It is hard to adequately capture more than a century and a half of community history in just a few paragraphs. If you want to know more, there are a few books that capture some of the history, these are detailed in an 8-page version of the history which is available for download below.
The history of the Parish of St Paul’s at Albion Park is uniquely linked to the first Mass celebrated in the Illawarra by Fr John Joseph Therry on Wednesday 17 April, 1833. On that occasion Fr Therry celebrated Mass at a military barracks in Wollongong. He also baptised five children and solemnised two marriages and so the Catholic tradition commenced in the Illawarra. There are records of two earlier visits to the Illawarra in August 1829 and in July 1832; it is almost certain that he celebrated Mass during those visits, but no record has been left.
The Missionary District of the Illawarra was established in 1838 under the direction of Fr John Rigney (1838-45), Fr Peter Young (1845-50) and Fr Eugene Luckie (1850-52). It originally covered the coastal area from Coal Cliff to Moruya. In 1852 the area was divided in two and the Kiama Parish was formed, covering from Albion Park and Shellharbour in the north to the Shoalhaven in the south. The Northern Mission was centred on St Francis Xavier’s Wollongong and went as far south as Dapto. The Shoalhaven area became a parish by 1863 and in 1867 the Dapto, Albion Park, Shellharbour Parish was formed with the main church and presbytery at West Dapto.
Macquarie (Albion Park) is mentioned as a Mass station in the 1857 Catholic Directory, such visits would most likely have been no more than monthly. The church at West Dapto had been mentioned in records as early as October 1853, when a description of Dapto in The Empire newspaper spoke of a Roman Catholic Chapel. In June 1856 a public meeting was held in the Catholic Church at West Dapto for the purpose of laying out the site for a new church to be erected and for the raising of the funds for it. The decision to build a church at Shellharbour was made in 1859 and the church was completed in late 1860. Hence, when the new parish was formed, families had a choice of West Dapto or Shellharbour Churches for Mass.
Masses were also held at Albion Park, at the homes of Timothy and Ann Crowley (cnr Macquarie Street and Tongarra Road) and James and Catherine Stapleton (Tongarra Road, east of Terry Street). It was after Mass at Timothy Crowley’s home one Sunday that Fr Coghlan deplored the fact that there was not a church at Albion Park and the matter went from there. The first Baptism registered for the new Parochial District was that of Thomas James Raftery, born 7 February, 1867 to John Raftery and Jane Brownlee. The ceremony was conducted on 17 March 1867 by the Curate Fr Edmund Walsh, who served in the Parish for two years.
To read more about the early history, read the attached document: Saint Paul’s Albion Park Parish History
The church was extended in 2009 with a narthex/gathering space along with a sealed carpark. The church also now has a hearing loop and disabled toilet facilities (also including baby change facilities). The parish cemetery has also undergone a series of restoration projects, including the installation of two additional columbarium walls, and beamed areas for burials. In 2015 the lighting in the sanctuary was upgraded and screens were installed. Further refinements continued in 2016-2017. In 2018, the MacKillop Centre underwent significant repairs to the foundations and disabled access was provided.