Abbreviated Parish History
The second of four Bishops in the Diocese of Wollongong, the Most Reverend William Edward Murray, wrote in 1987 upon the opening of the new church:
“The parish of Camden has had a long and colourful history. It was established in 1859 when the great Archbishop Polding was still in office as Archbishop of Sydney and the indomitable pioneer priest of the Australian Church, Father John Joseph Therry, who had certainly proclaimed the Word of God in the Camden area, was approaching the end of his days as Parish Priest of Balmain. Early Church records show that by the year 1873 Camden, still a tiny parish judged by present-day standards, could lay claim to a Catholic population of only 192 souls”.
A little earlier in 1845 a church had been built but was soon outgrown. So steps were taken to build a larger church which was commissioned in 1859 and completed later in the same year, just nine months after its foundation stone was laid. That historic church remains today as a chapel primarily for midweek Mass.
In the first half of the twentieth century, the parish retained its country charm and remained committed to the Catholic education of children with the invaluable presence of the Sisters of St. Joseph. The Sisters actually arrived in 1883, and would end up having a teaching apostolate in the parish for just over 100 years.
In the second half of the twentieth century, growth accelerated especially with the new suburbs of Narellan Vale, Mount Annan, and Currans Hill. Large estates at Harrington Park and Bridgewater also contributed to rapid growth.
In the extreme northern region of the parish – as it was then – Mass was celebrated weekly at Leppington from 1962. A small church was built in 1973.
In 1983, the Masonic Club at Smeaton Grange near Narellan Vale was purchased and by 1984 had been converted into a Mass centre, though its use was often more varied. After 25 years, the site was developed from 2009 but not sold completely until 2015. Income from the sale of three lots has since been quarantined for the building of a new church as soon as possible adjacent to St Clare’s school.
In 2015, the oldest building on the Camden parish site was restored. At various times for more than a century, this building had been used as a church, classrooms and a school library. It is now affectionately known as the Heritage Hall.
In June 2015, Camden was sub-divided and a new parish of Oran Park was established, with Leppington and Harrington Park now located within the new parish.
According to the 2011 Commonwealth Census, Camden parish – which began as an isolated rural outpost – ranked as the largest parish in NSW and among the largest in Australia. Even after the creation of the Oran Park parish in 2015, Camden remains quite large. Its size in relation to other parishes will be determined after various reports are presented from the 2016 Commonwealth Census.