About the Parish

History of St Bernard’s Parish, Botany

The foundation stone of St. Bernard’s Church, Botany was laid in 1860. The original site, which was donated by Edward Lord, is on the north side of the millpond on Botany Road. As the site was on the crest of a hill the parish was originally called the church of Mount St. Bernard, Botany Bay. Over the years parts of this large parish have become separate parishes, such as Mascot, Daceyville and Matraville.

Botany Bay Parish was originally part of the parish of St. Benedict’s Broadway, and as such was in the care of an Irish priest, Father Corish. Later it was cared for by the Franciscan Fathers from Waterloo. In April 1885, Botany Bay parish was created and placed in the hands of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart. Father Hartzer was the first parish priest. The parish school was established by his successor, Father Henri Chetail. In 1907, the parish was handed over to the secular clergy and Father Patrick Dowling from Kilkenny, Ireland, was appointed as the new parish priest.

One of Father Dowling’s first act was to build a presbytery.

In 1911, the Municipal Council changed its name from North Botany to Mascot and so the parish was renamed St. Bernard’s Mascot. Fr Dowling’s successor Fr Patrick Walsh, who was also from Ireland, built a new church-school and a convent.

In 1954, it was considered time to divide the sprawling parish into two. The newer one became St. Therese’s Mascot and the older one retained the name St. Bernard’s Botany. The original parish buildings were purchased and later demolished by the Department of Civil Aviation to allow for the expansion of the airport. Today the airport expressway crosses the original site.

Botany Parish is very proud of its rich history. It still uses chalices that were presented to the parish and the OLSH sisters in 1895 and another chalice that was presented to the parish in 1939. Some of the other artefacts of the parish include a tabernacle, a processional cross and a number of processional candle holders. The striking stained glass behind the altar was donated by Dr John O’Neill. Out the front of the unusually shaped church is the original memorial stone that commemorates “the 50th anniversary of the laying of the foundation stone of the old St Bernard’s, September 11th, 1860.”

Throughout the years the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart have maintained their involvement in the Botany Parish. Originally they taught the children of the parish about their religion after Sunday Mass. Later they taught the children of the parish school when it was established. The administration of the parish school was the responsibility of the OLSH sisters until 1994 when a lay principal was appointed. Today the sisters continue to help the parish priest with the pastoral care of the parishioners.

St Bernard’s Parish has a very active Parish Pastoral Council that coordinates many of the parish activities. The council has a number of sub-committees that take the responsibility of a specific area. For example, there is the Liturgy Planning Committee, the Social Committee and the Maintenance Committee. Some of the council’s achievements in the past year include a parish survey, the celebration of St Bernard’s feast day, working bees, theatre parties and a parish dinner. Parishioners have a number of other alternatives open to them to be involved in the life of the parish – Altar Servers, Choir, St Vincent de Paul, Counters, Church Carer Group, Catechists, Lenten Groups, Christ to the World Group, the Parish Finance Committee and the Inter-Church Council.