Up until the 1860’s, the Catholics of Smithfield were served by priests from Parramatta, and attended religious services at St. Brigid’s, Blacktown; St Michael’s, Baulkham Hills; and Temporary Church of the Reservoir, Prospect.

By the early 1870’s the population of Smithfield grew to 300 where, assuming, a large proportion were Catholics. In 1875 Archbishop Polding decided to buy land for a Church, School and Presbytery in Smithfield.

A temporary chapel was built and the first Mass was celebrated on Christmas Day 1875. Under the guidance of priest Dean Rigney, a new brick church was built at Smithfield and the Church was dedicated to St Gertrude. Ten years later the Dean who was still in charge built additions to St Gertrude’s – the sanctuary and the sacristy. St Gertrude’s was blessed and opened on 18th August 1895 by the Auxiliary to Cardinal Moran, Bishop Joseph Higgins.

In 1949 the Benedictine Fathers of Sri Lanka were looking for a place in Australia to expand their activities. Cardinal Gilroy, Archbishop of Sydney, offered them the district of Smithfield.

In 1950 the Catholic population in the newly established parish of Smithfield was already 1500, and the growth continued. St Gertrude’s school opening in 1952 with 80 children, four years later more than 260 children were enrolled.

On 20th March 1950, two Benedictines, Fathers C. Cornelli and B. Bottazzo, had come to replace Fr Farina. From the mid 1950’s more migrants made the Smithfield district their home. These migrants came from all parts of Europe: English, Maltese, Italians, Germans, Hungarians and Polish. In 1954 the Cardinal blessed new additions to the school and in the same year blessed the new church of St Therese at Fairfield West.

In the 1970’s St Gertrude’s was the largest primary school in the Archdiocese with more than 900 children. Cardinal Gilroy made his last visit in 1966 when he blessed and opened the Montefano Parish Hall to provide a social center for more than 1500 families.

In 1954 the Catholic Weekly referred to “the cosmopolitan character that the parish of Smithfield has assumed recently, a character that would have certainly amazed the first pastor, Dean Rigney. He never foresaw that Smithfield would become a kind of League of Nations, where more, perhaps, than anywhere in Sydney, could be found people of all nationalities.”

His Eminence Cardinal Gilroy, then Archbishop of Sydney, approved and blessed the project of a shrine in honour of St Benedict, the patron of Western Civilization. Nine years after the original approval of the late Cardinal N.T. Gilroy, the message of St Benedict – a message of unity, peace and of Christian faith and love, was embroidered in glass and mosaic in the Shrine of St Benedict.

St Benedict’s Shrine, under the rule of then Parish Priest Fr Bede Barcatta O.S.B., was built and officially opened on 21st March, 1976 by His Eminence J Freeman, then Archbishop of Sydney. The whole theme of the Shrine is summed up in the words of Pope Paul VI, inscribed on the plaque at the southern entrance of the church – “St Benedict can be rightly called the messenger of peace, the promoter of unity, the teacher of civilization, the herald of Christian religion and the founder of monastic life in the West.”

The Year 2003 would be the last year that the Benedictines would serve and guide the Parishioners of St Gertrude’s Parish, Smithfield. From 2004 and to date, the Parish of Smithfield has been under the guidance of the Pauline Fathers (St Paul the First Hermit): Fr Albert Wasniowski, was the first Parish Priest and served a 5 year term together with Assistant Priests Fr Marek Dutkewicz & Fr Damian Mosakowski. From January 2009 to May 2015, Fr Michael Szymanski was the Parish Priest and Fr Oskar Osinksi was the Assistant Priest (Fr. Mark Dutkiewicz and Fr Ireneusz Pylka also served during 2010). From May 2015, Fr. Jarek Zan took over as Parish Priest and Fr. Richard Green as the Assistant Priest. Fr. Josue David Quej Moran (a Sydney Archdiocesan Priest) was serving in our Parish as an Assistant Priest from 2013.  Fr. Wojciech Śliwa became the new Assistant Priest in 2017 after both Fr. Richard and Fr. Josue moved on to other appointments. In 2019, Fr. Peter James Strohmayer joined as Assistant Priest. In 2023, Fr. Peter James became Parish Priest.

Excerpts taken from the book written by Fr Bede Barcatta o.b.s. “The Shrine of St Benedict at Smithfield, NSW Australia”.

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