Holy Name of Mary Parish
The Holy Name of Mary parish community is a vital Christian community with its life centred on the Sunday celebration of the Eucharist. The vision of the parish is to be a community that is:
prayerful and worshipping
inclusive and welcoming
mutually responsible and caring
outreaching and missionary.
There are two centres of worship in Hunters Hill, the church of the Holy Name of Mary (often referred to as Villa Maria) and the church of St Peter Chanel, Futuna St, Hunters Hill on the Woolwich Peninsula. It is here that the community gathers for the central act of worship, the Eucharist, and for the celebration of the other sacraments, as well as for personal prayer. Being impressive sandstone heritage buildings, the churches are also popular for Catholic weddings.
The Holy Name of Mary Church is the heart and focus of the Hunters Hill Catholic community. The church was originally designed to be the chapel of the adjacent Villa Maria Monastery. The foundation stone was blessed by the Archbishop of Sydney and laid on 15 September, 1867. The church was a long time in the building. The first wedding took place in 1868 when the church still had no roof. Finally, it was formally blessed and opened by the Marist missionary Bishop Louis Elloy on 12 February 1871.
The church is unique in Australia in its design and decoration. A common practice in those days was to use building plans borrowed from elsewhere. The Marists brought in plans from their place of origin, the rural areas around Lyon in South-East France. The stained glass and statuary are also French, as too is the beautiful marble altar which was installed in 1890. The altar was moved from the eastern wall, separated from its reredos and the tabernacle, and adapted to stand free in the centre of the sanctuary during the adaptations to the liturgy of the Second Vatican Council in 1971.
In the early years of the twentieth century, the church, now the parish church, proved inadequate for the accommodation of the growing number of parishioners. As a memorial to the late Parish Priest, Fr Zephirin Muraire, who had served in the parish for 39 years, two new bays were added to the nave of the church. The front of the church was dismantled, and after the extension was completed, reassembled with a new bell and tower. The additions were blessed and opened by the Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal Moran, in April 1904.
To coincide with the centenary of its opening, and to meet the requirements of the liturgical reforms after the Second Vatican Council, restoration work was carried out in 1971. The interior was sympathetically and painstakingly renovated to highlight the rich warmth of the cedar woodwork and the stained glass, together with the church’s many statues and the marble altar. The quaint little pulpit was also carefully preserved.
The church is valued for its simplicity of lines, its intimate interior, its unsophisticated surrounds, and its commanding position above the Lane Cove river.
The parish has one primary school, “Villa Maria”. Within the boundaries there is the Marist Sisters College, a systemic secondary school for girls.