Mercieca, M Farrugia, J Poles, Faye Palarmaro achieving 15-20 continual service, making and cleaning of vestments and altar linen Christine Cselka , Hilda Mundweil and in 2004 Connie and Charlie Vella donated altar linen bought from Malta to the parish. Karlo Cselka made new cupboards in the old St Anthony’s church alcove. Austral youth club lead by Ziggy Mundweil was then reinvigorated in 1997 lead by Sue Channon. St Vincent De Paul Society in early years was led by Reg and Joan Lowry and then by their son Noel Lowry, then in the 1990’s Connie and Adrian Verbakel and later by Linda Phillips. Social events like barbeques and outings were continually organised by dedicated parishioners with Josephine Pace, Connie Vella, Sarina Macri, Josephine Demich Hilda Mundweil and Maria Borg. Fundraising activities were constantly run with parishioners Lucy Aquilina, Santina Mavri and Sarina Macri involved including others.

Father Short continued with many of these and brought about acolytes of which Ziggy Mundweil, Lauri Macri, George Ajkay ,Joe Cilia ,Peter Grizelj and Eric Hocking offered 15 to 20 years of continual service, church grounds working bee group led by Chris Pisani and Larry Franco in te early years of the new church,adult scripture classes, prayer groups, Lenten discussion groups, retreat days, parish 2000 groups during the 90’s, developed the parish newsletter with parishioner Anne Beynon artwork presented on the front of the newsletter in 1988 and continued to 2013, children’s liturgy began in 1994 with Rose Micallef, church entrance greeters and ushers in 1994 with Linda and Alan Phillips and Ziggy Mundweil, opportunity to write reflections in the parish newsletter Jim Gill, David Roberts and Margaret Cvetko in the late 80’s early 90’s, opportunity to be educated in mass liturgy and development of the liturgy committee, in 2004 a parish library was set up, reading roster for all masses began, cleaners roster and groups led by Teresa Gimellaro, family masses, numerous social outings, purchase of a mini bus to be used for parish social and retreat use, parish barbeques organised and dinner dances at Gledswood Homestead and Liverpool Catholic Club.

The parish’s first liturgy committee was developed in March 1989 with James (Jim) Gill, Elizabeth Habib, Debbie Schweigler, Teresa Skoczylas, Paul Dicondio and Margaret Cvetko. In later years Pam Ajkay and Faye Palarmaro became the two parishioners who prepared the sacred spaces for mass. The Mundweil family provided for many years the palms for Ash Wednesday.

In April 1989 Father Short received permission from the Cardinal to build a new church and subdivide and sell 16 house blocks on parish land at Hoxton Park (diagonally opposite Good Samaritan high school). Also, Demasi of Demasi Accountancy provided financial advise and skills during this sub division phase.

The Building committee overseeing the process were Father Short, Lauri Macri, Aldo Demasi, Jim Gill, George Ajkay, Larry Franco and Tony Gimellaro.

The parish council began in September 1992 with Bruno Favretti, Lauri Macri, George Ajkay, Rose Micallef and Shirley Demasi who were appointed by Father Short. Larry Franco, Chris Pisani and Linda Phillips were voted in by parishioners. In future elections other councillors appointed included Jim Gill, Alex Dimech and Carolynn Reilly.

Charles Granville was the architect, Mick Panetta of Whippett Construction was the builder and Bruno Fimmano the engineer.

The stained glass window was created by Cherry Phillip. The symbols of Rainbow, Brolg and Rainbow Serpent commemorate the Australian Indigenous tribes which possessed the area in the 1820’s. The Rainbow Serpent, is the source of new life and protector of children in “The Dreaming”, symbolises the sacrament of Baptism. The Brolga, one of the few native birds which mate for life, symbolises the sacrament of Marriage.

In 1992 Mr John Gleason approached Father Short to donate a memorial for past priests. Along with other parishioners $1300 was donated and the building committee made the decision to dedicate the cross and Resurrected Christ above the sanctuary to the memory of Father Joe Weaver and Father Mick O’Byrne. The wooden carving of the Risen Christ, above the sanctuary and Our Lady was created by the artist Engelbert Piccolruaz.

Many other parishioners provided there expertise during construction of new church. Lauri Macris and son Vince organising and completing ground site work, earthmoving and transport. Tony Macri donated his time and machinery to organise and complete all drainage work.

Ziggy Mundweil and sons donated plants and landscaped the car park

The Beuk family donated the cost of the sound system and son Tony and Kevin Campbell installed it.

Austmore Electrical Services owned by Tony Gimellaro and Toots Borg provided the electrical work and church lighting.

The church was Opened and Dedicated to St Anthony by the most Reverend David Cremin D.D. Auxiliary Bishop, Archdiocese of Sydney on Friday 23rd July 1993. The ceremony began in the old St Anthony’s church and processed to the new church with wardens Charlie Vella, John Bonano, Tony Macri and Tony Gimellaro helping direct parishioners. Acolytes were Leo Byce, Laurie Macri, Ziggy Mundweil and Aldo Demasi.

In the new St Anthony’s church Father Noel Short developed the parish further inviting parishioners to stay after mass for tea and coffee to encourage social interaction between parishioners. He provided parishioners opportunities to participate as readers, acolytes, teaching children’s liturgy during mass (in 1998 Child Protection Legislation required 2 people present when with children and Sunday 9am children’s liturgy unfortunately ceased, Saturday night continued), youth group run by Sur Channon and organising Christmas Vigil children’s mass. The latter was initially led by Rose Micallef then Sue Channon, followed by Margaret Cvetko and Angie Camilleri who made new costumes for the children and then Vanessa Casha with currently her children Sarah, and Veronica assisting and leading the singing. Parishioners with young families openly invited other parishioners with young children for social get together at their home. One such family was Brendan and Cherie Esposito with 5 young children. They also prov

ided a Lenten discussion group for parishioners with young families and have continually provided that for up to 10-15years as there children have grown.

Father Noel Short is remembered as being pivotal in some families as he has baptised, given reconciliation, First Holy Communion and Confirmation to all their grandchildren as in the case of Anton and Lucija Beuk’s 13 grandchildren.

Father Noel Short retired on Christ the King Sunday 34th November 2013 which was his last First Holy Communion celebration.

He thanked Sue Channon for 20 years service as parish secretary and youth worker in the earlier years, Andrew Channon for mowing grass and looking after grounds, Brian Fitzpatrick for gardening, George Ajkay as acolyte and parish council president and Rebecca Bonanno as office assistant.

Father Noel Short moved to Cronulla but soon after fell over twice and hurt his shoulders and back. Due to being hospitalized he has moved back to Casula.

2013 – present: Father Robert Hayes

Father Robert Hayes was appointed Parish Priest at St Anthony’s Austral 25th November 2013 coming from the parish at Five Dock. Father Bob has been a fourth parish priest in Lurnea, the fourth parish priest in Five Dock and now the fourth parish priest in St Anthony’s Austral.

Father Robert (Bob) Hayes had earned the title “Bob the Builder” after leading many building projects in a number of parishes in the archdiocese of Sydney. His building reputation had contributed to his new appointment in Austral due to the future potential for development and growth.t

Father Bob brought with him his secretary Cheryl McKell and her sister Catherine Sanders as the house manager. Cheryl’s family moved to Austral as well.

Father Bob enjoys going to the gym with Cheryl and Catherine’s husbands and sons. He enjoyed surf sking in the past but issues with skin cancer have stopped that activity. Travelling is another pastime he enjoys a great deal.

Father Bob also is staff chaplain in the Army (in 2006) where he looks after all the Army Chaplains.

Upon arriving at Austral Father Bob was very eager to get to know parishioners at Austral and was happy to share meals with them.

During his short time as St Anthony’s Parish Priest Father Bob has started the Eucharist Ministers, renovated the presbytery and the church with tiling, new carpet and lighting, he invited parishioners to financially support the Stations of the Cross statues of which plaques of their names are engraved underneath, formed and leading the St Anthony’s 50th year anniversary committee which will have organised a parish dinner dance at the Liverpool Catholic Club on Friday 12 June 2015 with a large raffle, mass on Sunday 14th June 9am , a Senior’s luncheon at Gimelles on 16th July and writing of St Anthony’s parish history.

During his short time already he has celebrated a 2 large milestones in the parish history , a 60 year anniversary of parishioners Jim and Tess Brassil and the biggest funeral at St Anthony’s with possibly 1000 people in attendance inside and outside of the church for a 16 year old boy Marc Arcuri who passed away suddenly at a local soccer match.

From the start, Father Bob has shown natural ability to educate children in scripture and keep children interested and excited about mass. The Saturday Night vigil mass has become a family orientated mass with children eager to be part of the liturgy.

In February 2015 Father Bob held a meeting in the presbytery with the Catholic Education Officer Dr. Dan White (Director( Mark Turkington (Regional Director), Michael Digges (Business Manager Chancery), Michael Moore (archdiocesan accountant) to discuss establishing a primary school in the Austral parish. A commitment was made by Dr. Dan White to begin a Catholic Primary School by 2017 at St Anthony’s.