Horsley Park, New South Wales
The name Horsley first appears on the map of the Western Suburbs of Sydney, in 1833. In 1806, Governor Philip Gidley King awarded a grant of land to Colonel George Johnston, for his part in quelling the Irish convict’s rebellion of 1804. Johnston did not live on the grant, but his daughter, Blanche, and her husband Major George Weston, of the East India Army, decided to build their residence on the property. They built an Indian-styled homestead, which they named Horsley, after Weston’s birthplace in Surrey, England. The Horsley Homestead, which still stands, gave its name to the town which grew up in the area.
The first school in Horsley Park was opened by John Morrissey, in 1931, to educate the children of people settling down in the area. Horsley Park was mainly inhabited by market gardeners. Italian and Maltese emigrants made a living looking after their crops. (Details about the history of Horsley Park taken from George Vance: Fairfield – a history of the District, second edition, The Council of the City of Fairfield, NSW, 1991)
In the early 1950’s no Masses were celebrated at Horsley Park. The locals had to travel to Rooty Hill, Bossley Park or Liverpool parishes for Mass. Car pooling was not a new idea then. Friends and neighbours who had vehicles took with them those who had none.
From time to time a priest used to come to celebrate Mass in the tiny Community Hall (opposite the Post Office). Then in July 1952 a priest started to visit Horsley Park and celebrate Mass every two weeks and a month later Fr Marrow introduced weekly Mass.
Fr Camilleri and Fr Baron used to celebrate Mass in Maltese language once a month – this was very much appreciated by the Maltese migrants in the community.
Horsley Park became a Parish, dedicated to Our Lady of Victories, in 1960, with the arrival of Fr Ernest G. Paine as Parish Priest. At first all baptisms were celebrated in homes. The community started to work hard to raise funds to build a parish church – door to door knocking, asking for help, was a common event. Hand made doilies, fruits from the market garden, and other items were raffled. Fetes were also organised. A committee was formed to introduce the Planned Giving Envelope system. All meetings took place in the old shop – the centre of the village.
The hard work of the locals and their motivation generated a strong community spirit. Tony and Paula Cini donated some land on The Horsley Drive, on which the parish church was to be built. This motivated the community even further. Fr Paine’s mother also donated a small brass crucifix for the altar. The new parish church was blessed and opened by Cardinal Gilroy, Archbishop of Sydney, on November 26, 1961.
Fr Paine also started visiting the community at Kemps Creek. He celebrated Mass there in the Kemps Creek Community Hall (where Saturday night dancing was also held!). In 1975 Mr Hugo Perau donated three acres of land at 215 Western Road, Kemps Creek, to the Missionary Society of Saint Paul, who was then looking after the Horsley Park Parish. On this land a chapel was built dedicated to Our Lady Queen of Peace.
In 1965, the Parish was put under the pastoral care of the Paulist Missionaries, a community of priests and brothers, established in Malta in 1910, with the aim of going to mission lands and of helping Maltese emigrants. The first member of this congregation to become Parish Priest at Horsley Park was Fr Claude Borg MSSP.
The coming of Fr Borg brought a new motivation to the young parish community and a revival of the faith. Fr Claude recalls: “I was a young priest when I was in Horsley Park. I used to go out to visit families, Catholics or not. There is one remark I will never forget, said to me by an older Catholic: ‘this is the first time a priest has come to visit us!’ “
In 1963, the feast of Our Lady of Victories was organised for the first time. The first year a small statue of Our Lady was used for the procession. Later on the statue of Our Lady of Victories, which is used in St Mary’s Cathedral for the Maltese feast, was brought over for the Horsley Park procession. In September of 1967 a new statue of Our Lady of Victories was ordered for Horsley Park Parish. The statue, bought from Pio Anastasi and Co. Ltd., Valletta Malta, cost Sterling Pound 539, 10 shillings (AU $1,159 approx). The Feast of Our Lady of Victories became a cultural event and many people from far and wide used to attend. In the first years, the procession with the statue of Our Lady of Victories used to leave the church, turn left onto Wallgrove Road, left onto Redmayne Road and back along Walworth Road.
Fr Claude’s encouragement and influence on the young people in the parish was great to see. Great numbers used to attend any functions that were organised. Sunday April 19, 1970 saw the opening of the Marion Peace Memorial Hall by Bishop Muldoon, Auxiliary Bishop of Sydney. This was another sign of the hard work by the parish community to raise the necessary funds. The hall was named in memory of Fr Claude’s sister who had died before the completion of the hall, and Fr Claude’s mother, who died during World War II.
Fr Claude left the parish in 1971, followed by Fr Emanuel Adami (1971 0 74), Fr Charles Borg (1974 – 77), Fr Benedict Sant (1977 – 80) and Fr Phillip Gambin (1980 – 94). Fr Philip was the driving force behind the building of the Catholic Primary school and a new Parish Church.
Marion Primary School was officially opened by the Hon Ron J Murlock, Minister for Education, and blessed by Bishop David Cremin, on January 31, 1982. The school started in small classes and offices under the Marion Peace Memorial Hall. Sister Catherine O’Brien RSC was the founding principal and remained with the school til 1987. During this time, architect Mr Michael Milosovic prepared drawings and plans for the construction of a school. The first stage of the school building was opened by Dr Richard E. Klugman, Federal Member for Prospect, and blessed by Cardinal Clancy, Archbishop of Sydney, on Sunday November 2, 1986. The second stage was opened by the Hon. Janice Crosio, Federal Member for Prospect, and blessed by Cardinal Clancy on Sunday December 9, 1990.
By this time plans were being drawn up for a new and bigger church to be built on the hill, behind the old church building. Cardinal Clancy opened and dedicated the new church on Friday September 3, 1993.