A BRIEF HISTORY OF ST ANNE’S STRATHFIELD SOUTH
Before the coming of the Europeans, this land was in the custody of the Wangal people of the Darug nation. We celebrate this legacy and acknowledge it as we strive for reconciliation, justice, and peace. We gratefully recognise their willingness to share with us who follow.
The district surrounding St Anne’s Church has had several names down through the years: Bark Huts (1830s – 1840s), Maryborough (1838 – 1850), St Anne’s (1850 – 1887), Druitt Town (1870 – 1915), West Enfield ( 1916 – 1965) and finally Strathfield South until the present. The earliest name was given to a group of huts with thick bark roofs on the southern side of Liverpool Rd near the intersection of Homebush Rd. Major Druitt was a wealthy, colonial land owner who had holdings in the area and West Enfield and Strathfield South were commonly regarded as the same but in reality were separate districts. Fr (later Archpriest) J. J. Therry dismissed the common names and referred to the district as Maryborough when Governor Sir Richard Bourke granted him about fifty acres on 20 May 1837.
Fr John Joseph Therry (1790 – 1864) arrived in Australia in 1820 from Ireland aboard the Janus with his senior Catholic chaplain colleague, Fr Phillip Connolly. They were appointed both by the British Crown (the Colonial Office) and Pope Pius VII as official Catholic chaplains to the convicts, soldiers, and laity of the early colony. Fr Therry later described the next forty-four years of his life as ‘one of incessant labour very often accompanied by painful anxiety’. He became popular for his energetic ways because of his determination to proclaim the faith He understood the delicacy of his role. He had to be a far-seeing pastor, overcoming years of neglect, a conscientious official of an autocratic colonial system, and mixed this with being a pragmatic supporter of the Irish and democratic freedoms. Despite this, he could become most impatient of any perceived hindering of his own legal and social rights of a Catholic priest. He was responsible for the original site of what has become St Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney. He worked mostly around Sydney but spent time in Hobart and Melbourne.
Archbishop Bede Polding OSB arrived in Sydney in 1835 and appointed Fr Therry as Parish Priest of Campbelltown. So, the land grant of the Bark Huts was planned as an overnight rest stop for his journeys between Sydney Town and Campbelltown. (In what was the Sacristy of the Therry Building there is evidence of a fireplace used for cooking and heating and can still be seen today.) He followed what he knew from his Irish background with the Church built in the centre of a square and houses in the surrounding radiating streets. He attempted several times to entice Irish Catholic immigrants to buy holdings around his churches. This financed the work of the church. The building of St Anne’s was relatively quick but the roof took some time to complete as there appears to be some dispute over cost and materials. At first wooden slates from the local iron bark trees were used which ultimately proved unsatisfactory. The next year (1838) Fr Therry was moved to Hobart (then known as Van Diemen’s Land) and he did not return until 1854. During the ensuing sixteen years St Anne’s was neglected. However, on his return 162 blocks of land were put up for sale and the area was to be known as The Village of St Anne’s. At Fr Therry’s behest a foundation stone for St Anne’s was laid at least two times; once by Bishop Murphy of Adelaide (friend of Therry’s), then later by Archbishop Polding. No one knows what was done with this stone or stones or whether there were any stones at all.
Fr Therry was appointed Parish Priest of Balmain where he remained until the end of his life but he continued to actively support his developments including St Anne’s. The Freeman’s Journal of 3rd May 1854 reports the auction of land around St Anne’s. St Anne’s was considered part of St Thomas’s Parish Petersham. Fr Therry died on 24th May 1864 with St Anne’s still incomplete. Archbishop Polding was not a supporter so St Anne’s remained incomplete for another fifteen years. From 1871, St Anne’s was allocated to St Mary’s Concord which was a thriving parish at the time so Mass was celebrated at St Anne’s every alternate Sunday at 9am by a priest from Concord. However, a group of priests, principally Fr Dwyer of Rosebank – Five Dock took charge of St Anne’s and district. By December 1877 St Anne’s was listed as part of Concord but unused. However, the needs of district around St Anne’s continued to be serviced by priests and sisters from Rosebank. Often these priests and, on other occasions, the sisters, who taught religion to the children of the district, stayed at St Anne’s overnight. Fr Dwyer reported about this time that St Anne’s was in a serious state of disrepair. The repairs were completed sometime between February 1878 and September 1879. St Joseph’s Enfield was established in July 1916. St Anne’s was part of that parish. Later, with the establishment of St Martha’s Strathfield some disputes between Enfield and Strathfield arose over certain portions of St Anne’s parochial district. Archbishop Kelly decided in favour of Enfield but the area around St Anne’s remained stagnant. Only one weekly Mass was celebrated at St Anne’s during the 1920s but it continued to limp along until after the Second World War. With the influx of migrants to the area, Cardinal Gilroy raised the parish in 1953 and appointed Fr Kennedy as Parish Priest. St Anne’s became a parish about ninety-eight years after the reported laying of its foundation stone. A new church was opened in 1966.
This is a brief summary of the story of St Anne’s. Several references were used including the essay of Dr D J Gleeson and that of A History of St Anne’s Strathfield South produced by The Friends of Historic St Anne’s funded by Strathfield Community Grants.
- Fr P Kennedy 1953 ( known as West Enfield; changed to Strathfield South in 1962) 1972
- Fr W Paine 1972 – 1980
- Dr G Joiner 1980 – 1986
- Fr R Weaver 1986 – 2016
- Fr M Solomon Administrator 2016 – 2018
- Mgr G Flynn 2018 – 2021
- Fr Jacek Cichy 2021 – Present