Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception
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92 Monash Street, Sunshine VIC 3020
Fr Peter-Damien McKinley
(03) 9401 6344
Tuesdays 10.30am - 4.30pm - Email or Phone (leave message if no answer)

History

Brief History of Our Lady's Parish

Early Beginnings

It was in 1909 at a meeting of local Catholic families from English, Celtic, Maltese and Italian backgrounds that the decision was made to raise funds for a Church in Sunshine.  At the time the Parish of Footscray, formed in 1890, serviced the Pastoral needs of the district of Sunshine with the first Mass celebrated in 1903 at the House of the Station Master.

Children wishing to receive the Sacraments had to travel by horse and cart to Footscray for instruction.  On the other hand priests from Footscray came by horse and jinker to celebrate Mass.

Under the auspices of Fr Carney and Murphy Parish Priests at Footscray, in 1913 a timber Church (cost £750) and a small timber school were built.  In 1927 a substantial Hall was erected.

1927 saw the establishment of the Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Parish of Sunshine under Fr Fennessey as Parish Priest, debt-free from Footscray.  By 1928 the Presbytery (at current location) and a Convent had been acquired.  The same year heralded the arrival of the Sisters of St. Joseph to teach in the primary school.  The Sisters continued this outstanding mission until their departure in 2002, at which time the parish saw fit to honour and commemorate the Contribution of the Sisters with the installation of two beautiful stained glass windows in the Church.

It is interesting to observe that there is some thought that the Parish has been referred to as St. Mary’s during part of its life: Just as Footscray was the Mother Parish to Sunshine, since the 1950’s St. Albans, Braybrook, Deer Park, North Sunshine, West Sunshine and Albion have all become Parishes after being at one time or another part of Our Lady’s.   There are around 10 Parishes and 13 Churches in the area which was once Sunshine Parish.

New Church Built

Fr Frank Ryder succeeded Fr Pat Fennessey as Parish Priest in 1935.  He did not have the luxury of a curate (assistant) but did receive great support from the Salesian priests from Sunbury.  It was needed with the large area to be covered.  Fr Hannon filled in during 1947 when Fr Ryder was ill.

Then in 1939 the timber Church was burned down.  Much later our assistant Priest remembered that the arsonist had done the Parish a favour as it was in inevitable that a new Church would be needed to cater to the expanding population.  The fire just meant the decision to build was made earlier thus beating the post war inflation and saving many thousands of dollars.

However, after the fire, to make matters worse, money collected for the restoration fund was stolen from the presbytery.  Parishioners and Parish Priest must have worked their fingers to the bone as by 1941 the new brick church had been built and opened but the finishing touches and Solemn Consecration was not done until December 8 1978.  Archbishop Mannix in 1947 gave permission for the installation of Stations of the Cross in the new Church.

It may have been a coincidence, but the arrival of Fr Ryder (who liked a game of tennis) saw the establishment in 1935 of Our Lady’s Tennis Club which played on two asphalt courts behind the Church.

Fr Ryder was replaced as Parish Priest in 1949 by Irish-born Fr James Egan who continued as Parish Priest until his death in 1956.  In 1951 the parish experienced its first assistant priest, Fr Mulligan. Another Irishman, Fr Mulligan was the proud owner of a motorbike which was the ideal means of transport for Father to visit the many newcomers from overseas who were settling homes on the flat and alternately dusty and muddy Western plains.

Post-War Expansion

Fr Egan’s tenure coincided with an explosion in the population of Sunshine from both the migration of displaced and disillusioned persons from Europe and the intake of workers for the expanding railways.  He had an almost daily headache trying to place newly-arrived children in the already overcrowded school.  The Parish Hall had to be used as a classroom, the tennis pavilion (previously the Parish School) was reclaimed for use as a classroom and in 1952 two classrooms were built with voluntary labour.  These two rooms are still used today and stand as a reminder of what and could be done with properly supervised volunteers.

The school population had grown from 262 children in 1945 to 1075 in 1957 (including 175 from St. Theresa’s Albion).  From 1952 Fr Egan had a good ally in Fr Heriot who used his push-bike to great effect to continue Fr Milligan’s work among the new arrivals.  The St Albans mud was described as 'most affectionate'.

Fr Heriot, who moved on in 1957, was on hand to welcome Fr Bernard Murphy in 1956 who became the 4th Parish Priest.  He was to retain the position until his retirement in 1987.  700 people attended a farewell function for Fr Heriot in the Sunshine Town Hall.

Novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour (Help)

Fr Murphy had a remarkable devotion to Our Lady, so it is no surprise that in 1957 in concert with the Redemptorist Fathers, he introduced the Novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour.  Every Tuesday night since that time has seen the Novena celebrated.

The school was desperately in need of additional accommodation so a decision was taken to go upstairs on a section of existing classrooms.  This new building was to be known as the Fr Egan Memorial.  Funds were raised by the sale of “bricks” and a variety concert was held at the Sunshine Picture Theatre.  It was compered by Mr Bob Jackson and featured among others Maurie Saunders, Fr Murphy and Fr Heriot (their duet of The Bold Gendarmes being a highlight.)  At the opening of the Fr Egan Memorial in 1958 Fr Murphy thanked the volunteers who had removed the roof on the existing school to allow for the second story - all this in a day.

Mariana Hall Opened

In 1957 Fr Murphy had acquired a new helper, Fr Brian Walsh, and together they embarked on a program of construction and renovation.  The Parish Hall in Station place had fallen into disrepair. Not only was this restored to a state-of-the-art entertainment and reception centre, but an additional (but connected) hall (Mariana) was built on the triangular piece of land adjoining the old hall.  This complex was opened in 1959.  Convent extensions and refurbishment followed closely on the heels of the Hall project.

Land in Devonshire Road had become available to the Parish and the opportunity was taken up with the idea of making provision for youth recreation.  Four En Tout Cas tennis courts were built and opened in 1960.  Three years later the Duke of Norfolk (who was in Australia with the touring English cricket team) opened the Youth Centre Building, the lit basketball courts and the cricket practice wickets.  The portions of land not built on were sold off to help finance the project.  Subsequent years saw the demolition of the existing Presbytery (which on his arrival Fr O’Connor had very kindly described as in a poor state) and the construction of modern living quarters for the priests and visitors as well as a new parish office on the Monash Street site.  Again donated labour played a big part in this late 60’s early 70’s undertaking.

The Parish was not flush with funds but many things needed to be done.  To improve the cash situation Fr Murphy introduced the Parish Loan Scheme.  He ran his own savings and loan organisation.  Parishioners deposited funds, were paid interest on the money, with any funds deposited being repayable on demand.  Father Murphy claimed that whenever any large amount was to be withdrawn it took only a prayer to Our Lady and the funds became available.

The Scheme allowed many Parish projects to be financed, however it may have for a while glossed over the fact that regular income was not sufficient for a parish of its size.  It wasn’t until Fr Brendan Lane was Parish Priest that the Scheme was finally wound up with all money being repaid.  At last the wishes of the Archbishop were met.

In 1960 the Parish took part in celebrations of 100 years of the Constitution of the Municipality.  A Pontifical High Mass at Barclay Reserve (now baseball headquarters) on 29th May was the Catholic contribution – an early move towards ecumenism?  It would be a decade before representatives of all Christian religions met in a spirit of cooperation.

1960s and Vatican Council II

The decade of the 1960s was a time of great change for Our Lady’s.  The first sacrificial (thanksgiving) campaign was launched in 1961 in which parishioners were asked to pledge a fixed amount for the support of their parish.  Catholics would have seen this as quite a change from past fundraising methods but has survived to this day.  The Second Vatican Council resulted, during the mid 60’s, in a Parish Council being set up so that lay participation would be improved; the Sanctuary was remodelled and the altar turned around so that the priest would face his people.  Mass was celebrated in English for the first time.

Fr O´Connor (assistant priest from 1971) whilst somewhat unorthodox, embraced the Vatican Council changes and was a front line contributor to the implementation of these changes.  The dependence on the Parish for the spiritual, social and sporting lives of parishioners also began to lessen from the end of the 1960’s.

Mercy Hospice (Palliative Care)

In the 1970’s Sister Margaret and Sister Natalie set up a Mercy Convent in Monash Street opposite Our Lady’s Church.  The intention was to establish Mercy Hospice care in the Western suburbs.  Whilst this cannot be claimed as a Parish initiative there was some involvement in fostering such an important community service.

Upon reaching 75, Fr Murphy retired as Parish Priest in 1987,  just after completing a major refurbishment of the parish school in 1986.  Fr Brendan Lane who had been assistant Parish Priest for several years was appointed to take the position.  In Fr Lane’s own words “many people and groups were doing things.  We allowed people to do their own things and supported them”.  A great example of this philosophy was the establishment of a Community House in a property in Station Place which had been acquired by the Parish.  This former residential property, known as MacKillop House served as a meeting facility for parish organisations and as a classroom for many people doing courses which were introduced.  In the long-run the school's needs were considered greater and the property was acquired by the school for expansion.

Our Lady’s Playgroup was another such example of parishioner initiative.

It seemed as if Fr Lane was almost able to recruit his own assistant priests.  Consequently Fr Neville McKie, Fr Morwood and Fr Shadbolt were living and working in the Parish.  The latter had worked in South America and had a good command of the Spanish language.  His presence led to Our Lady’s becoming a hub for the Spanish-speaking Catholics in Melbourne, even to the provision of a Spanish language Mass.  Fr Lane oversaw enormous changes to the school buildings made possible by the acquisition of the lane which separated the Convent and school sites.

Arrival of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate

By 1996 Fr Lane felt it was time for a change so Archbishop Frank Little took up an offer from the Oblates of Mary Immaculate to staff a parish in the Archdiocese and appointed them to Sunshine.  The move was not without controversy, especially as the Spanish contingent feared the loss of Fr Shadbolt.  The Archbishop prevailed however and in 1996 Fr Lewy Keelty OMI (Parish Priest), Fr Harry Dyer OMI and Fr Vin McGillicuddy OMI settled into Our Lady’s.

The Parish was well served by a succession of Oblate Parish Priests:

Fr Lewy Keelty OMI 1996 – 2002

Fr Harry Dyer OMI 2002 – 2007 (elected Provincial of Oblates whilst Parish Priest)

Fr Peter Hoang OMI 2007 – 2008 Administrator

Fr Marcus Anandanpulle OMI RIP 2008 – 2009 

Fr John Maher OMI RIP 2009 – 2011

Fr Peter Hoang OMI 2011-2015           

A great advantage of the Oblate mission was the constant presence of at least two priests and devotion to Our Lady was maintained.  Apart from the introduction of the strong Oblate ethos, these priests oversaw two renovations to Our Lady’s Church (church foyer in 2004 and major interior renovation in 2012 – new altar dedication 8th September 2012); two renovations to the Parish Centre and the Youth Centre, modernisation of Our Lady’s School buildings and grounds with greater availability of these facilities to the community. Other projects included the gifting of the 1926 Parish Hall to the School and the subsequent renovation and restoration of the smaller Mariana Hall, to the point where it is again a valuable Parish resource (mainly due to the efforts of Fr John Maher OMI RIP, Fr Vin Ryan OMI and parishioner Graham Collins RIP).

The appointment in the mid 2000’s of a Pastoral Associate, Trudi Maiden resulted in the reintroduction of the RCIA program into the Parish.

The parish was returned to the administration of Diocesan priests following the departure of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate in 2015. 

Throughout its history Our Lady’s Sunshine has been a migrant Parish.  First came the English and the Celts.  After World War II came the Maltese and Italians as well as displaced Europeans and English workers.  Then in the 1970’s were the Vietnamese and the Chileans and in more recent times people from Africa, China, Burma, the Philippines and India, among others.

Parish Priests

Fr Patrick Fennessy                  1927 – 1935

Fr Frank Ryder                        1935 – 1949

Fr James Egan                         1949 – 1956

Fr Bernard Murphy                  1956 – 1987

Fr Brendan Lane                       1987 – 1996

Fr Lewy Keelty OMI                 1996 – 2002

Fr Harry Dyer OMI                  2002 – 2007

Fr Peter Hoang OMI                2007 – 2008 Administrator

Fr Marcus Anandanpulle OMI   2008 – 2009

Fr John Maher OMI                  2009 – 2011

Fr Peter Hoang OMI                2011 – 2015

Fr Peter-Damien McKinley        2016-present

 

Assistant Priests (listed alphabetically by surname)

Fr Kerry Cronin

Fr De Marzi

Fr Bill Gill

Fr Max Grabau

Fr Lou Heriot

Fr King

Fr Krasocki

Fr Brendan Lane

Fr Vince McGillicuddy OMI

Fr Neville McKie

Fr Tom Mulligan

Fr Nicholson

Fr Morwood

Fr Vinh Nguyen

Fr Nink

Fr O’Connor

Fr Slawek Plonka OMI

Fr Greg Reynolds

Fr Vincent Ryan OMI

Fr Michael Shadbolt

Fr Paul Smithers OMI

Fr Daniel Szewsc OMI

Fr Les Tomlinson

Fr Chris Toms

Fr Brian Walsh

Our Lady's Parish Milestones

1890

Mother Parish of Footscray formed

1903

First Mass in Sunshine – Station Master's house

1909

First Parish meeting in Sunshine

1913

Timber Church and small timber School built

1927

Sunshine Parish formed. Fr Pat Fennessy (RIP) Parish Priest.

Parish Hall built

1928

Arrival of Sisters of St Joseph

1928

Convent and Presbytery acquired

1933

Three brick School rooms on Monash Street (since demolished)

1935

Parish Gazette established

1935

Fr Ryder (RIP) appointed Parish Priest

1935

Tennis Club established

1939

Timber Church burnt down

1941

New brick Church opened

1949

Fr Egan (RIP) appointed Parish Priest

1951

St Theresa’s Church, Albion completed

1952

Two classrooms in Station Place built with voluntary labour

1954

Catholic Scout troop established

1956

Fr Murphy (RIP) appointed Parish Priest

1957

Novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour commenced

1958

Fr Egan Memorial school extension opened

1959

Mariana Hall opened

1963

Youth Centre built. Baseball courts & practice wickets opened by Duke of Norfolk

1964

Arrival of Brothers of the Sacred Heart

1974

Credit Cooperative (Mark II) set up

1978

Solemn Consecration of Our Lady’s Church

1987

Refurbishing of Our Lady’s School

1987

Fr Brendan Lane appointed Parish Priest

1996

Fr Lewy Keelty OMI appointed Parish Priest

2002

Fr Harry Dyer OMI appointed Parish Priest

2004

Alterations to Church Foyer

2007

Fr Peter Hoang OMI appointed Administrator

2008

Fr Marcus Anandanpulle OMI (RIP) appointed Parish Priest

2009

Fr John Maher OMI (RIP) appointed Parish Priest

2010

Mariana Hall renovations

2011

Fr Peter Hoang OMI appointed Parish Priest

2012

Major Church repairs and alterations

2012

New Altar dedication (8th September)

2013

Outdoor Marian Shrine built

2014

Garden around the Church updated.

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