History of St Joseph, Edgecliff
The first Franciscans to minister to St Joseph’s parish were inducted on 9 November, 1879, with Fr Augustine Holohan appointed the first friar in charge of Edgecliff and Paddington. He was assisted by Fr Martin Walsh, a diocesan priest who wished to join the Order.
St Joseph’s “church is in the early English style of Gothic architecture, and is built of brick on stone foundations. The nave is 80 by 35 feet in width, 20 feet high to wall plate, and 45 feet to ridge pole. The chancel is placed at the north end and is 20 feet wide by 15 deep…” is how the Freeman’s Journal Sydney begins the description of the new church on Saturday, 26th September, 1874. The foundation stone had been laid on February 8th of that year and this attracted widespread attention as it was the first official ceremony of this kind to be performed by the Most Rev. Dr. Roger Bede Vaughan, Coadjutor Archbishop, since his arrival in Sydney. For this reason, he always took a particular interest in St Joseph’s church. On Sunday, September 20th St Joseph’s was blessed and opened. His Grace Archbishop Polding presided over the religious ceremonies and Dr Vaughan preached the sermon.
The suburb of Edgecliff has long been regarded as one of Sydney’s fashionable areas, though the early congregations were for the most part made up of labourers, shopkeepers and a very large number of Irish girls in service. The former Post Office at the corner of Edgecliff and New South Head Roads was originally a stone residence and butchery occupied by a brother of the Irish patriot, Daniel O’Connell. This beautiful little church has been enhanced over the ensuing 140 plus years. The addition of an entrance porch, centre aisle, large sacristy, treasured stained glass, Mimovich wooden carved statues and altered chancel contributes to an atmosphere of quiet prayer and devotion. The Freeman’s Journal concludes “The perspective views obtained from the various points are very effective and picturesque, harmonising admirably with the scenery of a fashionable suburb already marked by towering spires, and pleasant and stately villas.”
Although more than happy to have achieved the building of St Joseph’s Church, the parish priest, Fr Leeming, was preoccupied with building a suitable presbytery. Through consultation with the architect William Boles he hoped to achieve a church and presbytery that would accord with each other in tone and style. That the architect succeeded is self-evident. He produced an example of early English Gothic that excites the admiration of every discerning visitor.
To this day, the Franciscans are still the custodians of this parish which is now administered from the parish offices at St Francis of Assisi, Paddington.