||It was November 1st, 1887 when the Passionists
arrived in Sydney. The Pioneers in this great undertaking were the Very Rev Fr Alphonsus
O'Neill C.P. (Superior) Fathers Marcellus Wright, Patrick Fagan, Colman Nunan and Br Lawrence
Carr. To these devoted
religious who left home and country, friends and relatives, to commence
the work of St Paul
of the Cross in a strange land, the Passionists of the Holy Spirit
province of Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea must feel very indebted.
Folklore has it that after arrival in Australia, the Passionist Community occupied a small house on the corner of
Fletcher St. and Petersham Rd. , the site of the present
Hung Cheung Restaurant. A short time later they moved to a residence in Despointes Street along side the newly built parish Church
The Passionists came to Australia at the invitation of Cardinal Moran, the Archbishop of Sydney. He separated the present parish
of St. Brigid’s from the parish
of Newtown. After taking a census of
the catholics in the Marrickville area, the Cardinal in August 1886
decided to create the parish
placing it under the care of Rev. Fr. William Doyle. The foundation stone of the Church as laid in October 1887 in
Despointes St and the church opened a few months later. Shortly
afterward, visiting the Passionists at Highgate, London
on a trip to Rome, the Cardinal negotiated withVery
Rev. Fr. Vincent Grogan the Provincial of the Anglo-Hibernian
for a community to come to Australia .
The Cardinal believed this new foundation by the Passionists would take
up again the unsuccessful foundation to the Aboriginals at Stradbroke Island forty years earlier. Cardinal
Moran believed the Passionists could take up pastoral care of a parish, but most importantly begin the work of preaching Christ Crucified
throughout this new country.
It was the Sunday afternoon in March 1888, that the first public
Ceremony in connection with the establishment of the Passionist
Community in Marrickville took place. The Cardinal Archbishop accepted
the invitation to bless the new bell, which they had erected near the
entrance to St. Brigid's Church. It was an occasion of an imposing
religious display. A magnificent procession accompanied the Cardinal
from the Church to the bell-tower in the grounds, led by one of the
Passionists carrying a Processional Cross. The bell was then blessed and
its notes sounded for the first time.
By the early 1900’s the population growth in Marrickville made it
important to look to a new Church. The
growth of the Passionists Congregation also demanded a larger residence
– there were 13 priests and five students by the 1890’s. In 1915 Fr. Alphonsus Cohen was asked to come from the monastery
of Mary’s Mount, Goulburn to purchase land for a new monastery and
Within a month the magnificent property "Shrubland" on the corner of
Marrickville and Livingstone Roads was acquired. Mr. Brennan of Brennan's Stores in Newtown bought the property on behalf of the Passionist Fathers for 17,500
pounds and anonymously donated 500 pounds, leaving the parish
to pay the rest.
Plans were drawn up to greatly enlarge the original
Shrubland House and add the present magnificent Church and hall. Fr.
Alphonsus worked tirelessly to reduce the debt and build the new
monastery and church, dying in 1917 a year before the foundation stone
was laid in 1918. The Church, without the façade or bell tower was
opened in 1921. In the
1950’s the façade and bell tower were added under the direction of
During these years the parish
schools were built, through the generosity of parishioners and under the pastoral zeal of Fr. Casimir. Dulwich Hill’s
of the Cross Parish and Church was established and built and then the
became independent in 1911, Tempe parish
became independent in 1908.
At the heart of the
Parishes life has been the constant, committed voluntary service of
generations of parishioners. From choirs to
sodalities, from cleaning to singing, from music to maintenance, from
visitation to gardening – St. Brigid's has been built on the love of
parishioners here for each other, and for their special care for the poor and
the needy. This has been
particularly evident in the welcome given to succeeding waves of
migrants and refugees who have come to Marrickville and stayed in
Marrickville. Our parish
has been founded and re-founded a number of times on the faith and work
of these new generations of parishioners from new lands.
While the parish
has always been the most visible ministry of the Passionists at St.
Brigid's, it has not been the only one. The community of St. Brigid's has sent missioners and retreat
givers the length and breadth of Australia - among the more renowned
being Fr. Francis Clune, Fr, Philip Brosnan, Fr. Edmund Toohey, Fr.
Norbert Hayne. The community
has provided confessors to the communities of religious sisters and
brothers. Spiritual direction, pastoral counselling, the sacrament of
reconciliation have all been available for thousands of people who have
come to the monastery for guidance, advice and grace. For many years St.
Brigid's was the student house for young men being educated as
Again for many years,
and once again today, St. Brigid's has been the headquarters and central
administration for the Holy Spirit province of the Passionists. It
provides a home for the
senior, retired and ill religious. Passionists
living at St. Brigid's have worked as school chaplains, seminary
professors, hospital chaplains, Marriage Tribunal officials and in
administration, Mission procuration and Vocation Direction. Of no less significance than these
more public ministries has been the quiet, hidden work of so many
Passionist brothers who have laboured to support the community in
prayer, cooking, cleaning, domestic work, farming (in the early days)
and fund raising. St.
Brigid's Community has also been a sanctuary of prayer, study and
penance. For countless years the religious rose at 2.00 in the morning
to spend time in prayer, a prayer which continued throughout the day.
Around 1998 the first
plans were drawn up to renovate and refurbish the monastery. The plans
and possibilities have gone through many permutations over the years. Buildings were to be demolished, buildings were to be extended,
buildings were to be newly constructed. The community was divided in two, the community has been reunited
into one. The present buildings allow for residential accommodation for
the Passionist Community, offices for Province administration, offices
administration and accommodation for the many visitors who pass through
Sydney on such a regular basis.
However, St. Brigid's is
not the buildings and church however magnificent they are, nor the work
that is done, however humble or inspirational it may be. St. Brigid's is the lives and stories of all those dedicated men
who have lived and loved and laughed and wept and worked and slept and
sacrificed and suffered and died in order to keep alive the memory of
the passion of Jesus through compassion and care for anyone in need – Alphonsus,
Casimir, Francis, Lawrence, Joseph, Damian, Placid, Edmund, John,
Paschal, Stanislaus, Gaudenzio, Gregory, Stephen, Philip, Norbert,
Aloysius, Austin, Br. Damian, Linus, Br. Gabriel, Raymond, Wilfrid, Br.
Stephen, Sebastian, John and the list goes on.
Brigid's is the lives of the countless people and families, well known
and anonymous, who have been born her, gorwn up here, educated, worked,
married and had families here, who have grown old and died here. St.
Brigid's is that countless host of unseen parishioners, now with God but who crowd the church every Sunday.
By our life together,
our work and our prayer may St. Brigid's keep alive the memory of the
Passion as an overwhelming sign of God’s love.