Balarang Barrack Heights Barrack Point Blackbutt Dunmore Flinders Warilla Shellharbour Shell Cove Oak Flats Mt Warrigal Lake Illawarra South


All Saints Catholic Parish, Shellharbour City – a history.

In the history of the Illawarra, the All Saints Catholic Parish has been a relatively new creation, being an amalgam of the region’s former Parishes. However, Catholicism has been present in the Shellharbour region for almost as long as it has been populated, and the region’s rich religious heritage is still present and celebrated in the Parish today.

The first Catholic Churches in the region were established to serve the needs of an increasing number of farmers and settlers. Shellharbour’s Stella Maris Church was built in 1861, followed by the first
Albion Park Church in 1874, and West Dapto in 1870 (with a move to Dapto in 1900, after the railway extended southwards). For a number of years these churches formed the original Albion Park Parish, and it was during the 1950s that the decision was made to split the original Parish boundaries.

Stella Maris was the first to create its own Parish in 1953, incorporating the Shellharbour and Warilla area, and was followed by Dapto (renamed the Parish of St. John the Evangelist) in 1959. Dapto’s split left Albion Park its own Parish, which was subsequently named St. Paul’s, and covered the expanding suburbs of Albion Park, Albion Park Rail, and Oak Flats. Stella Maris subsequently came under the direction of Father Smythe, and later, Father Martin Weatherall. This split allowed a larger number of clergy to cater for the increasing post-war local population, which continued to swell into the second half of the 20th Century.

The opening of the Oak Flats Church Hall in 1970 reflected the influx of people moving into the Albion Park Parish, and the creation

and building of the Warilla Parish’s Sacred Heart War Memorial Catholic Church in 1973 was undertaken as a means of relieving some of the pressure on the Shellharbour Parish, and catering for the new population establishing themselves in the Warilla area. Father Vince Whiteman was instated as Parish Priest of Warilla from its inception in 1973, and his constant presence in the parish lasted for over two decades.

This arrangement carried over to the turn of the century, when the Parish boundaries underwent further transformation. Following Father Bryan Jones’s instatement as Parish Priest of Warilla in 1998, the Parishes of Stella Maris and Sacred Heart amalgamated in 2002, additionally incorporating the Oak Flats Catholic Church Hall from St. Paul’s in Albion Park to form the Shellharbour City Catholic Parish. In acknowledgement of the incredibly rich and varied cultural tapestry that the region consists of, the Parish decided to not name itself after one saint, but to rename itself the All Saints Catholic Parish, Shellharbour City. The Parish is now host to two Catholic primary schools – Stella Maris (opened 1958) and Nazareth (opened 2000) – and a Catholic secondary school, Corpus Christi (opened 2006),
to provide the children of the Parish with both a balanced education and a comprehensive appreciation of the Catholic faith.

The centrepiece of the All Saints Catholic Parish is its new Church, opened in 2012. The opening of the new Church marked the end to fifteen years of planning, and now stands pride of place on College Avenue. The new facility includes a 550 seat Church, and two community centres in the Grealy Centre (named after Albion Park Parish Priest Father Thomas Grealy), and the All Saints Hall, which is shared with Nazareth Primary School.

The Parish continues to serve the spiritual needs of its parishioners, as the suburbs of the Shellharbour Parish remain a popular place to live.

-With contributions from Norm & Maureen Timb