At the beginning of the new century (1900) families who were moving
into the area known as Fern Hill attended Mass at Marrickville, Canterbury,
Lewisham or Ashfield. In 1906 they petitioned Cardinal Moran, Archbishop
of Sydney, to have their own church. The Cardinal approved and a
local committee began seeking out an appropriate site for the church.
A block of land on New Canterbury Road was obtained and in April
1907 Cardinal Moran laid the foundation stone for the church building.
The Passionist Fathers from Marrickville were asked to take charge
and the first Mass was celebrated in August 1908. It was the Passionist
Fathers who chose the patron saint of the new parish community -
their own founder, St Paul of the Cross. The simple church building,
now the parish hall, also served as a school during the week with
Sisters of St Joseph from Campsie providing the teaching for an initial
In December 1908 Cardinal Moran appointed Fr
William Hayden as Priest-in-Charge of the Parochial District
of Fern Hill. In 1909 the property adjacent to the church was bought
and in 1911 the presbytery (a one storey bungalow) was built on
the corner with Myra Road.
Development of the school was an urgent matter and in the mid 1909
a property in May Street, across New Canterbury Road was purchased.
By now there were 113 children attending the parish school. At the
outbreak of the World War the number of children had risen 20 212
with 6 Sisters teaching. A convent for the nuns was built on the
May Street site in 1915.
In 1918 Fr Hayden was made bishop of Broken Hill and a new parish
priest appointed, Fr Hogan. The parish numbers were increasing greatly
after the War and Fr Hogan commenced work on the building of a larger
church. The foundation stone was laid by Archbishop Kelly in 1925,
and the church was opened that year.
In October 1935 Fr Hogan died and Mgr Toumey was appointed parish
priest. By this time the parish priest was assisted by two curates.
The cottage presbytery was extended in 1937 with the addition of
a second storey. Parish life continued to develop: the St Paul Tennis
Club was founded in 1936; and the Holy Name Society in 1937. The
school expanded extraordinarily providing education up to Intermediate
Certificate and had 500 students in 1942.
Mgr Toumey died in 1955 and Mgr O'Donoghue was appointed parish
priest. He would care for the parish well into his 90s and be for
a time the oldest active priest in the Archdiocese of Sydney. In
1985 Fr Des O'Neill was appointed parish priest upon the death of
Mgr O'Donoghue. He faced the challenge of a major rebuilding of the
school property carried out in 1987.
The 1990s saw two new parish priests, Fr Bill
Wright in 1996 and
Fr Julian Porteous in 1999. Fr Porteous was appointed Rector of the
Seminary of the Good Shepherd, Homebush in 2001 (and became an Auxiliary
Bishop of Sydney in September 2003) and was succeeded as Parish Priest
by Fr Jacek Cichy. Fr Cichy unfortunately had need to resign the
parish due to health concerns at the end of 2003. Fr
Don Richardson became Administrator of the parish on New Year’s Day, 2004.
See also: Parish Life & About our Church