Recollections of St Therese Parish Denistone

I have been associated with St Therese Parish Denistone since 1949. Masses were then celebrated in the original presbytery, then in an extension to the presbytery, later in a Church-School building and finally in the current Church. In the early years the parishioners were mainly young families many, though not all, occupying recently built houses on the north eastern side of Blaxland Road. The ethnic make-up was mainly Anglo-Celtic, however there were some of Italian and other European backgrounds. I recall only one family of Chinese background. That has changed considerably over 70 years and the parishioners now reflect the multi-cultural diversity that is modern Australia. This evolution has been reflected in the backgrounds of our parish priests: Irish, Australian born Anglo Celtic, Vietnamese, Indian, Nicaraguan.

Parishioners have always been very active and supportive of the parish. In the 1950s the church building was used as a school during the week with a small area near the sanctuary used for daily Mass. On Saturday mornings the classrooms and desks were converted to be used for Mass on Sundays. On Sunday afternoons these were transformed back for school use. Families were rostered each weekend to undertake this task. There are many other examples of parishioner involvement including supporting sick and elderly parishioners, ministering to those in Ryde Hospital and many nursing homes and providing religious instruction to Catholic students at Denistone East Public School.

A number of young men who had links to the parish became priests. These included Fr David Coffey, Fr Gerald Gleeson and Fr Arthur Givney. They also became involved in the education of priests. Fr Gleeson is currently the Vicar General of the Sydney Archdiocese. Others included Fr Matthew Solomon and Fr Francesco Mary Gavazzi. Family members of two Archbishops were parishioners: Cardinal Gilroy's brother William and his family and Cardinal Clancy's sister Iris.William Gilroy's daughter Elizabeth became a nun in the Little Company of Mary. A number of parishioners held public office: I recall two Mayors of Ryde and a Federal Senator. Also, there was a former editor of the Catholic Weekly. The son of a NSW Deputy Premier attended the parish school and was confirmed at St Therese.

I sometimes recall a sermon given by the first Parish Priest, Fr O'Donovan, in which he quoted from Chesterton's poem The House of Christmas.

To the end of the way of the wandering star,
To the things that cannot be and that are,
To the place where God was homeless
And all men are at home.

Fr O'Donovan also had an iconic representation of the Risen Lord placed so that it overlooked the sanctuary and congregation. This icon and quote remind me that we, the People of God in Denistone Parish, gather together as a community in the presence of God to pray, to celebrate the Eucharist, to praise and give thanks to God and have done so as individuals, family members and as a Parish community for 70 years. I pray that this will continue.

Geoff Hogan 1 October 2018