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St Aloysius’ Cronulla celebrates a centenary of making saints

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St Aloysius centenary celebrations in Cronulla. Photo: Patrick Lee.

If the parish is the place where saints are made, then St Aloysius’ Cronulla must have done more than its fair share to populate the Kingdom of Heaven, a feat celebrated by generations of parishioners, priests and Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP at the parish’s centenary celebrations on 28 June. 

More than 600 men and women of all ages flowed into the parish in waves rivalling nearby Cronulla beach to thank God for the milestone, on the solemnity of Sts Peter and Paul, alongside the archbishop and parish priest Fr James McCarthy. 

Former priests and assistants also gladly returned for the festivities, including Fr Tom Carroll, Fr Michael McLean, Fr Paul Foley, Fr Andrew Benton, Fr John Knight, Fr John Sullivan, Fr Julian Belich, and Fr John Greig, now dean of the Sutherland Shire.  

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“For 20 centuries now, all around the world, God has called all sorts of fish into his fishing net and barque, the church,” the archbishop said in his homily. 

“He has transformed them gradually into the saints they were made to be, his works of art.  

“For one of those centuries, he has been doing that here in Cronulla and will do some more in the century ahead. 

“Whether you are more like Peter or like Paul, or like one of the other saints, this is the place he has called you to be saints.” 

St Aloysius Cronulla - The Catholic Weekly
Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP celebrating Mass. Photo: Patrick Lee

As part of the centenary celebrations St Aloysius recently installed a pipe organ, even older than its new parish home, which was blessed by the archbishop and played for the first time for the service.  

Accompanying its rich sound was an ensemble of all the parish musicians.  

The parish was blessed to have five generations of the Cody family in attendance, all of whom attended St Aloysius. The family brought the bread and wine for the Eucharist to the altar during the offertory. 

Notable attendees included the mayor of Sutherland Shire Carmelo Pesce, Liberal member for Cronulla Mark Speakman, Federal member for Cook Simon Kennedy and interim executive director of Sydney Catholic Schools Peter Turner, who helped unveil a centenary plaque.  

Jubilant celebrations followed into the night in the hall as parishioners young and old came together for an anniversary feast.  

In 1915, Agnes and Albert Gidding donated land for a chapel in Cronulla in honour of the Jesuit St Aloysius Gonzaga. Nine years later, the site was established as the first Catholic parish in the Shire.  

“Sometimes people can think of the church as just what happens at the Mass, but this place has become a part of the community, a place where faith and friendship come together,” said Fr James McCarthy. 

“Many people here could remember the 75th anniversary of the parish. Some even brought their booklets from the 50th anniversary celebrations, and even fewer might have memories of 25 years, but this centenary will always be special in the hearts of these parishioners.” 

Parishioner Robyn Winton holds fond memories from across a lifetime at St Aloysius, where she has been a parishioner since she was a year old, nearly 81 years ago. 

Archbishop Anthony greeting a parishioner of St Aloysius Gonzaga, Cronulla. Photo: Patrick Lee.

“My parents came from the country to Cronulla. My father was received into the faith in 1948 and my mother was an active member of the church over many decades, which I followed.” 

Enjoying roles as a catechist and Eucharistic minister, Robyn remains active in the life of St Aloysius, playing violin alongside her husband on vocals at 8am mass each Sunday. 

From her education to marriage to children, St Aloysius has remained the rock upon which Robyn has built her faith and her family’s faith. 

“I feel so blessed to have met so many wonderful priests and made so many beautiful friendships. For three generations we have called St Aloysius home and I hope my family makes it many, many more.” 

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