Bundeena: Sydney’s best kept secret?
Hop in a car, take the road through Sydney’s Royal National Park and keep driving until you see the sign for Bundeena.
Or take a 20-minute scenic ferry ride across the Hacking River from Cronulla aboard the Curranulla.
Either way getting to Bundeena takes a fraction of the time it used to take priests in the 1940s when they either caught a slower ferry or drove for a day over rocks and through dense scrub to reach parishioners.
When they got to Bundeena they celebrated Mass in a soldiers’ barracks hall.
Bundeena’s Catholics were within the parish of St Aloysius, Cronulla as they remain today, but they had no church building.
In 1950 the parish priest, Monsignor James Donovan, built a “simple thing of knotted pine and corrugated tin” nestled in the national park.
It was named Our Lady of the Wayside which was fitting as hikers had to pass the church before reaching the walking tracks that trail through the bush.
Fr Kevin McGovern celebrated the first Mass in the humble church in 1951. (Fr McGovern later worked heroically at the site of the 1977 Granville rail disaster.)
Our Lady of the Wayside was blessed and officially opened by Cardinal Gilroy two months after that first Mass.
Fifty years on and the Catholic community are celebrating 50 years of growth of the little church and village.
The church, renamed St James in 1973, has seen a few renovations and modifications but it remains its old self in many ways.
Last month Cardinal Clancy arrived for St James’ Golden Jubilee celebration, along with Fr Dominic Dinh Van Trung, who is administrator for St Aloysius’ parish. They celebrated Mass in the packed church with past parish priests and others from the Sutherland region.
The Mass concluded with a papal
blessing given to the community and accepted by Ted Constable whose mother, Louise had bought the land for the church and helped raise the funds to pay off the debt.
Then parishioners and visitors enjoyed the sunshine and barbecue lunch on the church grounds.
Even Cardinal Clancy discarded the coat and collar, donned his Akubra hat and enjoyed the party.
“Bundeena must be Sydney’s best-kept secret,” he said.