Mount Carmel Parish: Humble Beginnings.

My Memory of the Beginning of Our Lady of Mt Carmel Parish

In 1977, when my family moved to St Andrews from Campbelltown, there was no Parish in St Andrews. To attend Mass we had to go to Campbelltown, Minto or Ingleburn. Some families would travel to Liverpool.

Bishop Murray approached the Carmelite Fathers about commencing a new parish for St Andrews, Raby and Bow Bowing, thankfully the Fathers agreed. Fr. Albert McKeogh was appointed as the Parish Priest.

Fr. Albert approached the Principal of St Andrews Primary School to request the use of the school Assembly Hall for celebrating Sunday Mass (8.30am). 6pm Saturday evening Mass was celebrated at the Mt Carmel Chapel.

The day before the first Mass at St Andrews School, Fr Albert and Brother Keiran (travelling in his truck) visited the parishioners’ homes to inform them that Mass would be held the following morning.

Parishioners would setup the hall for Mass and of course after mass the parishioners would pack all the chairs away. The first collection for the parish amounted to $42.00.

As there were many young families in the parish, it was obvious that there was a need for Children’s Liturgy. Fr Albert applied to Campbelltown City Council to rent an area of the Child Care Centre (next door to the School). With rental at A bargain of $2.00 the children could attend Sunday School. Sandra Potts co-ordinated and ran the program and Corrine Bonor took on the role after Sandra. Sadly, Corrine was killed in a car accident while travelling in Ireland.

Later that year, Fr. Albert approached parishioners to form a Parish Committee this continues today and is known as the Parish Council.

The members of the first Parish Committee included:

James Logan – President
Colleen Egelton – Vice President
Gail Woodcock – Secretary
Kathy Taylor – Treasurer
(The late) Paul Thompson – Legal Advisor
Joe Elizondo – Accountant
Brian Potts – Building Advisor
John Graham, Bob Hazel, Sandra Potts, Maureen Thompson, Bob Clarke, Barry Lovett – Committee members.

Monthly meetings were held in the St Andrews’ School Hall. Like any committee there were often challenges. On one occasion when Fr. Albert (the keeper of the key) was away on a short break, the committee members arrived for the meeting but had nowhere to meet. The President James Logan was quick to show his initiative and said, “I can get a room at the Minto Hotel”. So it was off to the hotel for a very dry meeting.

As the original members of the Parish Committee moved elsewhere, positions were taken up by:

Ron Malafiej (Accountant).
Committee Members: Bob Hazell, Barry Lovett, Bob Clark. Damien Champion, John Graham, Brian and Sandra Potts, Paul and Maureen Thompson and Jerry and Margaret Connelly, Steve Reeves and Tony Patty.

Brian Potts was responsible for the building of the Parish Hall. Testament to the quality of his work came from a quote from Sr. Patricia “It never leaked in heavy rain”.

Fr. Albert felt there was a need for a Piety Stall. One afternoon Fr. Albert arrived at my home with a little suitcase full of religious statues and other religious items and asked me to set up a Piety Stall al the 8:30am Sunday Mass at the School’s Assembly Hall. This was the humble beginnings of the stall. The suitcase progressed to a stall setup in the kitchen area at mass times. When the Church was built an area was allocated for the stall..

Parishioners supported the stall so well that on occasion when funds were tight (a common event for a fledgling parish) Father Albert was able to pay some accounts from the earnings of the Piety Stall! Eventually the Piety Stall was taken over by St Vincent de Paul.

The inaugural “First Holy Communion” was celebrated in the St Andrews School Assembly Hall. Thanks to a dedicated group of catechists, the children were prepared for the day. Everything was going to plan until Fr. Albert realized that there was no organist to accompany the singing at this special Mass. Fr Albert arranged for a Miss Stewart from the Minto Parish to play her keyboard. Confirmation was also held in the assembly hall and thanks to the Champion, Graham and McGill families, altar boys served the Masses

Fr. Albert in his quiet manner got to know everyone in a very short space of time. He was joined by Sister Patricia from the Good Samaritan Order to help with the building of the Parish.

One of or Sr. Patricia’s first duties was to work with the Catechists in the Parish. With the generous help of an anonymous donor, Sr. Patricia was able to purchase Scripture books for the catechists.. At times, the same anonymous benefactor also paid Fr. Albert’s car registration costs.

Before the Parish Centre was built Sr. Patricia organized the Lenten Prayer groups to be held in the homes of a number of parishioners. Sandra Potts, Nora Burgess. Denise: Scibiras, Marion Owens, Shirley Chitty and Kathy Doggett. A night time program may also have occurred.

I don’t think there was a parishioner that Sr. Patricia didn’t know or visit. Fr. Albert and Sr. Patricia, felt that the parish should be one happy family and part of their hospitality was to always greet new parishioners.. This quality is still evident in our parish thanks to Fr. Greg. Sister Norma, Sister Em who treat all with warmth and a affection.

Sr. Patricia left the Mt Carmel Parish and moved to Bowral in 1993.

As the area grew and paddocks turned into streets and homes, the parish expanded. The need for a Parish Centre became more obvious. The parishioners worked tirelessly and creatively to raise the necessary funds.

The methods of fundraising were many and varied. Auctions of donated goods were just some of the methods of fundraising. The auctions of the donated goods was conducted by the: late Mick Owens, who always, made himself available for these occasions. Mick Owens was Michael Owens’ father.

Fashion parades were arranged by the late Ed Benny (Polly Benny’s husband). It was with such support from Ed that the fans and heaters were provided and installed in the Parish Hall.

The Melbourne Cup Luncheon later became the Melbourne Cup Trifector Competition. These two fund raising events were after our Parish Centre was built.

Parishioners baked and made goods for the street stalls held near Minto Station. Also lamington drives were one of the main fundraisers; It was a lot of hard work by the women. Prizes for the Easter Egg Raffles were donated by Jim Slattery at the St Andrews’ News Agency.

The Carmelite Fathers gave to the Parish the portion of land where the Church, Administration Centre and hall stand today. The cost of the building was $245,000 (approx).

Much preparation was required for the opening and blessing. As there were no furnishings, an altar was made by a friend of Fr. Albert and is still in our church today. The chairs were paid for by the parishioners., Our Lady’s altar was a Brass Plaque on the wall. This was later replaced with the current statue of Our Lady of Mt Carmel donated by the Carmelite Sisters when they moved to Varroville from Dulwich Hill. Fr. Albert believed that the 90 year old statue had come from France. This statue was brought to Australia after World War 11.

St Joseph’s statue was a small altar it was made by Rex Marshall.

The generosity of the Carmelite Fathers combined with the work of the parishioners culminated with Bishop Murray presiding at the opening and blessing of the Parish Centre on St Patrick’s Day, 17th March 1984.

With the opening of the Parish Centre, parishioners had a central place to celebrate Mass, Baptisms, Weddings & Funerals. The current mass times for the parish were established at this time.

There were many “firsts” for Our Lady of Mt Carmel Parish. The first Christmas in the Parish Centre Fr. Albert decided to have the 6.00pm Christmas Eve outdoors in the car park. It was largely attended and it may even have been the first outdoor Christmas Eve Mass in the Macarthur area.

Like any parish, there were a variety of rolls to be filled: Eucharistic ministers, readers, altar servers, choir members, church cleaners were all needed for the smooth running of the parish. Today, 30 years on some of the first parishioners continue to be active members of our Parish.

Fr. Albert approached Shirley Chitty to form a choir. Today foundation members of the choir John McDermott, Joe Spinatto (who supplied the keyboard) still lead us in sung. Paul Thompson was our first organist; wilt the profit of one of our Melbourne Cup Trifectors the parish was able to purchase another organ.

Many parishioners including Zeny and Joe Elizondo, Margaret McDermott, Mary Egan, Reg Gorham served in the rolls of Eucharistic Minister, Readers and Altar Servers. Peter Duggan served the parish for many years and was a great support to Fr. Albert especially assisting with the organisation of Christmas and Easter celebrations. Altar servers at the week day mass included Frazer, Victor Toweel and Tim Gauci·Mastre.

With the establishment of the Parish centre once again fundraising had to start all over again trail to meet the costs of maintaining our new centre.

While many of the ‘tried and true’ fundraisers continued with new parishioners came new ideas and Road Trials, Bush Dances and the packing of pamphlets for the Boat, Home and Motor Shows were added to the list of fundraisers. The cheques were a great reward for this work.

Support came in a variety of ways, to cut parish costs and keep Fr. Albert and Sr. Patricia mobile, Peter Woodcock serviced their cars.

Amidst the work and fundraising came the social events. The first Parish Christmas picnic was held in the grounds of the Mount Carmel Retreat Centre. The following year it was held at Cataract Dam with Ron Perrin as Santa Clause arriving with gifts for the children!

Other gatherings and social events included: The State of Origin night in the parish hall, the annual golf day (held every October) and the Ladies’ Christmas Dinner at the Campbelltown Catholic Club. Picnics and barbeques were also held in the grounds of the Parish Centre.

Thanks to the early parishioners, the Parish Committee under the leadership of past presidents: Maurice Dal Santo, Allan McFarlane, Neil Armstrong the Parish centre was underway and sight was set on a new Church.

As the parish grew, Father Albert realized we would have to have a church; the Parish Centre was becoming too small! Again the Carmelite Fathers gave the land to the Parish and work continued. Father presented a choice of three titles for the new Church, “Our Lady of Mount Carmel” was the favourite of the parishioners.

Discussions took place as to the location the Church, the cost and design. Again the genorisity of the parishioners came to the fore. Tony Agius had great vision. He designed the Church saving the parish many thousands of dollars. Tony didn’t stop there, he continued his work in the parish until ill health. All parishioners knew for any need to call upon Tony as he would always be there to help.

The Tabernacle and Sanctuary lamp were donated by Mary Egan. Many parishioners donated trees and the garden and planting of trees around the Church were the work of Reg Gorham, Michael Schembri and many parishioners.

These are a collection of my memories over the past 30 years from the inception of the parish. Many past and present parishioners will also have recollections to add to the story of our parish.
Colleen Egelton

The journey to where we are today began when, in 1980, the Carmelite Fathers of the Carmelite Retreat Centre at Mount Carmel, expressed their willingness, on request from Bishop Murray, to become more involved in pastoral ministry to the people of the rapidly growing area of Macarthur. The parish incorporated the areas of St Andrews, Raby and Bow Bowing. On 11th May 1980, Bishop Murray established our parish under the patronage of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, and the task of working together with the first Parish Priest, Father Albert Mc Keogh, to build a truly Christian community, began. Father Albert was assisted by Sister Patricia Lawless SGS who operated from a room in the Mt Carmel Retreat Centre.

The celebration of Mass began in St Andrews Primary School Hall and, to promote the devotion to our Lady, through the family rosary, the statue of Our Lady was taken from home to home each week, a practice which continues to this day, with the assistance of the Legion of Mary.

By 1990, the parish had grown to 800 Catholic families; catechists taught 700 Catholic children at the two local state schools; Renewal of Faith groups, Catholic Enquiry Groups (now RCIA) and other Adult education groups were meeting regularly to journey in faith together. The Parish Pastoral Committee was active in many ways laying plans for a Parish Church.

Carmelite parish prayer is a central focus of our parish life- Carmelite prayer has a contemplative dimension to it, inspired by the writings of Carmelite saints Teresa and St John of the Cross. So when, in 2001, our parish was blessed by a visit of the relics of St Teresa, we witnessed a hugely successful pilgrimage: by successful we mean that people rediscovered Therese’s message of trust in a loving God and experienced a renewal of faith.