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Part 5. Our Parish changed


In November 1986, Cardinal Clancy, archbishop of Sydney, wrote a letter addressed to the people of the Parish of Peakhurst. The following are extracts from the letter:

“Ever since the retirement, through ill-health, of Father O’Shea, you have, I know, patiently awaited the appointment of another permanent Parish Priest. I assure you that provision for your pastoral care has also been uppermost in my own thoughts.

It seems inevitable that we will not be able to maintain a resident priest in every parish. Obviously, too, smaller parishes, and especially those without hospital or school could be the first to be so affected. I need hardly add that Peakhurst falls into that category.

Let me say at this point that, following discussion with my Consultors, I do propose to appoint a priest to Peakhurst. However, a special brief will accompany the appointment. The priest in question will be asked to seek your support and co-operation in preparing you within two (2) years to become a self-reliant parish community which does not have the services of a resident Parish Priest. When that time comes you will be annexed to another parish whose Parish Priest will also be your Parish Priest, and who will be responsible for providing Mass and Sacraments. You will continue to be a separate and identifiable community, and you yourselves will be responsible for the non-priestly servicing of that community. This will involve the establishing of appropriate structures, ministries and programmes. It will also involve leadership qualities on the part of some.

What I am proposing is a concept of parish community that is new in the Archdiocese of Sydney, and it is to such as this that God is calling us through the current shortage of priests. I am asking you to blaze a path along which many other parishes are expected to follow in the years to come.”

Reaction to the Archbishop’s proposal was said to be “ambivalent” and somewhat divided. Many questions were asked. Who would bury the dead, marry the young and baptise the infants? To whom could they turn for pastoral care? Would their church be run by fellow-Catholics? What right did they have to tell them what they could do?

On the other hand, some saw it as a special calling to address the difficulties faced by the Archbishop in filling the position.

In 1986 a priest was appointed to oversee the changeover. A new style Pastoral Council and Pastoral Team were established in 1987.

On 21 April 1988 the Pastoral Team met with Archbishop Clancy who announced that Fr Paul Jacobs, Parish Priest of Penshurst, would act as non-resident Parish Priest of Peakhurst.