Parish Presentation Essay

The Catholic Parish of St. Joseph’s Tranmere- written by Sue Wakeham

For a newcomer to the Catholic Parish of St. Joseph’s Tranmere the name can be quite confusing.  If you look in the telephone directory or on a street map the church is physically located in Kensington Gardens.  All becomes clear when you become aware of the history of the parish.  On the parish website there is a brief history which has been compiled by Ted Buckler.[1]

The church, parish hall and school opened on 10th April 1927 in Birkinshaw Avenue, Tranmere.  However the history of worship in the area goes back further than this.  For a short period of time the Sisters of St. Joseph ran a school in the area in 1871.  It is unclear why it did not continue.  Some have suggested that it was due to the fact that there were too few children, others that it was around a time of chaos when Blessed Mary MacKillop was excommunicated.  When Mass was celebrated in the area prior to 1919 it was celebrated in a family home, with the priest travelling from Norwood.  Between 1919 and 1927 the Magill Institute was utilised on a monthly basis for the celebration of the Mass.

Parish boundaries changed in 1934 and the areas of Magill and Tranmere were transferred from Norwood to Hectorville where Father Tangney was parish priest.  Ten years later Tranmere separated from Hectorville parish and Father Martin Comey was appointed as the first parish priest of the Tranmere parish.  It was due to Father Comey’s efforts that in 1948 the parish was able to purchase 484 Magill Road, the location of the current church and presbytery. 

Planned giving programs undertaken by Father Roberts, the next parish priest, allowed for the commencement of planning and building the new church and presbytery on the opposite side of Magill Road.  In successive years two different Archbishops played their parts in the parish history.  In 1964 Archbishop Beovich laid the foundation stone, and the following year Archbishop Gleeson opened the church.  Since then the following priests have tended to the needs of the parishioners of St. Joseph’s Tranmere: Father’s Vincent Regan; David Abfalter; Patrick Woods, and John Swann.  Other priests who have assisted the parish priest or lived at the presbytery include: Father’s Jim Tuohy; Denis Edwards; John Butler; Allan Winter; Peter Dunn; Tony Pearson; Peter Fountain; Kevin Horsell; Michael Doherty and Tony Densley.[2]  Denis Edwards was an assistant priest in 1970 and 1971.[3]

The Parish Pastoral Council came into being in 1971, and was one of the first to be established.  The purpose of the Parish Pastoral Council is to help the parish priest in pastoral activities that bring the presence of Christ to our community.  In 1984 there were twelve elected members, some of whom are still in the parish.  Also on the council were Father’s David Abfalter and Peter Fountain, Sister’s Joan Mangan and Monica MacAuliffe.[4]  Today’s council is a little different, in that for the last two years no elections have been necessary due to the reduced numbers of parishioners putting their names forward to join the council.  There are in total twelve members, including Monsignor John Swann.  Supporting the Parish Pastoral Council are  various groups and committees: Baptism Team; RCIA Team; Social and Charities Committee; Liturgy Committee; Altar Society; Rosario Vivente Group; Weekly Count Team; Youth Group; Religious Education Group; Catholic Women’s League; St. Vincent de Paul Society; Pastoral Care Group, and Finance Committee.  The parish priest has become like the chief executive officer of a large organisation, even with the continuing decline in the  number of parishioners, it is still not possible for him to micro-manage all facets of parish life, hence the need for enthusiastic laity to take on roles within the parish.  With an average Mass attendance of four hundred and ninety one over three Mass’, the parish at Tranmere fits into the “Corporate Church Model” as outlined by Alice Mann.[5]

The Parish School has been an integral part of the parish from the beginning.  Archbishop Spence laid the foundation stone of the school in December 1926, five months before the school opened.  There were two classrooms and thirty five children.  After World War II, Father Comey managed to obtain an old army hut from the American Base at Sandy Creek to increase the number of classrooms.  The school expanded once again in 1960 with enrolments then at three hundred and twenty.  The ‘Comey Hut’ was demolished in 1972 to make way for more classrooms, offices and a tuck shop.  A new library was added in 1984.  In 1985 the school community was saddened by the announcement that the Sisters of St. Joseph would no longer be able to continue teaching at the school, due to their lack of teaching sisters.  In 1986 the principle Margaret White called for the refurbishment of existing classrooms and facilities.  The current principle Paul Murphy was appointed in 2004.  The continuing presence of the school within the parish for 80 years was celebrated in 2007.[6]

The Sisters of St. Joseph had a continuing presence in the parish from 1927 to 2007.  Before 1950, when a house was purchased in Birkinshaw Avenue for the Sisters, they used to travel each day, from the convent on Portrush Road.  In 2007 the Sisters left the parish and the convent was demolished to provide space for new classrooms at the school.  Over a number of years Sisters held positions in the parish other than attachment to the school.  Sister Monica McAuliffe, among other things was involved with the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) and the Sunday school.  Others included Sister’s Jane Owen; Carmel Thomas and Morreen Featherstone.  Sister Marie Egan was the Parish Pastoral Associate from 2001 to 2002.[7] 

The other Sisters that have had a presence within the parish are the Sisters of Mercy, who established and run the Hesed Christian Community.  With tenderness and love, Sisters’ Rose Carey and Pat Kenny started the community at Payneham in 1983.  They moved to Magill when larger premises became available through the South Australian Housing Trust.  When they started, they did not have anything, the only income came from their stipends and from Social Security Payments.  The parish makes donations to the community, and some members of the community regularly attend Mass at St. Joseph’s.  Hesed has an open door policy, for whoever is lost or marginalised.  The Sisters have developed at ‘twelve step’ program “Growth Towards Wholeness” which has a spiritual emphasis.  People who go to Hesed for support do not have to be Catholic.  Last year Sister Pat Kenny celebrated her fiftieth anniversary as a Sister of Mercy.  This year the Hesed Community celebrates twenty five years of providing help to those in need.[8]

In 2006 the Commonwealth Government conducted its population census, and the National Church Life Survey Research Organisation also conducted a survey of parishes.  Even without this research, just by comparing the number of Mass times in 1984 and today, it can be observed that the parish population has and is declining.  As far as the age of the population within the parish the National Church Life Survey shows there is little difference in the age groups within the parish and the diocese.  The Australian Bureau of Statistics for the 2006 Census shows that approximately fifty percent of the population for the postcode areas within the parish boundaries is between twenty and fifty nine.[9]  The National Church Life Survey has nine core qualities that are used to assess the inner life of the community of faith, its strengths and weaknesses.   Those nine qualities are divided into three areas.  In 2006, of the Internal core qualities; worship was equal first, belonging was equal third and faith was seventh.  Of the Inspirational core qualities; vision and innovation were equal third and leadership sixth.  Of the Outward core qualities; Inclusion was equal first, Service was eighth and Faith-sharing was ninth.[10]  The National Church Life Survey also highlighted that there are more female parishioners (fifty-nine percent) compared to males (forty-one percent).  This is also in line with a study done in 1995 by Mairi Levitt, who observes that “pews are female dominated”.[11]

Apart from the voluntary activities of many parishioners, there are also community services available to the parish community through the two main council districts for the parish, Burnside and Campbelltown.  Some of the services provided by the Councils are to assist people to remain in their own homes as they get older.  For example, on the website for the Burnside Council they refer to the “3Rs Program”, Respite, Recreation and Revitalisation, which runs throughout the Eastern region of Adelaide.  The Catholic welfare service is Centacare, and as already mentioned the St. Vincent de Paul Society is active in the parish.  However, there are also other Christian welfare services which are available, such as Anglicare SA, Uniting Care Wesley and the Salvation Army.  For older residents of Italian origin, PISA – Italian Meals and Services for the Aged, and the Patronato INAS – Italian Australian Welfare may be able to provide support and/or advice.  A check of the listing of family welfare services in the Yellow Pages alone provides information on what services are available, but are too numerous to go into detail here.[12]

Whilst St. Joseph’s Parish Tranmere is faced with many of the challenges which also face other parishes, we are fortunate in that we have a small band of willing volunteers who are actively involved in planning for the future of the parish.  This challenge will be upon us soon, with Monsignor John Swann due to retire in 2009.  At the annual general meeting of the Parish Pastoral Council held on 24th August, it was reported that there was no certainty that we would have a parish priest, although at this time there was an indication that there would be a priest resident in the parish.  The Parish Banner, made by parishioners in 2005, reflects the parish community well.  The symbols which reflect the community within the banner are also symbols representative of the celebration of the sacraments of the Catholic community.[13]  They depict signs and visual reminders that God is with us always.



Abfalter, David. “Parish Directory.” St. Joseph’s Church Tranmere, March 1984.

Buckler, Ted. Parish History. (accessed August 7th, 2008).

Levitt, Mairi. “Sexual Identity & Religious Socialisation.” British Journal of Sociology 46, no. 3 (1995): 530.

Mann, Alice. “The In-Between Church: Navigating the Size Transistions in Congregations.” An Alban Institue Publication. 1992.

St. Joseph’s Parish School Tranmere. (accessed August 7th, 2008).

Tyson, Alan. “Hesed: “A Little Piece of Heaven”.” Tranmere Times. Vol. 7. no. 2. Edited by Terrance Yeow and Tom Spinks. St. Joseph’s Parish Tranmere, April 2006. 7.

Yeow, Terrance, and Tom Spinks, . “The Parish Banner.” Tranmere Times. Vol. 7. no. 2. St. Joseph’s Parish Tranmere, April 2006. 2.


[1] Ted Buckler, undated, Parish History, viewed 7th August 2008,

[2] Ted Buckler, undated, Parish History, viewed 7th August 2008,

[3] Denis Edwards, email 9th September 2008, [email protected]

[4] Parish Directory, St. Joseph’s Church Tranmere, March 1984.

[5] Alice Mann, The In-Between Church: Navigating the Size Transitions in Congregations, An Alban Institute Publication, p.86-87, in Flinders University and Adelaide College of Divinity, Sociology for Ministry Reader, Semester One, 2008, Brooklyn Park.

[6] Our History, St. Joseph’s School Tranmere, no date viewed 7th August 2008

[7] Ted Buckler, undated, Parish History, viewed 7th August 2008,


[8] Tranmere Times Volume 7, Issue 2, April 2006, page 7 viewed via parish website


9  Australian Bureau of Statistics 2006 Census of Population and Housing, Postcode area’s 5068;5072; 5073 and 5136.

[10] National Church Life Survey Research, Sydney, 2006, St. Joseph’s Tranmere Parish.   Access to information courtesy of Monsignor John Swann

[11] Mairi Levitt, Sexual Identity & Religious Socialisation, British Journal of Sociology (1995) 46:3, p.530, in Flinders University and Adelaide College of Divinity, Sociology for Ministry Reader, Semester One, 2008, Brooklyn Park.

[12] Yellow Pages 2008, Organisations – Family Welfare, p.1335.

[13] Tranmere Times, Volume 7, Issue 2, April 2006. P.2.