The History Of Our Lady Help Of Christians Church at Rosemeadow
In 1984, Masses began to be celebrated in the Ambarvale area by priests from St. John's Parish, Campbelltown.
The Catholic community of Our Lady Help Of Christians began to take shape in 1985 when Fr. Paul Ryan took up permanent residence in Ambarvale. Although Mass was being celebrated prior to Fr. Ryan's arrival, his move to Ambarvale was the first formal step towards the development of the Parish Centre at Rosemeadow, as the area soon after came to be known.
In 1986, Fr. Adrian Van Klooster became the area's second priest. During Fr. Adrian's time, the church was built and officially blessed and opened by Bishop W E Murray, Bishop of Wollongong, on March 1, 1987. Prior to the opening of the church, Mass was celebrated in the Library of John Therry High School.
In 1991, Fr. Borgia Mould OFM became the area's next priest, for nine months, until a permanent replacement could be made. In August, 1992, Fr. Christopher Sarkis was appointed proper pastor, taking up residence in Donalbain Circuit. With the restoration of the Presbytery completed in 1994, Fr. Sarkis moved there in May of that year.
On 8 December, 1994, the Parish Of Our Lady Help Of Christians, incorporating St. Bede's Church at Appin, was canonically erected by Bishop W.E. Murray, Bishop of Wollongong. Fr. Sarkis was appointed as the Parish's first Parish Priest.
The History Of Saint Bede's Church at Appin
Prior to the building of St. Bede's Church, Fr. John Sumner was appointed to Appin Parish as its parish priest in 1835. Mass was celebrated at Appin on Gordon's Farm and a Roman Catholic school opened in 1836 with Michael O'Rourke in charge. In 1838, Mass was being celebrated in a cottage built for the purpose by the District Constable.
It was Father John Therry who made the decision to build a church at Appin and by 1837 he had collected more than £150 ($300) in donations for this purpose. A report in the "Sydney Morning Herald" on December 18, 1837 noted: "The Foundation of the Roman Catholic Chapel was laid at Appin last week by Bishop Polding".
The land on which the church, presbytery, school and cemetery were built is most likely to have been a four acre grant promised by the government.
The main structure of the church was completed by 1841. However, the church was not officially opened until October 8, 1843, as Bishop Polding had been overseas.
The church was originally named the Church Of The Immaculate Conception by Fr. Therry, but was later changed by Archbishop Polding to St. Bede's. The most likely reason for the name change was that Bishop Polding wanted to dedicate the church to St. Bede, the founder of the Benedictine Order to which he belonged. Fr. Sumner, the first parish priest of St. Bede's, was also from this order and both he and the Bishop included the name Bede in their names: John Bede Sumner and John Bede Polding.
From 1837 to 1903, Appin was a parish in its own right. As previously stated, the first parish priest was Fr. John Bede Summer, the first priest ordained in Australia. At the end of 1843 Dean John Grant was transferredfrom Darlinghurst Gaol where he was chaplain, to be the Parish Priest of St. Bede's. In 1845, the presbytery was built on church land west of the church. Until this time, both Fr. Sumner and Fr. Grant lived at the Campbelltown presbytery during their respective terms.
Between 1841-1844, the church was sometimes referred to as "All Saints" but after 1845 was always referred to as "St. Bede's".
Appin was a Catholic parish from 1836 to 1903. Then, because of dwindling population, St. Bede's was made an outstation of Picton Parish from 1903 to about 1930. Then it became part of St Johns Parish in Campbelltown until 1977 when Fr. Tom Whitty became Parish Priest of Appin Parish. St. Bede's again became part of Campbelltown Parish on the death of Fr. Tom Drake in 1985. On December 8, 1994, St. Bede's joined the newly formed Rosemeadow Parish.
In 1999, restoration works were carried out on St. Bede's Church with a formal opening occurring early in 2000.
From a historical point of view, St Bede's Church at Appin is the oldest Catholic Church in continuous use on the Australian mainland.
In 1978, the National Trust classified St. Bede's (and the adjacent cemetery) as "one of the finest Regency Gothic churches to have been built by the Roman Catholic Church in Australia. The interior is remarkable for itsintactness."