St Matthew’s Church at Windsor celebrates 175th anniversary

By Mary Hampshire, Catholic Outlook, November 2015
Fr Arthur Cook with (from left): Judy Rigg, Judy Newland, Mary Hampshire, Di Wilson and Jeanette Holland.

Over the past 175 years, our parish has been blessed with 25 parish priests and three administrators. These men lived out their vocation and led our community through many good times and many difficult times.

Droughts, floods and wars each presented their own discrete challenges, which were overcome with a strong faith and community spirit.

This year we are celebrating our 175th anniversary with a program of memorable events to bring the community together.

Our story began in 1831 with the first parish priest, Rev CV Dowling, who was appointed to establish St Matthew’s Catholic Parish in 1832. Bishop John Bede Polding later described Windsor parish as “70 miles long and very wide”.

Rev JV Corcoran was appointed parish priest in 1835, and it was recorded that because the road to Windsor was so bad, coach drivers refused to travel on it.

The condition of this road may have attributed to the death of Fr Corcoran, who was killed driving his gig near the tollgate on his way to Windsor in 1837.

In 1836, a founding parishioner, James Doyle, died leaving an extremely generous bequest of £350, which was used to build the new church. In 1837, deeds were issued for the church and a school on the corner of Tebbutt and Little Church streets.

The church and school, which is now the parish hall, were completed by 1840.

Catholic education began in Windsor in 1834. A pioneering couple, James and Esther Cassidy, opened the first school and by 1838, there were 104 students.

Catholic education has always been an integral part of our parish, and the Catholic Church in Australia.

The Good Samaritan Sisters arrived in 1875 and we are very fortunate to have a continued presence of the ‘Good Sams’ in our community. Three sisters are resident in the convent in Windsor.

Members of other religious orders have also contributed significantly to the continued operation of the parish.

One of the longest-serving parish priests, Rev Leo Murphy (1954-76), is credited with bringing about a greater understanding and respect between Catholics and other religious denominations in the Windsor area.

A keen lawn bowler he was elected president of Windsor Bowling Club, located across the road from the presbytery, and was greatly respected by its members.

Rev James Dooley followed him as parish priest from 1976-93. During this time, Bede Polding College was opened at South Windsor and planning commenced for a Catholic primary school, also at South Windsor, and for the refurbishment/rebuilding of St Matthew’s historic church.

Rev Maurice McNamara arrived in 1993 and was present for the building of Chisholm Catholic Primary in South Windsor (Bligh Park) and for the completion of the refurbishment of the church.

Rev Arthur Cook was appointed administrator in 1987 and returned as our Parish Priest in 2010. He introduced a 9.30am Sunday Mass at Chisholm Catholic Primary, which is going from strength to strength.

Everyone is welcome to join St Matthew’s Parish for a series of community events.

On Sunday 1 November, a program of Parish Picnic Festivities will commence with Mass at 9.30am in the school grounds, followed by morning tea. There will be a shared lunch and activities for all the family, young and old. Chisholm Catholic Primary, 30 Collith Avenue, Bligh Park.

On Wednesday 18 November there will be a High Tea for ‘seasoned citizens’ (aged 60 and over) at 10.30am in St Matthew’s Church Hall, 12 Tebbutt Street, Windsor.

The 175th Anniversary Mass was celebrated on 25 October and a Dinner Dance at Windsor RSL on 25 September had everyone tapping their toes.

Very Rev Peter G William’s Homily (Mp3 listen). To download click here.


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