History of Holy Family Parish

The parish of Holy Family, East Granville, owes its beginnings to Rev John Haplin of the mother parish of Holy Trinity who was responsible for gathering the faithful in the Trongate section of Granville Parish. The Mass Centre at GEPA (Granville East Progress Association) Hall, the Trongate, (rented since May 1936) was purchased in January 1937 for 300 pounds. The Hall had been built after World War 1 on the corner of Hudson Street and The Trongate and was used for meetings and social gatherings throughout the 1920’s and the 1930’s. Several unsuccessful attempts were made during this time to set the Hall up for use as a local cinema. Because the GEPA Board struggled to meet the financial obligations associated with both renovations on the Hall as well as related interest payments to the local Commonwealth Bank, a final decision was then taken by the Association to sell the Hall and all of its fixtures. After all of the financial liabilities had been taken care of, the balance was distributed to the GEPA shareholders

On Tuesday 7 February 1938, the Sisters of Saint Joseph arrived at The Trongate Hall in Granville to begin the work of Catholic education for the young children of the area. This is the same order to which Australia's first saint belonged — Saint Mary of the Cross MacKillop. At the time the sisters, including Sister Bonaventure Darling, travelled daily from Holy Trinity in Granville to provide lessons. They often travelled by Todd’s Taxi at a cost of six pence (five cents) or else the Parish priest or one of his parishioners drove them in his car. The parishioners of the day collected money for their taxi fare. Starting with only 40 students, the school was embraced quickly by the local Trongate community and within a few weeks numbers had grown to 75.

In the "Catholic Press" of 25 November 1937, there is a short paragraph which gives a clue to the work which went into the purchasing of the GEPA Hall and its subsequent renovation. “A most successful euchre party and dance was held recently in the Trongate Hall to assist the East Granville Church Building Fund”. Fr Halpin, the Parish Priest of the time, referred to “the excellent work done by the guests of the evening in raising funds for the purchasing of the Hall for Church purposes” as well as of the “voluntary labour for fencing and renovating the property”. Particular reference was made to “the gentleman of 84 years who built the brick and iron fence in front of the Hall” and also to “the other men of 70 years and older who spent their spare time working on the building”.

The intersection of The Trongate and Hudson St in 1943 with the former GEPA Hall clearly visible. The markings on the ground in the area now occupied by the Holy Family school are World War II air-raid trenches.

The Holy Family Parish was founded and by 1952 the old hall in which both Mass and classes for the school were held had become rather overcrowded. A new building was then erected across the street. By that time the school catered for children from Kindergarten to Year 5. Soon after, in 1954, a convent was established nearby.

The ‘old church’ moves from the site of what was to become the newest church. This building was to become part of an expanding parish school.

The Holy Family Parish was officially established in November 1946 with Rev John Kerrigan as first Parish Priest and Les Campion, later to be Parish Priest of Holy Trinity Parish at Granville, as an altar boy. "The Cumberland Argus" carried a story on 14 May 1947 about a juvenile fancy-dress ball whose purpose was to raise funds to “purchase more desks, seats and other facilities for the pupils of Holy Family school”. The Holy Family Church, Trongate St, “a branch of the Holy Trinity Church Granville, is the first Catholic Church to be established in the new parish of East Granville”. The hall “is used for social functions at night and during the day the Sisters of St Joseph conduct a school”. After the ball, “supper was served to the children in the basement”.

"The Catholic Weekly" from May 8th of the same year had a letter from a student who lived in the new East Granville Parish. In the letter the young girl wrote that she was proud to say that “we have made a parish, under the title of the Holy Family, East Granville and have for our parish priest Rev. Father Kerrigan”. She continued that “we have a lot of hard work ahead of us, as a primary school must be built, and we would ask you to join us in our prayers for our success”.

During these years land was bought in The Trongate known as Hayes Marshalling Paddock which was to become the site for the second church-school that was built in the early 1950’s. On Sunday, 27 January, 1952 Cardinal Gilroy blessed and laid the foundation stone of the new Church/School and a year later, he repeated the ceremony for the foundation of the Holy Family Church.

Cardinal Gilroy blesses the foundation stone for the new church

The new church - as it appears in 2015

After Fr Kerrigan was transferred to Rockdale he was succeeded by Fr Frank Martin as Parish Priest in October 1961. It would be his posting to East Granville that would give Fr Martin his greatest challenge. In an article in ‘The Catholic Weekly’ of July 31st 2014 he remembers his time in that parish.

“I used to lie awake the first week I was in East Granville wondering where the heck I should start. “There was no church, no convent, one totally inadequate school building, and no money.” Fr Frank began by asking what the people needed most of all, and the answer came: a kindergarten. “They had a kindergarten in an old wooden building which used to flood every time it rained. Fancy bringing the little ones to school in that!” The kindergarten was built, and Fr Frank “landed on his feet”.

Prior to his arrival in the area, the parish leased a block of land to Hoyts on which ‘The Crest’ cinema had been constructed. But “TV had killed them, they were down to one night a week”, and Hoyts was eager to get out of the arrangement. “They approached me and said it would be in the interest of the church to take over the building, because they were losing money,” he said. Fr Frank agreed to assume responsibility for the building, on the condition that the sloping cinema floor was flattened for a ballroom.

“I started getting bookings for the ballroom, then someone put housie into my head. “They said it was a natural working class area and we couldn’t lose, and they were right. “In the end we were making $1500 a week from housie alone, and we built the church and the convent and the parish centre.” After 15 years at East Granville, he grew unwell and an administrator Fr Michael O’Byrne was brought in to oversee the parish while Fr Frank recovered.

In a Parish Bulletin of June 1973 Fr Martin summed up his time as a builder in the parish. “I was sent here in October 1961. We didn’t have much. Now thanks to generous people and willing workers, we have a fully equipped parish. We have a complete plant. We have spent a lot of money. The Kindergarten cost $33,000.00 fully furnished; the Church $140,000.00 fully furnished – both are paid for. Land and a cottage were purchased for a presbytery $7,000.00 (paid for); a third school block with a tuckshop and shelter were added for $33,000.00 (65% paid for; the Crest Theatre was taken over and alterations made for a ballroom; land purchased for a convent and a convent built for over $100.000.00, and an assembly hall including a meeting room and youth headquarters erected for $150,000.00. In addition to this, school desks and electronic equipment and improvements to the school yard all addup to many more thousands of dollars”.

In a Parish Bulletin on his leaving the parish, Fr Martin is described in the following words:” It is not for the fine buildings that we will remember him. It is for the Spirit of Christ that he kindled in the hearts and lives of all those who came to know him as a priest of Jesus Christ. From the youngest to the oldest, all in Holy Family have experienced the graciousness of his concern bringing them closer to Christ”. Additionally “Holy Family Parish will miss Fr Martin, that is something that need not be said, but the spirit that he nourished must be made to continue and strengthen in the years that lie ahead. That Family spirit kept strong in this Parish will be the greatest tribute that we can pay to our pastor”.

On 14 April, Fr James Stack succeeded Fr Martin as Parish Priest.

Fr James served as Parish Priest from 1976 until his death in 2014. Prior to this, he served at a wide number of different parishes including those of Neutral Bay, Windsor, Concord, Gosford, Berala, Kingsgrove, Ashbury, Lakemba, Westmead, Mascot, Enfield and Blakehurst.

To download an article on Fr Stack, click here.

Source of the article: Catholic Communications - Archdiocese of Sydney

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Parish Priests & Administrators

Rev John Kerrigan

1946 – 1961

Rev Frank Martin

1961 – 1976

Rev Michael OByrne (Administrator)


Rev Paul Jacobs (Administrator)


Rev Peter Williams (Administrator)


Rev James Stack

1976 – 2014

Rev Clifford D'Souza (Administrator)

2014 - 2015

Rev Andrew Bass (Parish Priest)

2015 -

Extensive use was made of historical material provided by Harry Stephens on the History of the Holy Family Parish