Parish History


Pre 1900 – The area now known as Tranmere Parish was originally part of the Norwood Parish under the care of the Jesuit Fathers. The small village of Magill had few Catholics and we know that the Sisters of St Joseph established a school there in 1871, but it remained only a short time. This was the era of the excommunication of Mother Mary MacKillop and the confusion which followed may have been the reason the Sisters withdrew. On the other hand it may have simply been that there were too few children.

1919 – Around the turn of the century Mass was celebrated on occasions in the home of the Ryan family on Magill Road – just opposite the Norton Summit Road turn-off. By 1919 Mass was celebrated monthly in the Magill Institute. The priest came from Norwood by horse and trap or push bike. A committee was formed to raise money for the building of a church at Magill. However the “Church Authorities” bought a block of land in Birkinshaw Ave Tranmere and the committee reluctantly transferred their energy and money to the new site.

1926 – The First School and Church

The foundation stone for the new Church/School was laid by Archbishop Spence on Sunday 5th December 1926, and the church was opened on Sunday 10th April the following year. At the time, according the Fr Cornish SJ the Parish Priest, there was a debt on the building of £4,000. The building had two classrooms at the front where the Sisters of St Joseph from Kensington taught the 35 children who enrolled.

For more detail about the school

The school celebrated its 90th birthday in 2017.

1950 – The Sisters of St Joseph Convent

The Sisters often walked to school from Kensington and in March 1950 the house alongside the school was purchased as a Convent. It was a very small house and in 1966 extensions were made to give the Sisters more room.

1944 – St Joseph Tranmere Parish became independent

On 1st February 1934 Tranmere/Magill was cut off from the Norwood Mission and became part of the newly formed Hectorville Parish and Fr Tangney was Parish Priest.

Ten years later, on 1st April 1944 Tranmere became a parish in its own right with Fr Martin Comey appointed as the first Parish Priest. Initially he lived at Rostrevor College with the Christian Brothers.

The parish started from small beginnings, with the official visitation by Archbishop Beovich in 1945 the parish register indicated that there were 530 Catholics with 74 children at the school. (In 1985 the number had grown to 4,200 with 172 at the school.) But the end of World War II saw the arrival of many migrants and parish and school numbers increased. To date we have 1038 families in our Parish Census (2017).

1965 – The New Church

Archbishop Beovich laid the Foundation Stone in May 1964 and the new church of St Joseph was opened by Archbishop Gleeson one year later. The church incorporated some notable artwork by Voitre Marek and the heavy slate altar rails on copper pedestals are a memorial to Fr Comey.  

1971 – The first Parish Pastoral Council

Tranmere Parish was one of the first to establish a Parish Pastoral Council, the inaugural meeting being held on 16 July 1971. Some of the original members are still active in the parish.

1984 – Tranmere Times Magazine Began

The “Tranmere Times” was instituted as a quarterly magazine in July 1984 and continued for a number of years. It was re-introduced as a bi-monthly in 2002 and ceased publication in 2013.

2007 – Farewell to the Sisters of St Joseph

With the expansion of the parish school the convent was closed. This marks the end of the direct link between the Sisters of St Joseph and our parish.

In the years prior to the nuns coming to live in the parish they would walk each day from the convent on Portrush Rd at Kensington. Parish secretary, Carol Galbraith, recalls “Jim O’Donnell’s (after whom the library is named) mother or father would make him saddle up the horse and buggy and go and pick up the nuns – especially if the weather was bad and then he would have to go home, unsaddle and stable the horse and get to school before the bell – and then repeat the process in the afternoons.”

2014 – 70th Anniversary of our Parish

The 70th Anniversary of the Parish was celebrated on 6th April 2014. Archbishop Philip Wilson presided over the celebrations. The community came together to celebrate the past, present and the future of a thriving parish community and the Anniversary was beautifully commemorated with parishioners present from each of the decades of the Parish.  Photos of the wonderful day can be viewed here.

2015 – 50th Birthday of the Church

The 50th Birthday of the current church was celebrated on May 3rd 2015 with a special mass. We welcomed back Fr. Philip Marshall Vicar General, as our principal celebrant and Mgr Jim O’Loughlin (who also celebrated our 25th Anniversary Mass). The day was also marked with balloons, banners and a photographic display with documents from the parish archives. The Zaltron family installed two new garden seats to commemorate the occasion. Morning tea was a scrumptious feast and the children were kept entertained with ice blocks and blowing bubbles on the front lawn. Photos from this fabulous event can be viewed here.

Our Parish Priests

Fr Martin Comey (1944-1959)

When Tranmere began a parish in this own right, Fr. Martin Comey was appointed the first Parish Priest. He was a man of energy and enthusiasm, and set about providing more classrooms. He bought an old army hut from the American base at Sandy Creek and with the help of parishioners he placed it at the rear of the church/hall and built a brick front facing Magill Road. In September 1948 Fr Comey bought a large block of land opposite the school at 484 Magill Road and he used the large dilapidated house on that block as his residence until the new presbytery was built in 1965.

Fr Luke Roberts (1959-1976)

Fr Comey died of cancer in January 1959, he was only 47 years old. He was succeeded by Fr Luke Roberts, who at the time was also Director of the Catholic Family Welfare Bureau until Fr Terry Holland took over. Fr Jim Tuohy assisted Fr Roberts during 1959. Fr Roberts undertook a Planned Giving Program which was conducted by a professional body, the Wells, in 1963 and again in 1966. The success of these programs enabled the development of plans for a new church and presbytery to be built on the land bought by Fr Comey. Brian Polomka was engaged as the architect and McEntee & Williams were the builders. The tender price was $70,000.

Fr Vincent Regan (1976-1981)

Fr Vincent Regan was appointed parish priest on January 25th 1976 when Fr Roberts moved to Dulwich.

Fr David Abfalter (1981-1990)

Fr David Abfalter was appointed parish priest on 30th January 1981 when Fr Regan was transferred to Thebarton.

Fr Patrick Woods (1990-1999)

Fr Patrick Woods was appointed Parish Priest on 21st January 1990 when Fr Abfalter moved to Parkside.

Fr John Swann (1999 – 2009)

On 29th January 1999 Fr John Swann was appointed Parish Priest and Fr Pat Woods took up full time chaplaincy with the RAAF.

Fr Anthoni Adimai (2009-present)

Mgr John Swann retired from parish life in 2009 after wonderful service to the Tranmere community. Our current parish priest is Fr Anthoni Adimai, who also services the Hectorville Parish Community. He is ably assisted by Decon Remo Patroni.

Several priests have served as assistants or as priests in residence including Frs Jim Tuohy, Denis Edwards, John Butler, Allan Winter, Peter Dunn, Tony Pearson, Peter Fountain, Kevin Horsell, Michael Doherty, Tony Densley, Philip Marshall and Peter Zwaans.