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 currently through our provision of accommodation with CatholicCare to asylum seekers and in cooperation with Sacred Heart Mission, St Kilda. Of course, our St Vincent de Paul conference also helps our neighbours.
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.