The history of the Parish of St Paul’s at Albion Park is uniquely linked to the first Mass celebrated in the Illawarra by Fr John Joseph Therry on Wednesday 17 April, 1833. On that occasion Fr Therry celebrated Mass at a military barracks in Wollongong under the control of Captain Allman. He also baptised five children and solemnized two marriages and so the Catholic tradition commenced in the Illawarra.
The Missionary District of the Illawarra was established in 1838 under the direction of Fr John Rigney (1838- 45), Fr Peter Young (1845-50) and Fr Eugene Luckie (1850-52). During Fr Young’s time the area from Kiama to the Clyde River became the Southern Illawarra Mission and the Northern Mission included Albion Park, Shellharbour and Dapto centred on St Francis Xavier’s, Wollongong.
By 1881 Albion Park became a separate Parish serving the surrounding dairy districts and Fr Augustus William Petre was transferred to a new Presbytery built on Tongarra Road in April, 1878.
The first Baptism registered for the new Parochial District was that of Thomas James Raftery, born 7 February, 1867 to John Raftery and Jane Brownlee. The ceremony was conducted on 17 March, 1867 by the Curate Fr Edmund Walsh who served in the Parish for two years.
The original records of the Northern Illawarra Mission show that the area of Terry’s Meadows, Johnson’s Meadows, Marshall Mount, Macquarie River and surrounding areas were establishing a unique Church community coming together for worship and spiritual support. Families resident in Albion Park today have an ancestry in the district of a number of generations. Names such as Raftery, Daly, Reardon, Rogan, Timbs (Tims), Crowley, Buckley, Condon, Downes, Murphy, O’Gorman (Gorman), Hickey, Brownlee, Walsh, O’Keefe, Stapleton and Harris are evident in the records and are an indication of a community rich in tradition and Faith.
Over the years the Parish has been served by twenty four Priests who have each contributed to the Spiritual development of the Catholics in the District. The development of the present parish plant commenced with the provision of half an acre by Tim Crowley for the erection of a Church. The original church was blessed and opened on 25 January, 1874 by Archbishops Polding and Vaughan. This building was subsequently replaced by the present church which was blessed and opened on 25 January, 1975. The bell, which is a feature of the building is the original from the beginnings of the Parish and is a significant link with the past.
Subsequent additions to the property were the purchase of one acre for the establishment of a school and subsequently Gabriel Timbs donated four acres for further development of the parish plant.
A Convent and Presbytery were built in 1881 and a school commenced in 1882 under the direction of the Sisters of St Joseph and so a tradition of Catholic education commenced in Albion Park.
School buildings were subsequently added to the site in 1925, 1961, 1969, 1972, 1978, 1982 and 1985.
Our Recent Past
Following the destruction by fire of the original convent a new presbytery was erected in 1995 and the old presbytery converted for administration and meeting rooms.
The School Resource Centre and Parish Hall were blessed and opened in September 2003. New classrooms and the school office have been added to the parish school as part of the Building the Education Revolution (BER) funding.
The church was extended in 2009 with a narthex/gathering space along with a sealed carpark. The church also now has a hearing loop and disabled toilet facilities (also including baby change facilities). The parish cemetery has also undgone a series of restoration projects, including the installation of two additional columbarium walls, and beamed areas for burials.