Parish History

The Catholic Church in Gungahlin Prior to 1993

These notes would have been written sometime between 1993 and the proposal to build a church in Amaroo. The author is unknown. What stands out is that while these notes reflect on past history, the sentiment is very familiar, even today in 2017.

In the News ….

A neat and substantial school Church has been completed at Ginninderra for the purposes of Roman Catholic worship and a provisional school. It is erected on land given for the purpose by Mr Florence McAuliffe by whose exertions also the principal costs of erection – about £70 – was collected – the building is about 25′ x 18′ in dimension.

Queanbeyan Age: 28 March 1872

We have a great history here in Gungahlin – both Catholic and secular – and it is one that should still resonate strongly with us today.

It’s about new settlers, mixing of cultures, establishing homes, families and livelihoods, coping with poor roads, facilities and communications, struggles with the environment and government policies, building community, establishing a Catholic mission, providing Catholic education and above all, building a Church.

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Holy Spirit Parish 1993 – 2008

Holy Spirit Parish opened its doors to the Gungahlin community in 1993. Back then, the area’s population was relatively small. From the very beginning, the approach was to form a leadership team and community who worked together to build relationships, welcome newcomers and encourage all to share their gifts.

Parish Team (1993)
Parish Team (1993)

Fr Bernie Patterson, Sr Genny Ryan and Sr Anne Cougle were foundational members of the parish team. The liturgy used in the move from Holy Spirit School shared campus hall to the new church in Amaroo gives some insight into their influence and contribution to this growing community.

In time, groups and programs came into being as the need emerged. The first group to be established was the St Vincent de Paul Conference – to serve the needs of the small but growing Gungahlin community. Not long after this, the Parish Council was formed.

In the early years, many young families would gather for Sunday morning Mass and so the children’s liturgy was introduced to the 9:30am Mass; this continues today.

These groups were formed prior to the opening of Holy Spirit School in 1996.

With the school opening, a strong partnership was built between parish and school and this continued with the opening of Good Shepherd School in 2002, Mother Teresa School in 2010 and St John Paul II College in 2013 (initially on the Mother Teresa School Campus, with a move to the Nicholls Campus in 2014).

Mass In The Holy Spirit School Hall
Mass In The Holy Spirit School Hall

In 1996 Mass moved to a multipurpose room at Holy Spirit School. On completion of the shared campus school hall, Mass moved again into this larger space which was set up each weekend for Mass.

As the community grew, the suburbs expanded to include Palmerston, Nicholls, Ngunnawal, Amaroo and Gungahlin. The practical challenges of holding special occasions such as Easter and Christmas in the shared campus hall, as well as the need for a sacred space we could call our own, meant a new church site would need to be found.

After much consultation, a church was built on the Good Shepherd School campus and completed in late 2007.

Holy Spirit Parish 2008 – 2017

When the Cavanagh family settled nearby on “One Tree Hill” around 1843, they would never have dreamt a large church and school would one day be placed on another block of land their relatives would purchase. The Cavanagh’s were close to the only Catholic family in their district. Their property was called “Stray Leaf.” The property remained in the family until 1974. John and Joyce Cavanagh and family were forced to look at other options after the Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam had announced in 1972 that the Gungahlin area would be resumed for the sake of the anticipated growth of Canberra. Now in 2013 Holy Spirit Parish has completed the building of its presbytery and office block on the paddock the Cavanagh’s called “The Post Office.” One of many paddocks that were once part of Stray Leaf.”

View a Full History of the Office and Presbytery Project

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