Our First Priest-in-Charge [PP]

        Father Fennell 1960

Our First Parish Priest, officially appointed as "Priest in Charge of the Parochial District of Mt Pritchard", was Father Thomas Fennell (rip).

Father Fennell was born to Mary and Michael Fennell in the small town of Graiguecullen in the County of Carlow, Ireland (about 84km from Dublin) on the 8th June 1916. He trained for the Priesthood at St Patrick's College in Carlow in 1935 and on 7th June 1942 was ordained there. Distinguished among the thousands of its past students was the man who single-handedly brought Catholicism to Australia in May 1820, Father John Therry.

       Father Fennell                                 St Patricks College Carlow
Fr Thomas Fennell in 1940's                 St Patrick's College Carlow

Following his ordination on the day before his 26th birthday, Father Fennell was first appointed to Plymouth Parish, England before travelling to Australia, three years later with 35 other priests, arriving in Sydney after seven weeks at sea to take up an appointment as Assistant Priest at Forest Lodge in 1945. He then travelled to the Osaka Diocese, Japan with the Australian Mission in 1947.

In 1952 he returned to Australia and was appointed Assistant Priest at Cronulla, then in 1956 Assistant Priest at Haberfield. In 1958 he was appointed Administrator of Haberfield and then Administrator of Granville in 1959.

In 1960 he was appointed administrator of Bexley and then later that year as Priest in charge of the New Parochial District of Mt Pritchard.

Father Fennell came to Mt Pritchard on the 8th Nov 1960, it was then known as St Peters. When he came he lived in a cottage at 578 Cabramatta Road for around two years until the site where our church and school are now was purchased.

In 1966 after some health problems, he was appointed the Parish Priest of Leura where he remained until 1973, when he was appointed the Parish Priest of Bexley. He remained at Bexley parish until he retired in January of 1989.

His retirement to Cronulla, with niece Mary, started a new apostolate of live-in supply. Active priests could now go on holidays knowing that under his stewardship parishioners would be well looked after. His unit in Roper St, Cronulla, became another hospitality centre for local priests, friends from other parishes, even friends from Japan and family from Ireland and the US. On Monday nights Mary always catered for the clergy day off.

From 1995 he ministered to the residents and staff at Stella Maris at Cronulla, where he spent time with the residents and celebrated Mass.

He returned to Ireland in 2002 for the 60th anniversary of his ordination, and celebrated the occasion with his classmates from the seminary.

Together with the retired priests in Cronulla Place, he was chaplain for many years to Stella Maris Aged Care which he entered himself a couple of years ago. He felt at home there as he knew everyone and they knew and loved him and cared for him lovingly till he died peacefully on Wednesday, December 15, 2010.

Concelebrated Mass for Fr Thomas Fennell took place in Australia, while his family held a special memorial service in St Clare's Church, Graiguecullen on Sunday 19 December.

During his requiem mass in Australia, Cardinal Pell referred to Fr. Tom as "a natural leader who was one of the best liked priests of his time. There was an 'attractiveness' that stayed with him all his life and won him friends wherever he was stationed. People of all walks of life were drawn to him"

Father Fennell 2010
     In 2010

'A gentle humble man has left us - may he rest in peace'

For a full history of our parish a book, titled "The Old & The New - A History of the Parish of Our Lady of Mt Carmel Mt Pritchard" was printed in 2011 and is available from the OLMC Parish Piety Stand.