Newtown parish celebrates 150 years in style

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Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP with two of St Joseph’s student alumni (at left) Pat Byrnes and John Dwyer and parish pastor Father Richard Waddell. PHOTO: Alphonsus Fok

For 150 years a beautiful stone church named for St Joseph has been the sacred place for generations of Sydney Catholics in the heart of Newtown.

Last Sunday Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP gathered with locals and visitors at the inner-city church to mark the anniversary of its blessing and opening by the country’s first Archbishop John Bede Polding OSB in 1869.

Today as back then St Joseph’s boasts “a very remarkable community,” which has seen the dedicated service of many generous lay people, religious brothers and sisters, benefactors and priests, said parish administrator Father Richard Waddell.

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In recent years the parish has welcomed Sydney’s Anglican Ordinariate community to hold their Mass at the church each Sunday, which includes a number of young married couples and families.

For the special event Archbishop Fisher used his founding predecessor’s crozier and wore his pectoral cross and episcopal ring.

Jean and Ivan Cusack with Archbishop Anthony Fisher. The couple will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary in August. They were married at St Joseph’s. PHOTO: Alphonsus Fok

He told the congregation, which included former students and parishioners of St Joseph’s, that there would be no retiring from their many years of ministry to the district through worship, preaching, teaching, outreach to the poor and suffering.

“There is no cause for complacency,” he said.

“Even as we overflow with jubilee joy, we recognise that four out of five Sydney Catholics are not at Mass on Sunday and we ache for their presence with us,” he said.

He challenged parishioners to reach out to the unchurched in their community as the first disciples did after Pentecost.

“Bring those neighbours here to encounter His peace and love,” the archbishop said.

The parish boasts a French connection with the first parish priest Marist Father Pere Garaval hailing from Savoy, while the first Mass was celebrated by the order’s regional superior Fr Pere Victor Poupinel SM.

To honour its multicultural heritage, French-born parishioners Marie-Josée Esposito and Corinne Mesana brought the offertory gifts to the altar, while French wine (Blanquette de Limoux) was served along with morning tea following the Mass.