Parramatta’s Loveliest Parish
Kenthurst is the centre of a number of districts that comprise the parish of St Madeleine Sophie Barat. These include Glenhaven, Annangrove, Glenorie, and Dural. The area contains lots of flower and market gardens and an expanding residential area all on the fringe of the Sydney metropolitan area.
St Madeleine’s is set in beautiful bushland with views towards the Blue Mountains. The site is well set back from the road on 20 acres and houses the Church, Primary School, Marian College, and the Parish House. The Parish was established on Pentecost Sunday 1988. It was formed from two communities that were part of St Bernadette’s parish in Castle Hill, St Joseph the Worker at Dural and St Madeleine Sophie Barat in Kenthurst.
It was the parish of North Parramatta that began evangelising in this area in the 1860s and `70s. On occasions the priest would travel to Kenthurst to say Mass in the home of the Blake family at 96 Kenthurst Rd. In 1905 the Society of the Sacred Heart bought 40 acres of land in Kenthurst Road for a convent and farm school. The plans were never carried out and all but one acre was sold in 1917. Meanwhile a little stone church had been built on this plot and in 1913 had been blessed and opened in the name of Blessed Madeleine Sophie Barat (not canonised until 1925). In 1960 a fibro house was purchased at Dural and converted as a mass centre and named in honour of St Joseph. At both these churches strong faithful communities developed, gathering each week and celebrating Eucharist.
By the early 1980’s it became clear that both churches were too small for the growing communities. So in 1985 20 acres was purchased in Annangrove Rd from the descendants of the Blake family in whose home the first Kenthurst Mass was celebrated. Building began late 1986 and our first Mass as the new becoming community took place on Holy Thursday night 1987. It was a very wet night, and as the landscaping was incomplete and paths were not yet built, everybody took off their muddy shoes and we gathered barefoot to enact the story of the washing of the feet and the beginning of the church.
Education was always on the agenda in the formation of the parish so a primary school was top priority. St Madeleine Primary is a beautiful school with wonderful grounds and a beaut and caring staff. The CEO was keen for a high school so in 1988 Marian College began with about 56 kids. Today the children of nearly 1000 families from our own and neighbouring parishes are educated in the two schools.
Participation is the name of the game, and we have groups for everything. You name it we have it. An active Pastoral Councill from the beginning has sought to involve as many people as possible in our activities whether it be family groups, discussion groups, prayer & meditation groups, sacramental preparation, or playgroup mums & dads. One of the most important groups is the Welcomers who in a special way characterise our community and our faith. Sr Anna Conway has been the principal inspirer of this wonderful spirit of St Madeleine’s. But she would be the first to say its the friendliness and warmth of the people that make it such a great community.
One of the big events here is the Country Fair held every year on the first Sunday in May. It brings together many of the elements of our community for a practical fund raiser and a fun day.