Memories of Saint Therese Parish, Denistone

My memories of Denistone parish begin after the building of our family home in Acacia St, Eastwood and moving in during the year of 1955. The parish had only existed since 1948 and consisted of a school/church building and a house for the Irish priest Fr. John O'Donovan.

I began walking to 8am Mass on Sunday's to Blaxland Rd and my wife Eileen to 9:30am Mass. After getting to know us, Fr O'Donovan would appear at our door frequently for morning or afternoon tea. Other initial acquaintances were John & Christine Duffy who invited us to join their table at a Ball in West Ryde. Our children began school at the parish with the Sisters of Mercy & lay teachers.

For the fathers of the parish Saturday & Sunday were days of work. We were in teams who were obliged to change the seating in the school/church building for the different requirements every Saturday & back again every Sunday. I was in the team comprising Jim McCormick, Maurice Hartigan, Pearce Hannigan & myself (John Eppel). We all had children at the school.

They learned Irish dancing and we had to raise our voices loud for "Hail Glorious Saint Patrick."

All that changed in the 1960's when a design for a new church was invited. I was pleased that my long-time fellow wartime navigator & friend, Kevin Curtin, became the architect and builder for the project in November 1961. I had been meeting him on Anzac Days post war with the sole survivor of the crew of his twin brother Pat who had been shot down on the 23rdFebruary 1945.

In the new church Bref McGowan became well known for his announcement of the RSL Ode from the pulpit on Anzac Day.

John Duffy recruited me to take up the plate on the left downstairs after I had spent a time in the gallery and my wife joined the counting team with Hazel & Maurice Waterson. I was greeted with a smile each Sunday by an Italian lady and a Lebanese lady who used a Missal in Arabic. Also familiar here was a doctor from the Emergency Department of Ryde Hospital (who came to 8am Mass and communion in his hospital gown. He was needed one Sunday when an Indian priest in poor health (John Schnehadas) collapsed on the sanctuary and the congregation burst into a spontaneous rosary.

Fr Glenn Walsh was our priest at the funeral of my wife Eileen and he banned the display of family photos on the screen at the side of the altar which upset my daughters, but John Kenny arranged music which was appreciated. Fr Walsh disappeared from us immediately afterwards for a reason and destination which we have never learned.

Other notable events were the ordination of Fr Norvin, who had been a friendly assistant priest for us for several years (4 years) and his posting to Maroubra and the visit by Cardinal Pell for Confirmation which had been followed by afternoon tea with several of us in the Presbytery. He remarked that his curate driver had got lost on the way to Denistone and I quoted to him the RAF dictum, "A good navigator is never lost, he in only Temporarily Uncertain."

After a heart attack in 2013 I was still able to drive but transferred to a front pew in the church to have communion brought to me. But a drastic fall in September 2017 resulted in surrendering my (driving) licence and confinement to my home with a wheelchair and now Fr Roberto brings communion to me there.

John Eppel, Airman navigator from World War II and parishioner of Denistone