St. Martha's Centenary

Book Launch:

Faith, Hospitality and Service:
St Martha’s Catholic Parish, Strathfield, 1916-2016

Damian John Gleeson                           International Standard Book Number: 978-0-646-94109-7

Bishop Terry Brady, DD officially launched Faith, Hospitality and Service, a history of St Martha’s Catholic Parish, at St Martha’s Parish, 70 Homebush Road, Strathfield on Sunday 3 April 2016. The book was commissioned as part of the parish’s centenary celebrations (1916-2016).

Faith, Hospitality and Service, which details the families, religious and clergy of one of the most significant parishes in the Archdiocese of Sydney, from the 1880s up until today, draws heavily on research undertaken in archives in Ireland and across Australia.

A small Catholic community began at Redmyre (now Strathfield) in the 1880s under the unofficial leader, John Toohey, the brewery baron, whose business activities did not impress the wowser dissenting element that (then) dominated the locality. Toohey’s wife and other women played a significant role in fundraising for numerous Catholic endeavours such as the Dominican Sisters’ establishment of Santa Sabina College (1890s) and the first St Martha’s Church (1905). The Strathfield Catholic community was a strong part of the parish of St Mary’s Burwood (now Concord) until 1916, when it rightly gained its independence.

Faith, Hospitality and Service has more than 20 chapters and includes 700 clergy, religious, and lay people. The book includes a focus of each of the seven Parish Priests, and also chapters on the kind-hearted Administrator, Fr Brian Titmuss, and the dynamic Fr Geoffrey Davey.

Many of the 80 photos are rare and published for the first time. Also included is a summary of Strathfield Catholics’ contributions to the broader community. The book is comprehensively referenced and indexed to assist readers and future researchers.

Faith, Hospitality and Service transparently and sensitively examines a range of controversial issues, including the difficulties faced by Irish clergy amid intolerant attitudes at the turn of the 20th century; parish boundaries disputes with St Joseph’s Burwood Heights (Enfield), St Anne’s Enfield West (Strathfield South), and St Dominic’s Flemington; the 1941 sacking of St Patrick’s College Strathfield Committee by Monsignor Martin; and tensions about the parish-owned tennis courts.

The book will appeal to readers, young and old, to current and former parishioners, to anyone interested in the social fabric of Strathfield, as well as the contributions made by numerous Irish clergy to the Australian ‘Mission’.

Principal among the Irish clergy were Monsignor Peter Byrne (Killanny, Co Louth), Fr Patrick Kerwick (Callan, Co Kilkenny), Monsignor John Martin (Ballyferriter, Co Kerry), Fr Jeremiah O’Rourke (Ballinara, Co Tipperary), and Archbishop Michael Sheehan (Co Waterford, who lived in St Martha’s parish). A summary of many others is also recorded in the book.

Faith, Hospitality and Service is available for sale, for just $20 (plus handling and postage if applicable) from St Martha’s Catholic Church, Strathfield, NSW, Australia, 2135.

The book’s chapters:

Introduction – The early Catholics of Redmyre – ‘The Man from Snowy River’: Monsignor Peter Byrne – 1904-1905 – Pioneer Families – 1916-1922 – ‘Zealous, unselfish labours’: Fr Patrick Kerwick – Dominican Sisters and St Martha’s School Foundation ­– ‘Australia’s Deep Regret: Archbishop Michael Sheehan – Orthodoxy: Monsignor John Martin – First Australian-born Parish Priest: Fr William Power – Priests and Teachers: Fr Jeremiah O’Rourke – ‘Davey the Builder – Fr Geoffrey Davey – Kind-hearted: Fr Brian Titmuss – Conscientious Servant: Fr Paul Ryan – Assistant Priests – Parish Vocations – Civic Contributors – St Martha’s Tennis Club – St Martha’s Church – Charity – Leading the second century: Fr Christopher Slattery – Conclusion


The author, DJ Gleeson holds a Master of Commerce in Economic History (Honours), and a PhD in Australian History. The author is a past president of the Australian Catholic Historical Society and has published in scholarly journals across Australia, Ireland, and the UK.