First Mass in Progress Hall, Gilbert Road
Opening of St. Raphael's First Church-School
Coming of Good Samaritan Sisters
St. Raphael's, West Preston is proclaimed a Parish under Fr. Leo O'Rourke.
Erection of eastern wing of school.
Opening of St. Raphael's Church Hall
Adding of upper storey to school
Opening of new Presbytery
Building of Clubroom.
Death of Fr. O'Rourke
Appointment of Fr. Leonard as Parish Priest
Introduction of Sacrificial Giving
Blessing and opening of new St. Raphael's church. The first mass in the new church was celebrated on 15th June, 1964.
Appointment of Fr. Browne as Parish Priest
Appointment of Fr. McEntee as Parish Priest
Celebration of the Silver Jubilee of new church with His Grace Archbishop Little on 25th June, 1989
Appointment of Fr. Kevin Eaton as Parish Priest
Appointment of Fr Raymond Bugeja as Parish Priest
Parish 60th Anniversary celebration with a Concelebrated Mass led by Auxiliary Bishop Joe O'Connel
St Raphael's School 70th Anniversary with celebration of mass by Auxiliary.Bishop Joe O'Connell
Archbishop Denis Hart celebrated mass for the first time at St Raphael's, 28th April 2007.
Bishop Tim Costelloe takes up residence within St Raphael's Parish (in Fitzroy St).
First Holy Communion is celebrated during the Parish Mass on the 4 Sundays in August for the first time.
Restoration of church roof
Building of new toilet block adjacent to church foyer
Celebration of the Golden Jubilee of the church with Msgr Greg Bennet on 15th June, 2014
Appointment of Fr. Benneth Osuagwu as Parish Administrator
Appointment of Fr. Simon Grainger as Parish Priest
Re-inauguration of the Parish Bell "Mary Glowrey" by Achibishop Peter Comensoli
Refurbishment of and re-inauguration of the Chapel of Our Lady Of Good Health and the Chapel of Divine Mercy and the Sacred Heart
Speech given by Mr V. Caddy at Loyalty Dinners, July 16-17, 1963?)
In recounting the history of St Raphael's, it is necessary to go back to the year 1930. In that year, some of the men met and formed a committee, with the object of unifying the Catholics of West Preston, so that a concerted effort could be made in furthering their desire for the hearing of Mass in West Preston itself.
On the formation of that committee, John Calder was elected President and George Hawkins Secretary. Both these gentlemen have long since gone to their eternal reward.
These pioneers, for such we can rightly call them, met, and one of their first efforts was to form the boundaries, unofficially, of course, wherein they could work.
It is necessary now to give some indication of the geography of West Preston, as it then was. Between Regent Street in the north, Bell Street in the south, Gilbert Road in the west and the Railway in the east was a heavily built-up area. From Benambra Street in the south to York Street in the north on the west side of Gilbert Road the area was only lightly built on - there being more vacant land than houses. North of York Street, the rest being open country used for grazing cows. And so the boundaries they decided on were: Bell, Railway and Elizabeth Streets, and an undefined area to the north. They set to work with a will, and their enthusiasm and energy so impressed the Catholic population, that they were able to conduct house parties, dances, euchre tournaments, etc., so successfully from a social and financial aspect, that they felt they were now in a position to make a definite move. At this time Bill Robertson was President and Vin Breen Secretary.
A deputation of three men waited on Father O'Grady to put their case to ask him to make the necessary arrangements for the holding of Mass in West Preston.
It must be remembered that there was no public transport on Sunday mornings in those days, and, unlike today, there were very few motor cars, and so the people had no option but to walk to Mass.
Father O'Grady met the deputation, and after much discussion informed them that he could not meet their request. This was indeed a blow that was not taken too kindly at West Preston. It may be as well to mention that at this time Preston was only one parish.
The Sacred Heart Church, as it now stands, had only been completed a few years, and the only other church in Preston was the old wooden building, the original Sacred Heart Church, which had been erected at Reservoir.
On looking back, one can find some sympathy for Father O'Grady's position. He had just incurred a heavy debt, and we were in the middle of that terrible depression of 1928-1930's. After further negative talks between Father O'Grady and West Preston, it was decided to approach the authorities at St Patrick's. A meeting was arranged and our delegate met Monsignor Lonergan.
The matter was discussed at great length and at the conclusion, the Monsignor said they would go into the matter, and we would hear from him later.
Subsequently Vin Breen met Monsignor Lonergan, who informed him that if we could nominate a building where Mass could be held, and it met with Archdiocesan approval, we could go ahead. And so the Progress Hall in Gilbert Road was submitted and approved.
Early in 1931, the first Mass was celebrated by Father Power, who was served as altar boys by Brother Naughtin, now Principal at St. Kevin's College and the late Brother Kevin Street. The altar was a small wooden structure, made by Owen Martin, which sat on the top of a kitchen table. On the front of the table a sheet of three-ply covered it to the floor. The whole structure was very light, which made it very easy to erect and dismantle. It was painted white, and when the ladies had placed altar cloths on and decorated it with flowers, to us it looked as good, and was infact as good, as any marble altar in so far as the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was offered on it.
During this period we were ministered to by many notable priests, including Fathers Murtagh, Durkin and Cleary. While the large majority of people were happy that they were able to hear Mass in the Progress hall, there were some who would not go, contending that it was unsuitable. It was certainly not a Church, but the diocesan authorities were satisfied and that suited most of us. Of course, there were distractions and discomforts. The hall was used as a picture theatre two or three nights a week, and on the walls were hung various signs - next week's programme - coming attractions.
During Mass one may raise his eyes in reverent devotion to be met by the heroic features of that famous cowboy Tom Mix, or the alluring charms of Greta Garbo. That, of course, was bad enough, but to add insult to injury, it was not unusual for worshippers to find, on standing for the gospel, that they had been kneeling on somebody's chewing-gum form the night before.
But perhaps the biggest distraction was the row of upholstered chairs, which had been purchased from some theatre, which looked all right and comfortable, but you had not been sitting in them for long when you realised that they were already occupied and that you were really not welcome, and were soon appraised of the fact that you were providing a meal for some very elusive and persistent attackers.
At this time the social side of the parish was very much alive. There were a great variety of entertainments which not only kept the people together, but were also a great source of revenue. So much so that through the good offices of Dr. Beovich, an interview was arranged between Bill Robeson and His Grace, Archbishop Mannix. At this interview, His Grace sought and obtained from Bill Robeson an assurance that the people of West Preston were willing and able to erect and maintain a Church-School.
Subsequently, the Catholic Trust purchased a large area of land then known as the Sandilands Poultry Farm, between Cooper Street and May Street. This was sub-divided, the trust retaining the land on which our parish buildings now stand. And so, early in 1936, we had the pleasure of seeing our first Church-School blessed and opened by His Grace, Archbishop Mannix.
The building comprised three rooms and the Sanctuary, the rooms having folding doors making one long hall, with another room on the right of the sanctuary and the vestry on the left.
School opened in the beginning of the school year, under the care of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan. For the first few months the school was served by several Sisters as a temporary measure. One of these Sisters was Sr. Mary Gabrielle Pagin, herself a member of a very old Preston family, but in the middle of the year a permanent head teacher was appointed in the person of Sr. Mary Madeleine, who remained in charge for 9 1/2 years, and put the school on a solid foundation.
On the opening of the new building, Father O'Rourke was appointed Administrator, but after a couple of years he was appointed Acting Parish Priest of Preston during the absence of Fr O'Brady abroad. Fr. Murray was next in charge before being appointed to Northcote. We were then looked after by a succession of priests, including Fr. Broderick, Fr. Lombard and Fr. McKenna. Fr. James Ryan was then appointed Administrator and remained in charge until we were proclaimed a parish in 1945, our first parish priest being our beloved, the late Fr O'Rourke. During his pastorate with us, many and various works were completed, the first being the erection of the eastern wing of our school building, comprising several beautiful, tastefully decorated and well-equipped schoolrooms, which left the older portion to be used exclusively as a church.
In the year 1953 plans were made for the building of the present church hall. In order to lessen the expense, Fr. O'Rourke called on the men of the parish, whether tradesmen or not, to lend a hand. On the first Saturday, when the foundations were to be dug, there was a great army of men with an assortment of picks and shovels of all sizes and shapes. If anyone with a good pick put it down for a second it just vanished, and one was substituted that would not dig a spud out of the garden.
However, the work progressed, the men working hard and giving of their best. The ladies, in the meantime, had organised themselves and afternoon tea was provided which was much appreciated by the workers.
After months of strenuous work, during which time on every Saturday and nearly every night, men would be seen working on every part of the building, at last the hall was completed, and on Sunday, 7th December, His Grace, Archbishop Mannix, blessed and opened the new building. There was a very large gathering and as the weather was very trying - the temperature being 107 deg. - we were all very thankful that His Grace suffered no ill-effects after his great generosity in coming to us.
The next venture of note was the erection of an upper storey on the original structure, thus completing the beautiful and substantial building of St Raphael's School. In these labours Father O'Rourke was ably assisted by four zealous curates. Frs. Pietzsch, Coakley, Kierce and Cullen, and our two present curates Fathers King and Fitzgerald are worthily carrying on the work of their predecessors.
In the meantime, smaller additions and extensions were made - the whole yard was asphalted, the basketball court had new floodlights installed, and everything done so that the young people had no need to go outside the parish for recreation and pleasure. That, briefly, is the story of the foundation of St. Raphael's Parish, West Preston.
In reviewing some of the highlights of the parish, we can be justified in taking pride in the number of religious vocations. The first boy to answer the call to the priesthood was:
Thomas Keating, of Kalimna Street, who was ordained in 1951.
He was followed by Kevin Kincade in 1956. Two years later we had a double ordination, Gerald Cudmore and Hilton Deakin.
Peter Wilkinson was ordained in 1961 and is now in Paris completing his studies.
Next Saturday we are to have the joy of seeing Joe McMahon and Ken Bray add their names to this highest roll of honour.
The girls from St. Raphael's Parish who have consecrated their lives to God as nuns include:
Margaret O'Rourke (Sister of Charity, Queensland); Sheila Thompson (India), and Mardi Peart (Malaya), Franciscan Missioners of Mary; Joan Mortimer (Sister of Good Samaritan, NSW); Barbara Farrelley, Eleanor Kenneally and Valarie Deakin, are at present studying at the Good Samaritan Novitiates, Pennant Hills, NSW; Maureen Rogers, joined the Franciscan Missioners of Mary this year, and Gloria Tonzing went to London to join the Sisters of Divine Motherhood.
Another boy from our school to join the Christian Brothers was Br. Noel Jeffreys (now at Goulburn).
Francis Brennan is at present studying for the priesthood in the Carmelite House of Studies in NSW and John O'Callaghan is studying at St Francis Xavier's Seminary in Adelaide.
I have purposely omitted mentioning any names, with the exception of the original committee. To do so would be impossible owing to the large number of wonderful men and women who, so devotedly and unselfishly, gave of their best in time and money, and so to mention a few would be an injustice to many.
It may be of interest to many to know that the altar now in use in our church was built by Owen Martin and myself in his shed in McNamara St. and was completed in time for the opening of the first Church School. Of the members of the original committee who are still with us as parishioners are Bill Robeson, Vin Breen, Clem Lane, Andy Crow, George Trotter, Pat Ryan, Joe Kincade, Jack Sugrue. Of the ladies who were later invited to join the committee, Mrs. Stewart (our first organist), Mrs. Kincade and Mrs. Fagan, are acting as hostesses tonight.
I hope that I have told you sufficient for you to realise that St Raphael's has a wonderful tradition of hard unselfish work on the part of its parishioners, who never spared themselves to further the spread of Christ's Kingdom on earth.
I would like you all to think of St. Raphael's as YOUR parish, not as THE parish, but as something for which you have a special affection and a desire to further its progress. We owe it to our late beloved pastor to do this, and the best way in which we can show our affection for him is to get solidly behind Father Leonard, and back him up in his work amongst us.
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