ADDRESS: 90 BUCKLEY STREET, NOBLE PARK, VIC 3174 - AUSTRALIA - TEL: 9546 8276 - FAX: 9548 1608

mail: parishsecretary@stanthonysparish.net
Welcome to St Anthony's Parish - Noble Park Website

CHAPTER I - THE EARLY DAYS

Early Pre-Parish Days
A Town's Humble Start
The Faith Community Grew
The First Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in Noble Park
A Start is Made
Mission Days and Religious Instructions
The Going was Tough
A Disappointment Leads to Another Beginning
Faith Development
Social Gatherings
Dancing and Feasting
Picnic Time
Other Sources of Revenue
Altar Society
Catholic Education Comes
Goodbye to a Friend
Enter A New Flavour
Forging Ahead: The Church School in Leonard Avenue
A Relic from the Past
Work of the Parishioners
A Proud Day
Man With A Vision
Farewell and Thank You







St Anthony's story would be incomplete without telling of the dedication, faith and strengths of the early settlers who certainly tilled the soil and sowed the first seeds of Catholicism in Noble Park. It is a history of which to be proud, for it demonstrates the vision of these people, their endurance and solidarity which kept alive the dream for a better way of life.
Early Pre-Parish Days
It is believed that the first settlers came to Noble Park around the year 1908 and approximately three years later the first Catholic families arrived, becoming a vital link in the chain of hardworking people who shaped and built a township from a large grazing area. Among these people were the Bacchus, Harris, Naughton, Fox, Cogley, McQuade, McCoy, Sonnet, Patterson and Grout families. Some later generations of these families still live in Noble Park and are members of St Anthony's parish.

The district was heavily timbered with magnificent red gums, manna gums and peppermints. Black wattle and tea-tree also formed part of the flora. Trees not only timbered much of the area, but one tree in particular came to be of great significance and was revered by the early settlers. In 1911, it was under this fine old gum, situated in the present car park of the railway premises, that the first religious service was conducted in Noble Park by a Church of England minister, the Reverend Isaac. From the very beginnings, a bond between the denominations was formed, as Fr Gleeson, parish priest of Dandenong and the few Catholics of Noble Park attended the service. The tree later became diseased and was cut down, but on Australia Day, 1994, in a civic ceremony, the vine covered stump of the old gum was dedicated to the people of Noble Park, with a plaque beside it declaring it as the tree `under which Noble Park grew'.

From those first few people, a very warm welcome was given to each new family as they arrived in the township. They were soon visited by any two of the resident Catholic ladies. In this process, the first census was conducted in the parish, taking place between 1911 and 1918.
A Town's Humble Start
The tree under which the first religious service was held in Noble Park 1911

The Faith Community Grew

As the families settled into their humble dwellings among the natural bush, babies began arriving and the community grew. The Dandenong Parish baptism records give evidence of the steady increase in the population as all baptisms were conducted at St Mary's, Dandenong, and it was to St Mary's that people travelled for Mass by horseback, horse and jinker, buggy or cart. Though the distance was short, roads were non-existent and the journey was exhausting along either dusty or very wet tracks. This little nucleus of a faith community clung together, and the difficulties and physical obstacles confronting them were somehow overcome.


The First Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in Noble Park

By 1918, a small timber public hall had been erected in Buckley Street, Noble Park, where the present tennis courts are. After many requests from the Noble Park people, Fr Francis Merner from Dandenong celebrated Mass there, to the great joy of the handful of Catholics present. This became a quarterly gathering. One of the present octogenarian parishioners warmly recalls attending Mass there, as well as the rat-eaten red carpet around the altar that had to be erected on each occasion. Field mice frequently scampered across the floor but no-one took any notice of the mice, for their main concern was that Fr Merner might trip on the tatty carpet! In approximately 1929 this building became the Noble Park Fire Station.
Approx. 1931. Noble Park Fire brigade outside the tiny Public Hall where the first Mass was celebrated in 1918 by Fr Merner
A Start is Made

With the war over in 1919, the tempo of community activity quickened. In March 1919, a successful garden fete was held and hosted by the Presentation Sisters at their convent in Dandenong. This was the first fund-raising event held by the Catholic people of Noble Park, and the princely sum of 119 was raised. Of this, 110 was used to purchase a block of land in Joy Parade, Noble Park, where the existing Uniting Church stands. By then a new enthusiasm and dedication took hold of the people and by July of that year, envelopes were distributed for a regular collection of money, similar to the present Sacrificial or Thanksgiving Scheme. The dream of a church building was slowly becoming a reality as the pennies and pounds mounted up.

About 1921, with Fr Francis Merrier still coming from Dandenong for Mass, a church hall made from secondhand bricks, purchased from Spencer Street Railway was built. This caused a rift among the people, as some thought it was irreverent to use secondhand material for a church. However, the building went ahead, with the bricks being rendered over in a cream coloured finish.

This simple, oblong structure measured 66 feet by 25 feet and cost 600 to erect. Some 500 people, almost the entire district, gathered together on 27th August 1922, when Archbishop Daniel Mannix blessed and opened the church. He was very impressed at what had been achieved by so few, and described the handful of people responsible for making it possible, as `wise and farsighted'. Fr Merrier warmly praised Mrs Donohue, the driving force in organizing the fund-raising. The church was placed under the patronage of St Anthony of Padua. History has it that the local station master, Mr Jim Higgins, was given the privilege of choosing the name. Mass was now celebrated once a month in Noble Park.

With the site costing 110, the building 600, and the seating and piano, the total amount was just 775 - a fortune in those days. A collection made on opening day among those present yielded 225, and all were very happy with the small remaining debt. Another of the pioneers, Mrs Barnao, collected 80 to purchase the statue of St Anthony. This statue was later moved to the niche in the front of the Leonard Avenue church, and then to the presbytery garden in Buckley Street.

The interior of the building had exposed rafters which were a cause of great distraction and often embarrassment for the congregation during Mass, for birds seated there often let `fly' with their droppings. The seats were simple, with only a single rail as a back support, allowing small children to slip through. There are still parishioners who can recall being those children. Cleaning and preparations for the monthly Mass was a big task as the ladies rostered had to scrub and disinfect to remove all traces of mice, rats and birds who made the building their home during the weeks between Masses. Stories of the outdoor toilet abound! It was a very basic structure, also infested with vermin and red-backed spiders. Great tales are also told about the Confessionals.They consisted of a portable wooden frame, enclosed with green curtains - not at all sound-proofed. However, people lined up for an hour before the starting time of Mass each month, as this was their only opportunity to go to Confession.

In the late 1920s more families arrived and became key figures in the development of the community and the church. Among these newcomers were the Malone, Miles, Deayton, Ross, Randall and Crabtree families. Early in the 1930s the first migrant families arrived - all Italian - the Maccioccas, De Guilios, Caiolfas.It was the start of our now large multicultural parish.For those early parishioners their church, in all its simplicity, was considered grander than any cathedral. It was their place of meeting and worship.

Inside the church which was blessed and opened in 1922