Parish Centenary

The parish and school celebrated their Centenaries in 2017-18: the foundation stone of the first church/school was laid on 12 August 1917; the first Mass was celebrated on 23 December 1917; the building was officially blessed on 20 January 1918; and the school opened on 28 January 1918.

Centenary celebrations

Celebrations opened on Sunday 21 May 2017 with Mass at 10.00am, at which Archbishop Anthony Fisher was Principal Celebrant. Photos taken at this event can be viewed at


Commemorative tea towels (2 designs) at $6 for one or $10 for two are still available. Please contact the parish office for details.

School Centenary Celebration was held on Saturday 24 February 2018, starting at 2.00pm and ending with Mass at 5.00pm.

The commemoration of the centenary ended with the celebration of the Sacrament of Confirmation at 7.00pm on Wednesday 13 June 2018, the Feast of St Anthony of Padua.

Stained glass windows: Six new stained glass windows, crafted in Poland, were installed in the nave of St Anthony’s Church in August 2018, as a permanent memorial of the parish centenary. The windows and their story may be viewed on the Catholic Weekly website at:

History book: A history of the parish entitled St Anthony’s by the Sea was published in June 2018, and is available from the parish office for $10 (plus postage).

Franciscan Era (1917-1930)

The area that is now Clovelly parish was originally part of the Franciscan District administered from Waverley, where a Franciscan community was established from Ireland in 1879.

By 1916 the Catholic population of Clovelly was big enough to warrant a separate church. A block of land in Arden St was bought from Peter Fitzpatrick, and cleared on Saturdays by a team of voluntary workers including Fr Michael Paul Kelly, pastor of Waverley. The foundation stone was finally laid by Archbishop Kelly on 12 August 1917.

This first parish building was a one-storey church-school. The first Mass was celebrated in it on the Fourth Sunday of Advent, 23 December 1917 by Fr Kelly. This first parish building now forms the lower part of the ground floor of the current school.

The building was officially blessed and opened by Archbishop Kelly on Sunday 20 January 1918. Among the fittings given by the parishioners were many items seen in the current church, including the Baptismal Font, the Stations of the Cross, Sacred Heart statue and statues of St Anthony, Our Lady and St Joseph.

The Sisters of St Joseph (Brown Josephites) agreed to conduct the school, and it opened on Monday 28 January 1918 with 45 pupils. For the first year Sr Louis Gonzaga and Sr Mary Leonoris came to Clovelly each day from their convent at Bondi. However, in January 1919, the Sisters took up residence in a rented cottage at 73 Fern St.

By then Fr Kelly had relinquished charge of Waverley and moved to Clovelly as pastor. In February 1918 he rented a cottage at 2 Greville St, but in July 1918 he moved to another rented cottage at 46 Greville St (on the corner of Fewings St). A year later, while Fr Kelly was on a home visit to Ireland, the Sisters moved into this cottage; it was purchased by the parish in 1921, and remained the convent until 1954. When Fr Kelly returned, he moved into a cottage at 69 Arden St. This cottage (called St Anthony) remained the property of the Franciscans when they relinquished Clovelly in 1930 (it was demolished in 1986).

The school was soon overcrowded by government standards, and a second storey was added in 1921. The extension was blessed on 23 April 1922.

The Catholic population of Clovelly continued to grow, and a new church was needed. An adjoining block of land fronting Arden St had been bought by the parish in 1924. The appeal for the new church was opened in March 1925, and in January 1926 the plans were approved by the Church Committee. Archbishop Kelly blessed and laid the foundation stone on 28 March 1926.

The first Mass was celebrated in the new church by Fr Kelly on Trinity Sunday 12 June 1927. The church was blessed on the afternoon of the same day, this time by the Rt Reverend Dr Bach, Vicar Apostolic of the Gilbert Islands, recently ordained a Bishop at Randwick (Archbishop Kelly was ill).

The parish had also been growing geographically between 1917 and 1926. Its original boundaries were: Macpherson St, Leichhardt St, Douglas St, Carrington Rd, Susan St (now Clovelly Rd), and the Pacific Ocean. In 1924 a large area was added to Clovelly parish on the Coogee side of Clovelly Rd, when the southern boundary was moved to Alison Rd and Moore St. A small triangular area was also added on the northern side by making the northern boundary run along Varna and Fern Sts from Leichhardt St to Douglas St.

Monsignor Robert Peoples (1930-1935)

In 1930 the Franciscans agreed to relinquish charge of Clovelly. Archbishop Kelly made the area a canonical parish and appointed Monsignor Robert Peoples as parish priest. The present presbytery was built during his pastorate; the building was blessed and opened on 28 February 1932. The Lourdes Grotto was also erected in 1932. Monsignor Peoples died suddenly in 1935.

Monsignor John Muirhead (1935-1962)

Father (later Monsignor) John Muirhead was the next parish priest. He instituted a weekly house-to-house collection to improve the parish’s financial position, and started a monthly bulletin, the Clovelly Catholic Church Chronicle, to record receipt of the money collected and publicise parish events.

Mgr Muirhead’s great desire was to beautify the interior of St Anthony’s Church. The Silver Jubilee of the parish in 1942 provided a good opportunity for a special appeal. People gave generously and by the end of 1944 Clovelly had a marble high altar, side altars, communion rail and sanctuary floor, all of which we still see today. The Calvary Shrine was constructed in 1938, and St Anthony’s Shrine in 1943, both in unneeded confessionals. The church and altars were solemnly consecrated on 16 February 1944, by Dr Simmonds, the Co-adjutor Archbishop of Melbourne.

Adjoining land in Fewing St was bought in 1945 for a new convent. The foundation stone was laid on 4 October 1953, and the convent was opened on 11 July 1954, free of debt. Mgr Muirhead had visited every parish home to solicit donations, and the parishioners had given generously, as usual. However, the Sisters of St Joseph never enjoyed the comforts of the new convent. They left the parish at the end of 1947, to be replaced by the Presentation Sisters.

The grounds of the church and school were also taking the shape we know today during Mgr Muirhead’s pastorate, much of the work accomplished with the voluntary labour of the men of the parish. The Muirhead years also saw flourishing the various sodalities and organisations for lay people such as the Holy Name Society, Sacred Heart Sodality, Children of Mary, Catholic Action, Catholic Youth Organisation, Legion of Mary, Legion of Catholic Women. The parish school was achieving notable successes in the academic and cultural fields, and was particularly famous for its choir.

Mgr Muirhead died in January 1962. Just four months earlier he had installed the beautiful Gethsemane sanctuary gates, now in St Anthony’s Shrine.

Monsignor Daniel Hannan (1962-1970)

An Irishman, Monsignor Daniel Hannan, was appointed to replace Mgr Muirhead. His era saw the introduction of many changes resulting from the Second Vatican Council, including Mass facing the people and use of English at Mass.

In 1963 the marble pulpit was erected in memory of Mgr Muirhead, and the southern sacristy was added to the church around 1965. In a major reorganisation of Catholic education, the school lost its secondary classes in 1963, and became a primary school only, with boys allowed to complete Year 4. In 1967, the parish celebrated its Golden Jubilee.

Mgr Hannan retired to Ireland in 1970, where he died in 1986.

Father Martin Prendergast (1970-1984)

Fr Martin Prendergast was Clovelly’s next parish priest. In 1971 the Radio Mass began to be broadcast weekly from the convent chapel, with Fr Prendergast as celebrant and Clovelly parishioners forming the choir. Lay readers, acolytes and special ministers of the Eucharist were introduced during Fr Prendergast’s time, and the Clovelly Folk Group was started, bringing a new music style to the liturgy.

A major extension and renovation to the school was done in 1975.

Fr Prendergast died unexpectedly in Brisbane in 1984.

Father George Connolly (1984-2010)

Fr George Connolly came to Clovelly from Elizabeth Bay in December 1984. Under his direction, Clovelly’s first Pastoral Council was set up in 1987 (it lapsed in 1994). The Parish Council oversaw a building program that included the Parish Meeting Room (opened in 1991), school administration block and new toilets, and some renovation and painting of the church. The parish celebrated its 75th anniversary in 1992. A new Allen organ was acquired in 1994, enhancing the musical life of the parish which owed so much to St Anthony’s Singers.

A parish refugee support group operated in 1994-1996, helping two Bosnian refugee families to settle locally. Presentation Sister Susan Robison worked in the parish as full-time Pastoral Associate from 1993 to 2002, when the Presentation Sisters left the parish completely (they had ceased working in the school in 1992). The convent was then let for several years to Catholic Youth Services. A part-time Sacramental Coordinator was appointed from 2003, with the tasks of preparing families for Baptisms, and children outside the parish school for the Sacraments of Reconciliation, Eucharist and Confirmation.

Fr Connolly continued and strengthened the parish connection with Broome Diocese and especially with Fr Matthew Digges, a parishioner who had been ordained for that Diocese. This association culminated at World Youth Day in 2008, when Clovelly hosted over 100 young people from Broome and their accompanying adults for a week.

Fr Connolly retired in 2010, having celebrated his Golden Jubilee of priesthood in 2007. He died of motor neurone disease on 6 August 2018.

Fr Janusz Bieniek CSMA (2010 to 2013) – Introducing the Congregation of St Michael the Archangel (CSMA)

With Fr Connolly’s retirement, the parish was given into the care of the Congregation of St Michael the Archangel CSMA (headquartered in Poland), and Rev Dr Janusz Bieniek was appointed as parish priest. Two other members of the Michaelite Congregation also moved to Clovelly: Fr Pawel Kopczynski, Chaplain at Prince of Wales Hospital Campus, and Fr Anthony Casamento, Director of Identity and Mission at Australian Catholic University. As a result, the parish office was moved from the presbytery into part of the old convent building in Fewings St. Major renovation was done on the convent to make it suitable for student accommodation.

Major renovations to the school, done under the Commonwealth Government’s Building the Education Revolution program, were opened in 2011.

During Fr Bieniek’s tenure, the church was improved by the construction of a narthex (foyer), upgraded sound system, disabled access and fire safety installations. The area surrounding the church was concreted to provide car parking. The Grotto was renovated, and the outdoor Sacred Heart statue moved to an alcove on the church wall.

Fr Pawel Kopczynski CSMA (2013 to 2019)

Fr Pawel Kopczynski CSMA took over as parish priest in July 2013, while remaining as part-time chaplain at Prince of Wales Hospital Campus. 

In late 2015, the presbytery building at 58 Arden St was leased to Platinum Preschool for use as a child care centre (necessitating major alterations and additions paid for by the operator). As a result, the presbytery and parish office were moved to the convent building at 7  Fewings St, after significant internal renovation to make it suitable for these purposes. To finance this renovation, the parish went into debt for the first time in decades.

On 21 May 2017, the parish opened the celebration of its Centenary with Mass at 10.00am, attended by many present and past parishioners. Archbishop Anthony Fisher was the Principal Celebrant; there were eight other celebrants, including two former parish priests, Fr George Connolly and Fr Janusz Bieniek, and two priests educated in the parish, Bishop David Walker and Fr Matthew Digges. The Mass was followed by morning tea in the school’s Possum Playground, accompanied by a display of photos and other memorabilia. 

As a permanent memorial of the parish Centenary, Fr Kopczynski commissioned a set of six stained glass windows from the workshop of Marta Wdowska-Palus and Remigiusz Palus in Poland. The windows, installed in the church nave, depict Christ as Divine Mercy, Our Lady of Fatima, St Mary of the Cross MacKillop, St Michael the Archangel, St Teresa of Calcutta, St John Paul II.

In November 2017, Fr Kenneth Kaimalan CSMA, from Papua New Guinea, was appointed Assistant Priest and Priest-in-Residence, while pursuing studies at Notre Dame University. He left the parish in December 2018.

Fr Kopczynski was transferred suddenly to Terrigal parish in mid-December 2019, and the Michaelites ended their association with the parish at the end of 2019.

Fr Pierluigi Passoni (2020 to 2023)

Fr Pierluigi Passoni was born in Italy. He studied for the priesthood at Chester Hill’s Redemptoris Mater Missionary Seminary of the Neocatechumenal Way and was ordained by Cardinal Pell in 2012. He served in Villawood, Liverpool, St Mary’s Cathedral and Moorebank parishes before being appointed as Administrator of Clovelly in March 2020. He also took over as part-time chaplain at Prince of Wales Hospital Campus. 

Fr Passoni’s time at Clovelly was marked by church closures and restrictions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. However, he was able to improve the church building in many ways, including installing an accessible bathroom inside the church, and a new church carpet.