“We acknowledge that this land area traditionally belonged to the Gadigal and Wangal peoples of the Eora nation. We pay our respects to their Elders past, present and emerging.”
The Beginning of this Parish
On the 7th of September 1846, by an indenture, Winifred Redmond, executrix, and adviser of Eamon Redmond, conveyed on trust the present Church grounds of St Fiacre to the first Catholic Bishop of Sydney, John Bede Polding OSB. Leichhardt was then part of the Catholic Parish of Petersham.
Saint Fiacre was born in County Kilkenny in Ireland just before 600AD, in the Diocese of Ossory. Francis Patrick Moran had been appointed as a coadjutor Bishop of Ossory on December 22, 1871. He was consecrated in Dublin on the 22nd of December 1872. Bishop Moran succeeded to the See of Ossory as its Bishop on the 11th of August 1872. So, he was bishop of the place where St Fiacre was said to have been born.
The little church/school of St Fiacre was built during 1885. The foundation stone was laid on Sunday the 19th of April 1885 by his Grace Archbishop Francis Patrick Moran. The script in Latin placed in the glass jar noted that the Church was dedicated to “Sancti Fiacre et Immaculatae Conceptionis”. The Sydney Morning Herald 20 April 1885.
Development as a Parish
St Fiacre Church/School was opened by His Eminence Cardinal Francis Patrick Moran, Archbishop of Sydney on the 31st of January 1886. He noted that they had secured the adjoining premises and that the school was already being conducted by the Sisters of St Joseph. The Sisters of St Joseph, walking from their convent in Annandale, began teaching in the present sanctuary of the church soon after the church/school was finished in October 1885. It was not until 1887 that Leichhardt became a separate parish.
The old small church of St Fiacre’s is now the present sanctuary of the larger St Fiacre’s church that we have today. The small church was extended towards the north and this extension became the main body of the church as it is today. It was blessed on the 1st of December 1912. Within a few years, the parish considered it necessary that a school be constructed separately from the existing small church.
In 1926 Percy Miller, sold his home, “Percyville”, 104 Catherine Street, to the Catholic Church at Leichhardt, so that the Sisters of St Joseph would have a Convent within the Parish with access to the school grounds via a back gate. The Sisters took up residence in the building in 1926, forming their own separate community from that in Annandale.
Bishop Moran then promoted to the far-off metropolitan see of Sydney Australia on the 14th of March 1884. As Archbishop of Sydney in April of the following year, he laid the foundation stone of St Fiacre’s Church/School. Directly after the Second World War, many Italian migrants began to settle in Leichhardt, and from that time onwards they continued to arrive in ever greater numbers by ship and later by plane.
Under the Care of the Capuchin Friars
The coming of the Capuchin Franciscan Friars to Leichhardt was, in no small way, due to the enthusiasm and encouragement of His Excellency (later Cardinal) John Panico, the Apostolic Delegate to Australia (1935-1948). In 1944, he had approached the Archbishop of Brisbane, Sir James Duhig and had suggested to him to ask the Capuchins to send some Italian priests together with some English, Irish or American priests to look after the Italians in the Archdiocese of Brisbane and, if possible, of all of Queensland, by means of missions, retreats and preaching.
Four Capuchin friars, Frs. Accursio Rasi, Gabriel d’Italia, Egidio Scarpini and Atanase Paoletti arrived on 22nd October 1945 in Brisbane and on the 2nd November took possession of the parish of Wynnum. Fr. Accursio Rasi, had the title of “Superior Regular of the Mission”. The Mission belonged to the Province of Tuscany (Italy), since the Italian Custody of New Jersey was a Provincial Custody of the Tuscan Province.
Fr Accursio went to Sydney on October 26th, 1945. On 30th October, Fr. Accursio also met (then) Archbishop Gilroy, who had already been briefed by the Apostolic Delegate about the Capuchins the day before. Fr Accursio was asked: Would the friars be interested in accepting the Leichhardt parish of the Immaculate Conception and St. Fiacre’s? The Parish priest had died, and the parish was vacant. Archbishop Gilroy had also approached the Friars Minor but had as yet not been given a positive answer. He gave Fr Accursio six months to give him an answer.
The result of the negotiations was that on the 5th November 1946 the Parish of Leichhardt and the chaplaincy of the Italians in the Archdiocese of Sydney was entrusted to the Capuchins. The announcement read: “His Eminence, Cardinal Gilroy, has placed St Fiacre’s Parish in the care of the Capuchin Fathers, as from 5 November 1946. Two Capuchin Fathers will arrive on Wednesday from Brisbane, and two more from Brooklyn, U.S.A, will join them on Thursday. It is the wish of His Eminence that two Fathers will be appointed to work in the Parish; and that the others will look after the Italian residents of Sydney.”
On the 17th November Fr. Anastase was solemnly installed as Parish priest by Monsignor Bartlett at the 11:00 o’clock Mass. His first assistants were Frs. Adalbert and Henry. Fr. James Resci went to Wynnum to take the place of Fr. Anastase.
St Francis Church, Lilyfield
In September 1934 land was bought at Lilyfield at the cost of 850 pounds for the purpose of erecting a church and school. However, St Francis of Assisi Church and School was not completed until the Capuchins came. It was completed and blessed in August 1951. The school, which was run by the Sisters of St Joseph, closed in 1964 and the site became in part a Church and in part the Kinta Montessori Preschool.