The Parish of St Nicholas of Myra is located in the Western Sydney suburb of Penrith, serving the more than 3,000 Catholic families in the area. At the heart of our parish is the worshiping faith community which has been active since 1835.
FR JOSE MANJALY MS
NEPEAN HOSPITAL CHAPLAIN
Contact 02 4734 2000
PARISH HISTORY: HOW IT ALL BEGAN
In 1835, Reverend Corcoran was appointed the first priest at Windsor. Part of his parish included Penrith. Two years later Reverend Corcoran was killed in a road accident and Archbishop Polding appointed Reverend John Brady as his successor.
In 1838, Fr Brady judged it opportune to erect a small chapel in the growing settlement of Penrith. John Tindale of Hornseywood farm gave a block of land to Archbishop Polding, not far from the site he had also provided for St Stephen’s Anglican Church, near the centre of the settlement.
The foundation stone of the first St Nicholas Church was laid by Archbishop Polding on 9 December, 1839. The first priest in Penrith was Reverend Charles Sumner. A few days after the laying of the foundation stone a small cemetary was consecrated by Archbishop Polding in which three of Penrith’s pioneering priests would be buried. Fr Michael Brennan, who died in 1864; Fr Patrick O’Mahony, who died in 1885 and more recently, Fr John Grady, who died in 1984.
The first St Nicholas’ Church was consecrated by Archbishop Polding on 13 November, 1850. Funds to build this church came, not only from the Catholic parishioners of Penrith, but from many other faiths and denominations. Before either of the two presbyteries were built, the Priests stayed with Catholic families, such as the McCarthy’s at their farm at Cranebrook.
Not much is known about the first presbytery only that it was replaced by the present building about the time of the laying of the foundation stone dated 7 February, 1932. On 27 November 1932, Archbishop Kelly returned for the opening of the new presbytery.
OUR STAINED GLASS WINDOWS
HISTORY OF LOCAL CATHOLIC SCHOOLS IN OUR PARISH
The first school was located in a slab chapel, which stood upon the site of the present presbytery. It operated from about 1862 to 1880.
In 1880, the Sisters of St Joseph opened the St Joseph ’s School, situated in Evans St (between High and Henry Streets). It was the first school opened by the Sisters of St Joseph. In 1954, the school closed as a parish school when St Nicholas of Myra Primary School opened.
The St Nicholas of Myra Primary School was established in a two-storey brick building in Tindale Street (now Higgins Street) behind the church. The main building contained six classrooms. In 1969, an additional building was constructed on the southern side of Higgins Street containing a library, staffroom and five classrooms.
As well as the Sisters of St Joseph, who have taught and lived in Penrith Parish for more than 120 years, the Christian Brothers at St Dominic’s College and the Sisters of Charity have been vitally involved in educating parishioners in Penrith throughout our history.
In more recent years, the contribution of lay teachers and principals have given life to the Catholic Schools.
Over the years the Parish has contributed to the establishment of St Nicholas of Myra Primary, Mary MacKillop Primary at Penrith South, Caroline Chisholm College at Glenmore Park , Corpus Christi Primary at Cranebrook, Bethany Primary at Glenmore Park, and McCarthy High School at Emu Plains.
CHANGES, DEVELOPMENT & GROWTH OF THE PARISH
The present St Nicholas of Myra Church was officially opened and blessed by Cardinal Gilroy on 30th April, 1967. The architect was Brian Curtin and the contemporary design ensured an increased capacity for the growing population of the greater Penrith area.
In the 1980s extension and improvements were made to the presbytery under the direction of Fr Geoff Dickinson. A new parish centre was opened in 1986.
Over the years the Parish of Penrith has given birth to other thriving parish communities such as Kingswood (1970); Emu Plains (1974); Cranebrook (1992) and more recently Glenmore Park Catholic community.
St Nicholas of Myra Parish has been well served over the years by Religious orders such as the Benedictines, among them Reverend Sumner, The Redemptorists and the Franciscans have also enriched the parish by their contribution. Franciscans Frs Peter Fraser, Finian Perkins and Damian Ferrie pioneered the Parish of Corpus Christi, Cranebrook.
Marist Fr Neville Byrne and Loreto Sisters Margaret Finnlay and Denise Braddon were involved with pioneering and running the Glenmore Park Catholic community. Fr Kevin Lee was appointed as Administrator for Glenmore Park on 1 February, 2004.
In 2002, the decision was made to beautify the front area of the Church grounds to provide a place of rest and contemplation for the busy people of Penrith. This was undertaken under the direction of Fr Wim Hoekstra.
In 2003, much needed improvements were made to the kitchen and living quarters of the presbytery under the direction of our present Parish Priest Fr Chris de Souza. Also during this period the old school building was transformed into a much needed Parish Hall which, along with the other parish meeting rooms are used on just about every day of the very week by various parish and schools groups.
In 2004, the Church received a much needed repainting, with the interior brickwork being retouched to remove stains of an earlier fire within the Church. In 2014, the parish celebrated its 175th anniversary.