After the Dominicans

Fr T Scanlon

1948 – Fr T Scanlon appointed Parish Priest

1954 – Under Fr Scanlon’s strong leadership a new parish school was built in Macmillan Street. With voluntary labour this work cost £2500 ($5000).

Fr Thomas Vaughan

1955 – Fr Thomas Vaughan, Parish priest

Fr Vaughan was born in Kilkee, County Clare, Ireland in 1912. His mother was an Australian girl who had gone to Ireland to visit relatives but met and married there. Young Thomas studied for the Priesthood at St John’s Seminary, Waterford, Ireland, where he was ordained in June, 1937, coming to Australia in the same year. He spent his first two years as assistant priest in Morewell, Victoria – on loan from the Sydney Diocese.

Returning to Sydney, he served as assistant priest at Rydalmere, Granville, Concord and Erskineville after which he served as Administrator at Campbelltown, Fr Vaughan’s uncle and great uncle were also priests.

1960 – A portion of the Presbytery (added by the Dominicans some years after the original Presbytery was built) was moved to the school site and converted into classrooms at a cost of£150 ($300). At this time the Catholic population was 530 persons – with 97 children attending the parish school. In October, 1960, planned giving was introduced with £10,500 pledged over three years by 112 givers of weekly contributions.

1961 – Four blocks of land behind the Presbytery were purchased at a cost of £879 ($1,758).

1968 – Fr T Vaughan died on 18 January 1968, aged 55 years, following a coronary occlusion. A solemn Requiem Mass was celebrated in St Francis Xavier Cathedral, Wollongong, by Fr R Funcheon, PP, Sutherland. Bishop McCabe and priests from the Wollongong Diocese were in attendance, as were Helensburgh Parishioners.

Fr T Scanlon

1968 to 1970 – Fr Scanlon returned to the Parish for another brief term following the death of Fr Vaughan.

Fr Patrick McCarthy

1970 – Fr Patrick McCarthy, appointed as Parish Priest

Fr McCarthy was born 13 May, 1901, at Concord. He entered the Christian Brothers’ Novitiate on 26 December 1917. He taught at several schools around Australia and was the first Superior at St Edmonds College, Canberra. He secured a B.A. Degree in 1930 and a Diploma of Education in 1937, specializing in Languages.

Accepted as a late vocation for the Priesthood by the Diocese of Wollongong, he studied in Baltimore and was ordained in the USA on 18 April, 1959. He served in parishes at Thirroul, Corrimal, Fairy Meadow, Wollongong, Kiama and West Wollongong before coming to Helensburgh. Father’s earlier vocation as a teaching brother probably explains his particular interest in the youth of Helensburgh. He took a keen interest in their activities, assisting them in their studies and following their sporting and social pursuits with genuine enthusiasm. Study/social nights at the Presbytery for all young people of the town were regular events.

On a trip to Wollongong, Father was tragically killed in a car accident near Sublime Point on 22 February, 1972. Local identity Wayne Costello, then 16 years, was seriously injured but – thank God – recovered. Ally Woods records that notably at Father’s funeral at St Francis Xavier Cathedral, Wollongong, “was a row of young soccer players from Helensburgh (not one of them were Catholic) mourning his passing”. The Helensburgh community acknowledged the service given by Father to the young of the town when they restored the old Band Hall for use by the young people and named it the Patrick McCarthy Memorial Hall. Sadly, this historic building burnt down in July 2000.

Fr Maurice Rosa

1972 – Fr Maurice Rosa was appointed Parish Priest

Fr Rosa worked tirelessly to renovate the old church and other buildings and amenities around the parish. Thanks to him, the old church was able to continue servicing the parish for a few more years, and provided valuable time to plan and build the new church.

1973 – New convent opened on 3 February

1978 – 1980 The Marist Fathers cared for the parish during these years. Parishioners still have fond memories of Fr John McMillan, Fr Albers and Fr Jim Walsh.

Fr Ferdinand Fuhlendorf

Father Fuhlendorf was born in Leichhardt, Sydney, on 6 June, 1913, the son of a tram driver. He had a brother, Jack, and two sisters, Dorothy and Marie. Marie joined the Sisters of St Joseph (Sr Ferdinand).

Father studied for the Priesthood at Springwood and Manly and was ordained in St Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney on 30 November, 1936, by Archbishop M. Sheehan D.D., Coadjutor Archbishop of Sydney. He served in many parishes in New South Wales and Queensland, before coming to Helensburgh in 1980.

1936 Parramatta, 1937 Maroubra, 1938 Lithgow, 1940 Pymble, 1942 Toowoomba Qld, 1945 Enfield, 1948 Wentworthville, 1949 Wollongong, 1952 Moruya, 1952 Narooma, 1955 Moruya, 1968 Batemans Bay, 1971 Thirroul and 1980 Helensburgh.

1980 to 1988 – The Ferdie Years

1982 – The Sisters of St Joseph withdrew their Sister as principal, and Mr John Doherty was appointed the first lay Principal of Holy Cross, Helensburgh.

1984 – A covered way was built – a classroom added – and the staff room renovated at the school to cater for increasing enrolments. Cost $29, 350.50.

1985 – Fr Fuhlendorf and the Parish council decided, by a large majority vote, to build a new church on land in McMillan Street adjacent to the convent (now the Parish Centre). The old Presbytery in Parkes Street was sold to help finance the new church, and the Catholic Development fund (CDF) approved a loan of $420,000. Parishioners were requested to support the weekly Planned Giving Programme to help finance the new church and other commitments.

The CDF also approved a loan of $36,000 toward the cost of new school extensions, and a Federal Government Grant of $173,000 was also obtained for this project.

Sr Patricia Duffy, Provincial of the Sisters of St Joseph, regretfully informed the parish that, because of retirements and lack of replacement vocations, she would be completely withdrawing her Sisters from the parish school. Sr Jane continued until the end of 1986. The parish attempted unsuccessfully to attract other teaching Orders to the town.

The old church from 1890 was moved from its original site in Parkes Street to within the school grounds. It continued to be used as a church until the opening of the new church. After that it was used by the school and parish as a hall until it had to be demolished because of termite damage.

1986 – Stage 1 of the school extensions were completed in June, 1986, at a total cost of $213,000.

Construction of the new church commenced. The builders were Cowyn constructions and the Architect was George Adams.

Bishop W. Murray performed the Blessing of the Site, and Blessing and Laying of the Foundation Stone on 9 August 1986.

On 24 November, 1986, Pope John Paul II arrived in Australia and celebrated Mass on a magnificent sandstone altar. The altar was in two parts, each half an independent altar when separated.

The morning after the Papal Mass a volunteer team of local parishioners helped dismantle and load the one half of the altar onto a truck. It arrived in Helensburgh and was reassembled on the sanctuary of the new church within 22 hours of the Canberra Mass – thankfully without sustaining damage. (The other half of the Papal Altar went to the parish of St Mary’s in Braddon, Canberra, ACT).

The weekend before the new church was to be opened and a week before his actual anniversary date, parishioners from Holy Cross and from other parishes in which he had served, celebrated with Fr Fuhlendorf, his family and friends, the Golden Jubilee of his Ordination.

The following Saturday 29 November, 1986, the new church was officially opened with a concelebrated Mass. Bishop William Murray, Chief Celebrant, assisted by Fr Fuhlendorf, Fr T Scanlan, Fr M Rosa, Fr E Weber, Fr Briffa, Fr Chapman SM, Fr Roberts and Fr Gleeson.

The next day, Sunday 30 November, 1986, Fr Fuhlendorf, in the presence of Bishop Murray, family, friends and parishioners, celebrated in the newly consecrated church, the Golden Jubilee Mass of his Ordination to the Priesthood fifty years earlier to the day.

1987 – On 11 September, 1987, a sculptured figure of Christ crucified was placed over the high altar. The figure had been carved by Engelbert Piccolruaz.

1988 – Fr Fuhlendorf continued as Parish Priest until his retirement on 12 January 1988. After his retirement Fr Fuhlendorf remained close to Holy Cross, acting as relieving priest on a number of occasions.

Father Richard Hazlitt

Following Fr Fuhlendorf’s retirement, Fr Richard Hazlitt was appointed Parish Priest from 16 January, 1988.

Fr Hazlitt was born on 27 December, 1930, to Jack and Beatrice (nee McHugh), B.A. Dip. Ed. Sydney University. His father was an original ANZAC at Gallipoli. Fr Hazlitt had three sisters. His grandfather, Jim, was a manager of J C Williamson’s Theatre Company, and his Uncle Gervys Hazlitt was an Australian Test cricketer. His father also had the distinction of being the first Aeronautic Mechanic for Qantas in Longreach, Queensland.

Father’s primary and secondary education was undertaken at St Michael’s, Lane Cove and St Ignatius College, Riverview, respectively. Prior to the Priesthood, Fr Hazlitt worked as a managing Law Clerk in Sydney, and later for his Uncle Hugh McHugh, Solicitor, in Moruya. During this time he succeeded in obtaining his Bronze Medal from Moruya Surf Club.

Preparing for the Priesthood, young Richard studied two years Philosophy at St Columba’s, Springwood, and three years Theology at Urban University, Rome, Italy. Fr Hazlitt was ordained in Rome by Cardinal Agagianian on 20 December 1961. He returned to Australia via the Holy Land and India.

Back in Australia, Fr Hazlitt served as assistant priest in Corrimal and Bishop’s House, Wollongong, before his appointment as parish Priest, Narooma, in 1970. Since then he has served in Kiama, Picton, Helensburgh, Berry-Shoalhaven Heads and Bulli.

Fr Hazlitt was a kind, gentle man. He served the parishioners of Helensburgh with love; he had a particular compassion and devotion for the people at Garrawarra. Father had a love of music and was an encouragement to the choir, increasing the use of music and song in the liturgy. He was much loved and respected by the parishioners of Helensburgh for his faithful service to the Lord and to them. Fr Hazlitt left Helensburgh on All Saints Day, 1 November, 1990.

Father Peter Hill

Fr Hill was born in Orange in 1945 and lived for a few years in Bathurst before moving to Corrimal at age nine. He attended St Columbkille Primary School and Edmund Rice College, Wollongong. When he left school he joined Woolworth’s, managing stores in Wollongong, then Sydney. Father’s sister, Suzzanne, joined the order of Good Samaritan Sisters.

As a late vocation, Peter Hill studied at St Paul’s Seminary, Kensington. He was ordained to the Priesthood by Bishop W Murray at St Francis Xavier Cathedral, Wollongong on 14th August 1981. He served at Kiama, Campbelltown and the Cathedral, before his posting to Helensburgh in 1990.

Fr Peter Hill came to the parish with some definite ideas as to liturgical practice and organisation. His shy, retiring nature belied an inner strength and resolve to achieve certain goals he felt important for the parish. He had a particular devotion and service to the children and to the school. Father was instrumental in planning the construction of the new building containing three classrooms, which Bishop Phillip Wilson officially opened on 27th October 1996. (This building was dedicated to Fr Peter and the school’s rose Garden which has recently been concreted over with the 2011 renovations was named
Fr Peter’s Garden)

Over the next few years Fr Hill continued the years of priestly service to the patients at Garrawarra Hospital that had been provided by Helensburgh priests for many years. He exuded a warmth and affection that was responded to by the patients.

Holy Cross parishioners were stunned and saddened by Fr Peter’s death on Holy Thursday 13th April 1995, after he had suffered a cerebral haemorrhage in the Presbytery on 26 th
March 1995. As his body lay in repose – and with his family present – a vigil service in his memory was held in Holy Cross Church on 17 April 1995. His funeral was conducted the following day from St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral, Wollongong, by Bishop W Murray. The large attendances on both these occasions were indicative of the love and respect that clergy and laity alike held for Fr Peter Hill.

A Brief Return – 1995

Following Fr Peter’s death, Fr Fuhlendorf returned briefly as relieving priest. It was a sad and difficult time for all, especially Fr Ferdie who was in poor health during his brief stay with us.

Father Allan Hornery

Fr Allan Hornery celebrated his first Mass in Helensburgh on the weekend of 15/16 July 1995. His invitation to parishioners to participate more fully in the life and liturgy of the parish drew a generous response which helped the grieving process following Fr Peter’s death.
 Although, during his time at Holy Cross, Father did not enjoy good health, he applied himself to the task of serving God and his people in the parish and won the love and respect of parishioners for his work around the parish. He set up a Liturgy committee to assist in organising special observances like Lent, the Easter Triduum, Advent and Christmas. He introduced music into the liturgy of the Mass and engaged a Liturgical Music co-ordinator. All our special occasions and seasonal observances were enhanced by this beautiful music. He encouraged ecumenical interaction with other churches in Helensburgh through the Combined Churches Carols in the Park each year, and through his own participation in the local churches’ Ministers’ group.

In 1996, we celebrated the 10th anniversary of the opening of our new church.

Fr Allan was here for Helensburgh when we experienced the 2001 Christmas Day bushfires.

The following report is from the Catholic Weekly 24 February 2002:

Thank You for Saving Us

‘Even though two months later many are still hurting, they came out to offer a joyous ‘thank you’ from the heart.

More than two thousand Helensburgh residents expressed their gratitude by attending a joyful celebration to honour the special men and women who saved lives and property in the Christmas Day bushfires.

Helensburgh parish priest, Fr Allan Hornery, and local Anglican minister, Rev Trevor Young, organised the ‘Thank You Gathering’, including an open air concert and bush dance in honour of the brave firefighters, emergency service workers and volunteers who supported the town and risked their lives rather than celebrate Christmas safely with their families.

“No one could have anticipated the ferociousness or velocity with which the Christmas Day fires struck”, Fr Hornery said in a short service before the concert in Charles Harper Park.

“People were evacuated to the swimming pool, then to the Workers Club until later in the day when the whole town was evacuated,” he said.

The fires claimed seven homes and four factories in Helensburgh.
 Evacuated residents were allowed to return home four days later to a massive clean-up job.

“No one will too quickly forget the panic, terror, confusion, the heat and fireballs and the feeling of complete helplessness,” Fr Hornery said.

“Many are still hurting as they begin from scratch to rebuild their lives and come to terms with the loss of their past in the memories they cherished.”

He said the thanksgiving gathering and concert were the community’s way of saying a big ‘thank you’ to all those who came into the town and risked their own lives to save lives and property.

Rev Trevor Young said the night had been organised as soon as possible to allow residents to get together and bring some closure to what could only be described as a major disaster.

“Indeed, it was a disaster not only for Helensburgh, north of Wollongong and close to Stanwell Tops, but for the whole of NSW, and thankfully volunteer units arrived from all over the state to help Helensburgh residents in their hour of need”, he said.

He thanked NRMA Insurance which donated $2,000 towards the event, Helensburgh’s Lions Club and the Centennial Hotel who provided food and drink, and the local Shell service station.

Mr Young also thanked local professional artists who volunteered their talent for the evening’s entertainment.

After the thanksgiving service and the concert, people were free to dance the night away to music provided by the Fiddle Dance Bush Band.

One member of the band lost his family home in the fires plus all his instruments. True to the spirit of the evening, he happily played on a borrowed guitar.

Fr Hornery said at the end of the evening he and Trevor Young were delighted with the large number of people who attended the night. He said it proved there was, “joy in knowing we were not alone” and it also proved the strength of community spirit in the town.

During Fr Allan’s time with us, we organised family weekends to Wombeyan Caves where we participated in Mass under the Grand Arch. He was an active participator in the centenary of Holy Cross School in 2000.

Brother Vincent Doran

For many years Br Doran was an identity around the parish, especially at St Bernadette’s, Stanwell Park. Brother cared for his Christian Brother colleagues at Stanwell House for several years as they enjoyed the rest and solitude that we all need from time to time. On 19 April 1996 many parishioners celebrated with Br Doran, his family, colleagues and friends, the 70 years of faithful service he had given to Almighty God and to the Christian education of young Australians. Following Brother Doran’s death on 31 December 1999, Stanwell House was renamed Doran House.

Fr Patrick Vaughan

Fr Patrick Vaughan’s appointment to Holy Cross, Helensburgh in September 2002 bought him closer to his family roots at Caringbah than he might ever have expected when he entered the Priesthood. His parents and other family members became familiar faces in our church.

Tragedy Strikes

Father barely had time to settle in and become familiar with the Parish, when on the 31 January 2003 he became involved in the tragedy that was to become known as the Waterfall Train Disaster. Hearing of the derailment, he made his way through the Cawley fire trail, being picked up by an ambulance on the way, and was among some of the first to arrive at the site. He assisted survivors and ministered to them. In an article written by Damir Govorcin, it was reported in the Catholic Weekly newspaper about his experiences on that and following days:

The accident took the lives of seven people and injured 45. In his 11 years as a priest, Fr Patrick has watched people dying in hospital, but nothing had prepared him for what he was about to witness.

He walked through bushland before being picked up by an ambulance and taken to the site.

For four hours he performed the Anointing of the Sick to the dying, comforted the injured and supported the emergency workers.

“Visually it’s still strong in my mind,” says Fr Patrick. “Being there and seeing the crushed cabins of the carriages.”

The article went on to tell of Fr Patrick’s fears and self doubt of his ability to cope. He spoke of his feelings of “…disbelief, fear and uselessness” on arriving at the site. He spoke of performing Anointing of the Sick to the people who had died and praying for those he could not reach. He said “I had the feeling that God was there, which gave me great strength and comfort.” He spoke of talking to the injured on the side of the track, who shared with him their stories of terror.

In the days and weeks following the accident Fr Patrick said “I have been depressed, but I haven’t tried to keep my emotions bottled in.” He was grateful for the support he received from his family, friends and fellow priests; and also from Bishop Peter Ingham of Wollongong.

Father maintained contact with many people he met on that day and with the families of the seven unfortunate victims who lost their lives. The next year on 31 January he arranged for the Parish to hold the First Anniversary Waterfall Memorial Day. In the March 2004 edition of the Holy Cross Parish Magazine he wrote of that event:

As a Parish we were privileged to remember the seven people who died at the Waterfall Rail crash.

It was also a day to support those seven families who had lost someone in tragic circumstances, someone they had dearly loved. Our response, as a parish, was a strong and compassionate one.

During the Requiem Mass and Memorial Service, we also remembered those injured and those who came to their help. Our Bishop, Peter Ingham, the NSW Governor, Maree Bashir and many distinguished people, by their presence and participation, enabled those who grieved to know that we do care. In our Christian perspective, we know that God cares, in His Love for each and every human being.

All of the grieving families who were here came up to me after the Memorial Service and said, “Thank you for having this day for us.” It was the best thank-you possible. There is always healing in telling our stories. So many of the injured had not seen each other since the day of the Rail crash, a year before. Many of the grieving families embraced and comforted each other in their shared loss and pain.

I believe it was a day that “God visited His people” in Holy Cross Parish. His compassion and love for all was seen in our outreach to others.

I say thank you to all who helped on that day.

Your Brother in Christ Fr Patrick

A memorial plaque was established in our prayer garden outside the church. The Waterfall Memorial Day continued to be held each year whilst Fr Patrick remained in Helensburgh. It was always well attended and never lost its importance to those involved in the tragic events of that fateful day.

In his seven years at Holy Cross, Helensburgh, Fr Patrick proved to be an able administrator, a good people person, an innovator, a builder, and achiever. He had a fine understanding of the use of music in the Mass. He also had a great singing voice. For all that, it was his response, physically, emotionally and spiritually, to the tragedy of the Waterfall Train Disaster that, for many people, Catholic or otherwise, defined his character, Christian values and ministry.

Other notable achievements/events/projects during Fr Patrick’s time at Holy Cross included: Converting the former Convent building into the Mary MacKillop Parish Centre. Increased use of music in Liturgy of the Mass. Introduction of the annual Sacred Music Festival. (See more details below). 
Introduction of the annual parish Paschal Meal, which mirrored the ancient rites of the Jewish Passover.
 Annual celebration of Divine Mercy Sunday. Faithfulness to all his priestly liturgical and sacramental ministries.

Fr Patrick’s twin brother, Anthony was a member of the Schola Cantorum Gregorian Chant Choir of Brisbane. Therefore, when Fr Patrick decided to celebrate the annual Triumph of the Cross feast day with a music festival each year, it was a delight for parishioners, and other attendees, to hear the beautiful music and voices of this wonderful choir within our own church. Attendance at this annual celebration increased as news of its beautiful sacred music spread across the land.

All good things must come to an end they say. Fr Patrick had spent seven years at Holy Cross and in 2010 Bishop Ingham needed to move some priests around to meet the needs of the Diocese. Fortunately, Fr Patrick’s new Parish of St Patrick’s, Port Kembla was not too far away, so we still got to see him occasionally.

Fr Francis Tran

Parishioners at Holy Cross took an instant liking to that smiling Vietnamese ball of energy who, in July 2010, introduced himself to us as Fr Francis Tran. The most frequent comment used by people then, when talking about our new priest, was ‘Isn’t he different!’ Yes, we are all ‘different’; each with our own gifts, talents, personalties and so on. But Fr Francis was/is ‘different’ different.

Fr Francis has that ability to inspire people to action. Perhaps it was his time spent as a prisoner to the Communist regime in his homeland (Vietnam) that gave him time to reflect on the need to not waste a moment of life’s opportunities and challenges when he gained his freedom. His work ethic was infectious! He inspired us to undertake those jobs around the parish that we had been ignoring. And he didn’t stand around shouting directions to everyone else. If some lights needed to be hung in a tree or up a pole … up he went. If cement needed to be mixed or wheeled or carried in a bucket to get a job done … he was right in the thick of it; and no one worked harder than he did; and always with good humour.

If all this makes Fr Francis sound all physical and no spirituality, then forget it. Although he suffered at the hands of the Communists in Vietnam, he carries no grudges or hang-ups. He takes his Christianity seriously with love, compassion and forgiveness … and as always, with good humour. He could take one of God’s simple gifts of nature to adorn the church and lift our spirits; such as the log he found walking through the local bushland that became the Christ-child’s crib at Christmas that year.

It came as a shock and disappointment to us all when the Bishop himself came before Christmas 2010 and announced that he was moving Fr Francis to the Parish of St John at Dapto. To say that Bishop Ingham took some flak over this decision would be an understatement. However, when you consider the needs of the large, and apparently still growing Parish of Dapto, together with the youth, energy and talents that Fr Francis would take there, then you realise the Bishop made the right call.

As Helensburgh parishioners we can rejoice and thank God (and Bishop Ingham) that we had this priest at Holy Cross to serve us, inspire us and as he always did … humour us. Nevertheless, it would have been wonderful to have had him stay longer.