Parish History

Pymble station history

Catholic services have existed on the North Shore since 1852 when visiting priests would hold monthly services in the area. The first physical presence in the area was a wooden church building on Pymble Hill on land provided by Richard Porter who operated orchards in the area. At the time, Pymble Hill was known as Porter’s Hill. The land was where today’s Ku Ring Gai Town Hall is located. In 1883, a foundation stone was put down for a new church built from locally quarried sandstone to replace the wooden structure. The wooden building was relocated to Telegraph Road as the school hall. In 1884, the Gothic styled Sacred Heart church was opened on the site on the Sunday before Christmas. In 1907, a new presbytery was constructed beside the church. In 1935, the stone church was replaced with a new Spanish styled church which still stands today as the Ku Ring Gai Town Hall.

The Sacred Heart Church in Pymble, is identified as the second church built on the North side of the Harbor after St Mary's Church in North Sydney. The first humble little wooden building on Porter's Hill (Pymble Hill) which preceded the stone church, was for twenty-five years the centre of devotions of the poor and scattered flock to whom the Jesuit Fathers ministered in the early days. When the corner stone was laid in June 1883 for the stone structure which replaced it, a convent for the Sisters of Mercy was also begun. The Sisters from Monte Sant' Angelo had used the little wooden church on week days and lived in a cottage at the rear.

In parallel with developments at the site of the church, the Mount St Bernard Catholic Primary School for Kindergarten to Year 6 was established at the corner of Telegraph Road and the Pacific Highway. A private boarding college operated by the Sisters of Mercy was established in 1893 on the corner of the Pacific Highway and Bobbin Head Road.

The land on which the Sacred Heart church and parish office is located today has been host to Catholic facilities since 1893. The property was first operated by the Sisters of Mercy from the Monte Sant' Angelo Mercy College in North Sydney. It was home to the Mount St Bernard private boarding college above managed by the Sisters for girls from Years 5 to 10 (formerly the Leaving Certificate).

As time passed, the site has become a consolidation of three primary Catholic facilities in Pymble with the Sacred Heart church moving from the Pacific Highway on Pymble Hill (now the Ku-ring-gai Town Hall) and the original Mount St Bernard Catholic Primary School for Kindergarten to Year 6 moving from the corner of Telegraph Road and the Pacific Highway. All have been established and expanded on the one site we see today.

Early Development

Robert Pymble arrived in Sydney in 1821 and petitioned Governor Macquarie for a land grant which was successful in obtaing a 600 acre grant in 1823. The land included the area to be later occupied by the Parish. The Pymble parish is in an area that, prior to 1889, was known as Lane Cove and formed part of the vast parish of St Leonards (now North Sydney). The St Leonards parish was the first parish established on the North Shore of Sydney Cove. St Leonards covered all the territory "embraced in the watery grasp of the Pacific Ocean, Sydney Harbour, the Hawkesbury River, Lane Cove River and Berowra Creek".

Pymble developed during NSW land grants in the 1820s. The initial activity was timber for the needs of Sydney followed by orchards and small farms. Transport was toward the upper reaches of the Lane Cove River and on to Sydney by ferry. Select areas of Pymble were subdivided for residential development in the early 1880s in anticipation of the north shore railway line. The Pymble railway station opened in January 1890, with the single line between Hornsby and St Leonards. There was limited settlement in the area prior to the railway station and the construction of the railway was instrumental in encouraging rapid subdivision and development of the area. By the 1890s, Pymble had become firmly established as a principal residential suburb with substantial homes built on either side of the railway station along Lane Cove Road (now the Pacific Highway). In 1909, the railway line through Pymble was duplicated.

Many of the new settlers were of Irish descent. So much so that an area to the north of the railway became known as “Irish Town”. A residual of Irish Town remains today in the form of the Irish Town Grove, a small reserve with playground and seating between Adams Avenue and Princes Lane. The reserve is all that is left of a section of Irish Town that ran from Merrivale Road in the east to Bobbin Head Road in the west, and a short distance south of Pentecost Avenue, including the area around Reely Street to Reynolds Street.

We are thankful for and remember the dedication and, in many cases the hardship, endured by all those people - priests, religious, and lay, who have gone before us and who made possible what we are now privileged to enjoy.

Parish Timeline

The First evidence of organised Catholic life in the area that was called Lane Cove refers to Fr Ignatius McLennan, an Irish Benedictine stationed at Ryde, who said Masses (presumably in Catholic homes) once a month.
Fr Peter Powell was appointed the first Parish Priest of the vast St Leonards Parish. He raised 120 pounds and in 1858 built a wooden church and school on Wrights (Pymble) Hill on land donated by Richard Porter and named after Saint Peter and Paul. Lay teachers ran the school but, when state aid was withdrawn in 1882, the Jesuits invited the Sisters from Monte Sant Angelo to operate the school. Initially they made the arduous daily trip but eventually they moved into a primitive residence near the church, originally used by the lay teachers.
Dean John Kenny succeeded Fr Powell, but little is known of his labours in what was still essentially a rural backwater. He has however bequeathed to us a dramatic account of the perils of the trip "up country" when both his horse and he became bogged en route. He retired in 1878 when Archbishop Vaughan entrusted the entire North Shore "mission" to the Jesuits.
Fr Joseph Dalton SJ took over the parish of North Sydney, which then extended from the harbour to Palm Beach across to Berowra and back. Those first Jesuits lived very poorly in a four-room shanty built from corrugated iron and flattened kerosene tins.
Fr Joseph Dalton laid the foundation stone of a new stone church of semi Gothic design dedicated to the Sacred Heart, on the same site as the earlier wooden church on Pymble Hill. Its dimensions were 44ft x 26ft x 13ft high.
Fr Michael McNamara was appointed priest in charge of the newly created Parochial District of Lane Cove which extended from Mowbray Road to the Hawkesbury. In 1989, Fr McNamara was the first resident priest in Pymble. The Pymble railway station opened in January 1890.
Fr Michael Kirby was priest in charge. During his tenure new schools and churches opened in Chatswood, Waitara and Thornleigh.
Fr Patrick McNulty built the Presbytery which still stands beside the old church on the Pacific Highway. he moved the original wooden building to the Mt St Bernard site on the corner of Bobbin Head Road and the Pacific Highway where it was used as a classroom. In 1909, the railway line through Pymble was duplicated.
Fr John Rohan was parish priest. He purchased a community hall in Telegraph Road which was used as a school. Parochial boundaries were redefined as Boundary Road to Fox Valley Road. Chatswood and Waitara became separate Parishes.
Fr John Kelly became the first Australian priest in charge. He built a church school in Lindfield in 1926 and extensively refurbished the school hall in Telegraph Road. His Chalice is still in use in our Pymble church today. The Catholic Directory of 1923 refers to the parish as Pymble (not Lane Cove) for the first time.
Fr Patrick Crowley was appointed Parish Priest of Pymble a position he was to hold for an extraordinary 45 years.
Archbishop Kelly laid the foundation stone of the "Spanish Mission" style Church that was opened and dedicated by Archbishop Sheelham in March 1935. The architects were Hennessy, Hennessy and Co and the builders were Welch Bros. The building still stands and is the Ku Ring Gai Town Hall.
Lindfield was established as a separate parish and a new church was built.
Cardinal Gilroy laid the foundation stone for a new parish school on land purchased at the corner of Telegraph Road and the Pacific Highway in 1943.
Wahroonga was established as a separate parish from Pymble.
Cardinal Gilroy blessed and opened the St Ives Church on land purchased by Monsignor Patrick Crowley for 8,135 pounds. St Ives was separated from Pymble in 1959.
West Pymble church opened on land acquired in 1957 and was separated from Pymble in 1962.
Land was purchased in Vernon Street South Turramurra on which was re-erected, (largely with volunteer labour provided by parishioners), a chapel bought from the Marist Sisters at Woolwhich. It served as a Mass centre until 1985 when it was donated to the new parish of Bonnyring-Edensor Park to be their first church.
Our Lady of Perpetual Succour Catholic Primary School opened in West Pymble and was operated by one Sister of Mercy. It opened with 32 Kindy children in an army hut transported from Herne Bay. Sister of Mercy, Sr Mary Antoinette, was the Principal and sole teacher.
Sr Juliana joined Sr Mary Antoinette as the second teacher at Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, Catholic Primary School, West Pymble.
Fr Harry Davis was appointed Parish Priest on Monsignor Patrick Crowley's retirement. He inaugurated Pymble's first Parish Steering Committee which later became an elected Parish Pastoral Council.
Sr Maureen Graham was the last of the Sisters of Mercy to teach in the Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, Catholic Primary School, West Pymble. With her departure, fifteen years of teaching Sisters came to an end.
Fr Davis was confronted with a parish that had the disadvantage of operating from three different sites. The church and presbytery on the Pacific Highway to which convenient access was rapidly being eroded by traffic build up, the Infants school in Telegraph Road, also under threat from traffic noise and pollution and the Primary School operating from the Bobbin Head Road property owned by the Sisters of Mercy.
The Sisters of Mercy made known their decision to withdraw from the Mt St Bernard School and to dispose of the property. They offered the parish first option to purchase. The Regional Bishop and the Cardinal Archbishop of Sydney (the Diocese of Broken Bay did not then exist) gave approval to acquire the land and for the parish to raise funds by disposing of properties bequeathed to it in Bannockburn Road and Bobbin Head Road and land the parish owned in Vernon Street.
Construction of a new Infants School building (Sacred Heart block) was commenced on the Bobbin Head Road site previously occupied by the Convent of the Sisters of Mercy.
In August, Kindergarten to Year 2 students moved from the Telegraph Road school into the new Sacred Heart block at the Bobbin Head Road school.
The Telegraph Road property (site of the Infants School) was sold. Negotiations were commenced with the Ku-Ring-Gai Council to build a new Church and Presbytery on the Bobbin Head Road site. The Heritage Council had placed a permanent conservation order on both existing buildings in 1983 which greatly limited the ability of the parish to dispose of them.
The Diocese of Broken Bay was created on 28 May 1986. Bishop Patrick Murphy was appointed as the first bishop of the Diocese of Broken Bay. Construction began on a parish hall adjoining the Infants School in Bobbin Head Road. It was named the Marian Hall and opened by Bishop Patrick Murphy on 15 November 1987.
The Parish celebrated its centenary. The church and presbytery site was sold to Ku-Ring-Gai Council for $2,500,000. The last Mass was celebrated there on 1 December 1989. The congregation processed with Bishop Patrick Murphy carrying the Blessed Sacrament, to the Marian Hall which became an interim Mass Centre.
Fr Davis celebrated the Golden Jubilee of his ordination in a specially erected marquee in the new grounds. Broken Bay Bishop Patrick Murphy presided at a solemn sung Mass. Construction commenced on the new Church, Presbytery and Office buildings.
The opening and dedication ceremony of the new Sacred Heart Church in Richard Porter Way Pymble was performed by Broken Bay Bishop Patrick Murphy on 27 October.
After 17 fruitful years, during which he radically transformed the Parish to meet the needs of future generations, Fr David retired as Parish Priest. He was succeeded by Monsignor Vincent Marley. It was to be the latter's last appointment.
After a long and distinguished priestly career, Monsignor Marley retired due to ill health, and was succeeded by Fr Stephen Hume.
Fr Hume was forced to withdraw from Parish duties due to persistent ill health. Fr John Hill was installed as the tenth Parish Priest of Pymble. Bishop Patrick Murphy retired and was succeeded by Bishop David Walker as the second Bishop of the Diocese of Broken Bay.
Fr Hill became Parish Priest of West Pymble (including Our Lady of Perpetual Succour Primary School) in addition to Pymble, on the retirement of Fr Ashley Jones.
Fr Hill was elected Rector of St John's College within the University of Sydney and resigned as Parish Priest to take up his new appointment.
Bishop Walker invited the Society of the Divine Saviour, commonly known as Salvatorians, a Religious Community, founded in Rome in 1881, to take responsibility for the Parish. Fr Tadeusz Seremet was installed as Parish Priest and Fr George Kolodziej as St Leo's Chaplain on 13 January. Fr Dariusz Basiaga was appointed as Assistant Priest in July. The tenth Anniversary of the opening of the Church was celebrated on 9 December when the Mount St Bernard school on Bobbin Head Road was renamed the Sacred Heart Primary School to better align with the Sacred Heart Parish and Bishop Walker blessed the renovated Infants School.
The churches of Sacred Heart Pymble and Our Lady of Perpetual Succour West Pymble came together to become the Pymble Catholic Parish.
As part of the Federal Government's Building Education Revolution, a government grant of $2.5 million provided the Sacred Heart Catholic Primary School with a new administration block with Library, toilet amenities and an undercroft area meeting space for school and parish as well as refurbishment of the Mercy block into classrooms for Years 4, 5, 6 and a Music room.
Bishop David Waker retired as Bishop of Broken Bay on 13 November 2013, when Pope Francis, accepted his resignation upon having reached his 75th birthday. Bishop Peter Comensoli was appointed as the third Bishop of the Diocese of Broken Bay on 12 December 2014, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, under whose protection he has placed his ministry.
Bishop Peter Comensoli retired as the third Bishop of Broken Bay on 29 June 2018 to take up an appointment as the ninth Archbishop of Melbourne. Dr David Ranson was elected Diocesan Administrator for Broken Bay on 3 August 2018 pending the appointment of a new Bishop.
Bishop Anthony Randazzo was appointed as the fourth bishop of the Diocese of Broken Bay. Bishop Randazzo had been an Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Sydney since 2016.
In March, the Parish closed its churches in response to the Coronavirus 2019 pandemic. For the first time, the Parish churches were not available to the Parish as Australia worked to limit the spread of the virus. Again, for the first time, the Parish presented Mass from its empty churches online and on-demand. The churches were able to open to limited attendance in May.
In June, the Parish again closed its churches in response to the Coronavirus 2019 pandemic. The Parish churches remained closed as Australia worked to vaccinate the population. The Parish presented Mass from the empty churches online and on-demand and were able to reopen in November.
In March, the Parish priest, Fr Boguslaw Loska, and Fr Christopher Kowalczyk, completed their assignments with the Parish. Fr Boguslaw returned to Poland and Fr Christopher took up an assignment with the Diocese of Port Pirie. Fr Ireneusz Czech joined the Parish as Parish priest. In July, Fr Paul Tran joined the Parish as assistant Parish priest.
In December, Fr Paul Tran, assistant Parish priest, completed his assignment with the Parish. Fr Paul returned to his home in Bảo Lộc in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. With Fr Paul’s departure, Fr Ireneusz remained as the only priest in residence. As a consequence, the parish weekend Mass schedule was adjusted to one based on a single priest. The available weekend Masses were reduced by two.

Salvatorian Clergy

In 2001, the Society of the Divine Saviour, commonly known as Salvatorians, took responsibility for the Parish. Since then, Salvatorian priests who have served in the Pymble Parish include: Fr Tadeusz Seremet, Fr George Kolodziej, Fr Dariusz Basiaga, Fr Mariusz Adamczyk, Fr Zygmunt Wloczek, Fr Roman Wroblewski, Fr Robert Masternak, Fr Boguslaw Loska, Fr Greg Skulski, Fr Christopher Kowalczyk, Fr Ireneusz Czech and Fr Paul Tran.