Parish Priest -Father Francis Tran

HISTORY OF ST JOHN'S

Dapto Parish - 1959

Few parishes in the Illawarra region have undergone greater change and growth in the course of their history than has the parish of Dapto.  Over the past 150 years Dapto has changed from a tiny village (Brownsville) with its rural environment, to a sprawling suburb of more than 30,000 people.  A brief look at the history of the Catholic and school buildings, will demonstrate how the Catholic community has endeavored to cater for a growing population and its faith needs.

 

By the time that Dapto, Albion Park, and Shellharbour were established as one parochial district in 1867, there already existed a Catholic school, and wooden church building at West Dapto, which was then the parochial centre.  They were located next to the West Dapto Catholic Cemetery.  It was at that location that the Sisters of St Joseph established their convent and school, a first for the Sisters in the Illawarra.  In 1881, according to the Church year book, the catholic population of the entire parish district was 500. Rev. Fr. A. W. Petre was the priest in charge. with the arrival of the Railway in the late 1880's, it became clear that the future of Dapto lay to the south of Brownsville. Dapto parishioners recognized their need, and secured land within the new town zone for a new Church, School and convent

           

In 1889 parishioners conducted a bazaar, evidently a very successful one, which raised much of the money needed for their project. by may 9th 1900 His Eminence Cardinal Moran blessed and opened the new convent; on December 2nd 1900 St. John's Church was blessed and opened by very Rev. Monsignor O'Brien (Sydney). That church served the Dapto congregation for the next 86 years. At first the school was conducted, and in the convent. However, within a few years a wooden building was erected, and this remained the sole catholic school building in Dapto until 1958.

           

In 1947 the total population of Dapto was estimated at approximately 1,600. By the late fifties however Dapto was in the midst of rather rapid change. With the influx of people and the new Lakeland subdivision, they need of more classroom accommodation was recognised. On July 6th 1958 the foundation stone was laid for the first six classrooms of the present St. John's. The opening of the school took place in January 1959; the ceremony was performed by Bp McCabe; Mother Leone, Mother General of the congregation was present at the occasion. That event co-inided with the establishing of Dapto as a parish in its own right (1959).

           

The population continued to grow, so there were further challenges ahead. A major decision was implemented in 1964, with the construction of St. Anne's college- a High school for girls- years 7 to 10; the school was enlarged by another three  classrooms in 1975.  The 1980's saw Dapto parish participate with four neighbouring parishes in the establishment of regional High School, located at Albion Park; St. Anne's became an extension of St. John's primary to cater for increasing enrollments.

           

The latest undertaking by Dapto parishioners has been the building of a new Church. It was realised that the 1983 position of three priests and eight Sunday Masses could not continue. There was much discussion leading eventually to parishioners voting overwhelmingly in favour of building a new church, to take the parish well into next century. The preparation process took three years of planning and committed financial support. Then came the removal of the old church building, (built in 1900), in 1986, and the construction of the new St. John's which was consecrated by Bp Murray during a most impressive and well attended ceremony on April 2nd, 1987.