St. Patrick's Church. Photography by Kerry & Co, Tyrrell Collection
The oldest Catholic church in Sydney is St. Patrick's church at 20 Grosvenor Street, The Rocks, Sydney. Technically, it was the second church to be built after St. Marys, which burnt down and had to be rebuilt to what is now the St. Mary's Cathedral. St. Patricks's church was officially opened in 18 March 1844.
A visit to St. Patrick's church will be both spiritually and culturally fulfilling. Catholic readers might be interested to come for sacrament. Please click here for the Mass times and Reconciliation schedule. The non-Catholic would nonetheless be interested to visit because, being the oldest church in Sydney, St. Patrick's church is full of history. The building itself is an amazing work of beauty, a showcase of English Gothic architecture.
Stained glass window at St. Patrick's church, The Rocks, Sydney.
The original plans for St. Patrick's church were drawn by William Fernyhough and loosely patterned after St. Anthony's church (1833) in Liverpool, UK. It was redesigned by architect John Frederick Hilly. This beautiful Gothic sandstone church at The Rocks was built by Andrew Ross & Co., and has since been the traditional parish base of the Irish working class Roman Catholics in Sydney. From 1868, the parish and St. Patrick's church was entrusted to the care of the Marist fathers.
[ADVERT]Founded by Jean Claude Colin, the Marist Fathers were founded in France and gained approbation by the Holy See in 1836. The vision of the early Marist founders was that there be one Marist group made up of men and women, priests, brothers and sisters, but unfortunately Rome did not agree with it. Subsequently, four Marist groups came into being, such as the Marist Brothers, the Marist Sisters, the Missionary Sisters of the Society of Mary and the Marist Fathers.
The Marist Fathers first came to Australia in 1843, and in 1868 were entrusted the care of St. Patrick's upon the deathbed request of Archdeacon John McEncroe, the first and the parish priest at St. Patrick's at that time who befriended the Marist Fathers. The Archbishop agreed and St. Patrick's has since been under the care of Marist priests to date.
I think you will find that St Brigid's Church, Kent Street, Millers Point is the second oldest Catholic Church in Sydney. St Mary's 1821, St Brigid's 1835, St Patrick's 1844 and St Benedict's 1845. You are right that the first St Mary's was destroyed by fire - all that remains is a fragment of sandstone wall on the east side opposite the presbytery. St Brigid's is a great place to visit if only to see convict stone - look for the individual marks made by the masons to identify their stone and meet their daily quota. St Patrick's was among the churches built under the provisions of Governor Richard Bourke's Church act of 1836.