St Mary’s Parish, St Kilda East, plays a special role in the history of the Church in Melbourne. Rev. Patrick Niall celebrated the first Mass in St Kilda in a pub in 1853. Only a few months later in 1854, Bishop Goold laid a foundation stone for a church on the same site as the current St Mary’s Church. The major development of the Church occurred under the guidance of William Wardell, whom Bishop Goold also asked to design St Patrick’s Cathedral.
Rev. James Corbett was parish priest for 24 years from 1863. Under his and Wardell’s leadership, the church was further extended. You can see the two of them immortalised at the back of the Church in the two stained glass windows either side of the large Rosary Window. Wardell’s features are found in those of St Thomas, patron saint of architects; Corbett’s are found in those of St James, for obvious reasons. The church is one of the most beautiful in Melbourne, a perennial favourite for weddings. It is worth stopping by to pray and marvel at the beauty inside.
There has been a strong tradition of Catholic education in this precinct, going back to the arrival of the Presentation Sisters in 1873 and the Christian Brothers in 1879. This tradition remains strong today.
The parish also has a strong tradition of social justice. This is seen through established programs such as St Vincent de Paul, Sacred Heart Mission and support of asylum seekers. These programs are currently in the rebuilding phase post COVID.
All of this is built on the cornerstone of Christ, God’s love made flesh. We seek to participate in his life, which is love of God and love of our neighbour, and to make this love known and available to our brothers and sisters.
Fr Jerome Santamaria is the Parish Priest of the Parishes of St Mary’s, St Kilda East, and St Colman’s, Balaclava. He is also currently the Director of Vocations for the Archdiocese of Melbourne. He grew up in Melbourne, eldest of five and with more cousins than you can point a stick at. After studying Law and Science (physics) at university, he practised law for a number of years as a solicitor. While completing further studies in law, he felt a call to the priesthood and, on returning to Australia, he joined the Melbourne seminary, Corpus Christi College. He was ordained a priest in 2012. After a short stint as an assistant priest, he was sent for still further studies in a last ditch effort, completing a licentiate in patristics and historical theology, and then a doctorate. He has been the St Mary's Parish Priest since 2020.
“I have loved being back in a parish. The parishioners have made me feel very welcome, and it is an exciting time to be part of this community. With a long history of education, a tradition of social justice and community outreach, and a community that worships together, there is so much already going on and yet also so much potential. Our primary school and St Mary’s College are both involved in growth programs, and so I look forward to seeing how we can support each other in these endeavours.”
“With so many facets to our community (not to mention the jewel of St Mary’s Church), we are well placed to offer a credible witness to Christ, in our prayer, our service and our formation. The world is in desperate need of well-formed citizens, and in even greater need of well-formed Christians who can display love of God and love of neighbour. With so many people rediscovering the importance of community and the desire to belong, we can offer so much to our neighbours in this regard. .............Fr Jerome Santamaria
For more information on services visit St Mary's Parish website