History of St Joseph’s Church and Parish

Contribution by Ivan Garsia

In 1899 Fr. Francis Timoney was appointed the first parish priest of the parish of Mosman and Neutral Bay prior to becoming a Chaplain in the Boer War. Fr. Edward O’Brien succeeded him in 1900 and remained parish priest in Mosman until his death in 1942.

In 1906, Cardinal Moran opened the church and school at Neutral Bay which was built at a cost of almost ₤1,000. This building is now the parish hall. In 1914 Fr. Francis McDermott was appointed parish priest of Neutral Bay parish and remained there until he died in 1938.
The Presbytery (the house opposite the hall) was built in 1914 . This is now occupied by people with special needs and is run by the St. Vincent de Paul Society. The present Presbytery at the corner of Lindsay and Barry streets was built in 1922.

In 1938, Dr. Eris O’Brien, an eminent priest, academic and historian, succeeded Fr. McDermott. In 1940 he bought the property opposite and converted it into a school. The original site cost ₤1,250. He began building the new church which was completed in 1940. The contract price was ₤7,667. The Archbishop declared the new altar “Privileged”. An altar is said to be “Privileged” when, in addition to the ordinary fruits of the Eucharist Sacrifice, a plenary indulgence is also granted whenever mass is celebrated on the altar. The indulgence must be applied to the souls for whom the mass is offered. “Privileged” altars are not common in Sydney.

In 1948 Dr. O’Brien was appointed Auxiliary Bishop to Cardinal Gilroy and Fr. John Lander was appointed administrator of Neutral Bay. Fr. Lander remained until Dr. O’Brien left to become Archbishop of Canberra-Goulburn in 1954. A new school building was opened in 1953 at a cost of ₤12,000 and placed under the Monte Mercy Nuns. In 1954 Father, later Monsignor Michael O’Dea became parish priest. As his health deteriorated, several administrators were appointed: from 1969-1971 Fr. Ted Kennedy then Fr. Kevin Hay until Monsignor O’Dea’s death in 1973.

Fr. Richard Davey then took over as parish priest of Neutral Bay as well as assuming a big debt. Through hard work and dedication he reduced the debt considerably. He also set us Perpetual Adoration from 1985 – 1989 which drew people from as far a field as Hornsby and Liverpool. 
In 1975, the Monte Mercy Nuns withdrew from the school. It was deemed uneconomic but it continued to function as a Catholic school administered by the the Catholic Education Office until it was closed in 1988. It is now used as an independent pre-school and some of its buildings are rented out or used for parish purposes. 
In 1990, Fr. Davey retired and the parish was administered by Father Laurie Cauchi. At this time the Jesuits offered to take over the parish of Neutral Bay and in 1991 the boundaries were adjusted to include Kirribilli with Neutral Bay and Lavender Bay with North Sydney.

This new era began with the appointment of Fr. Celso Romanin SJ as parish priest accompanied by Fr. Andrew Zerafa SJ and Sr. Margaret Culhane. In 1994 Fr. Celso and Fr. Andrew returned to Adelaide, Fr. Patrick Bishop SJ became parish priest until 1996 when Fr. Robert Walsh SJ and Fr. Donal Taylor SJ took over. 
Fr. Walsh was a medical doctor before joining the priesthood and had a long association with the area having spent 7 years at St. Mary’s North Sydney from 1965 before his appointment for 11 years at Lavender Bay. After moving to Victoria, he returned to Sydney as Chaplain at the Royal North Shore Hospital prior to his appointment as parish priest of Neutral Bay- Kirribilli, assisted by Fr. Taylor and Sr. Loretta Rossen.

In late 2000 the Jesuits withdrew from the pastoral care of Neutral Bay due to a lack of priests, but retained pastoral care of Kirribilli as part of the parish of North Sydney. 
From 1st January 2001, the pastoral care of Neutral Bay was assumed by the parish of Mosman with the appointment of Msgr. Eugene Harley as parish priest. The administration has continued by having a joint Pastoral council, Finance committee and Liturgy committee for both parishes.