Contact Details

Fr Gregory Rowles
96 Catherine St, Leichhardt
NSW 2040, Australia.
Phone: (02) 9518 0650

Lilla Contarino
Hours: Monday - Friday
(8.30 am - 12.00 pm)
= Saturday & Sunday Closed =


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St. Fiacre's is recorded in The Jubilee History of Leichhardt (Dec. 1871-Dec.1921) as one of the two Roman Catholic churches in the suburb. It is the Leichhardt parish church, with frontages on Catherine and Prospect Streets. The history of St. Fiacre's in the post-World War 2 period is indissolubly linked with the history in Australia of the Order of Capuchin Franciscan Friars. As Pino Bosi notes, from 1837 "either singly or in groups, about 25 Capuchin Friars had come to Australia" (Bosi 117). Two distinctive elements of this history are as follows. Irish and Scottish Capuchins were active in Australia around the mid-nineteenth century. And the Italian-born Capuchin, Elzear Torreggiani, served as Bishop of Armidale from 1879-1904. 

The Capuchins were formally granted the parish of St Fiacre's by Cardinal Gilroy on 3 November 1946. This was in recognition of their missionary work from 1945 among Italian immigrants, first at Wynnum (near Brisbane) and later in Halifax (North Queensland). Italy-born had lived in Queensland since the 1890s. The Capuchins responded post-war to the invitation of the Archbishop of Brisbane, James Duhig, although, as Pino Bosi records, the Order intended during the 1930s to minister in the Italian-born concentrations in rural Australia. The war interrupted these plans.

Patron Saint

St Fiacre is an abbot, born in Ireland about the end of the sixth century; died 18 August, 670. Having been ordained priest, he retired to a hermitage on the banks of the Nore of which the townland Kilfiachra, or Kilfera, County Kilkenny, still preserves the memory. Disciples flocked to him, but, desirous of greater solitude, he left his native land and arrived, in 628, at Meaux, where St. Faro then held episcopal sway. He was generously received by Faro, whose kindly feelings were engaged to the Irish monk for blessings which he and his father's house had received from the Irish missionary Columbanus.

Faro granted him out of his own patrimony a site at Brogillum (Breuil) surrounded by forests. Here Fiacre built an oratory in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a hospice in which he received strangers, and a cell in which he himself lived apart. He lived a life of great mortification, in prayer, fast, vigil, and the manual labour of the garden. Disciples gathered around him and soon formed a monastery. There is a legend that St. Faro allowed him as much land as he might surround in one day with a furrow; that Fiacre turned up the earth with the point of his crosier, and that an officious woman hastened to tell Faro that he was being beguiled; that Faro coming to the wood recognized that the wonderworker was a man of God and sought his blessing, and that Fiacre henceforth excluded women, on pain of severe bodily infirmity, from the precincts of his monastery. In reality, the exclusion ofwomen was a common rugin the Irish foundations. His fame for miracles was widespread. He cured all manner of diseases by laying on his hands; blindness, polypus, fevers are mentioned, and especially a tumour or fistula since called "le fic de S. Fiacre".

His remains were interred in the church at Breuil, where his sanctity was soon attested by the numerous cures wrought at his tomb. Manychurches and oratories have been dedicated to him throughout France. His shrine at Breuil is still a resort for pilgrims with bodily ailments. In 1234 his remains were placed in a shrine by Pierre, Bishop of Meaux, his arm being encased in a separate reliquary. In 1479 the relics of Sts. Fiacre and Kilian were placed in a silver shrine, which was removed in 1568 to the cathedral church at Meaux for safety from the destructive fanaticism of the Calvinists.

In 1617 the Bishop of Meaux gave part of the saint's body to the Grand Duke of Tuscany, and in 1637 the shrine was again opened and part of the vertebrae given to Cardinal Richelieu. A mystery play of the fifteenth century celebrates St. Fiacre's life and miracles. St. John of Matha, Louis XIII, and Anne of Austria were among his most famous clients. He is thepatron of gardeners. The French cab derives its name from him. The Hôtel de St-Fiacre, in the Rue St-Martin, Paris, in the middle of the seventeenth century first let these coaches on hire. The sign of the inn was an image of the saint, and the coaches in time came to be called by his name. His feast is kept on the 30th of August.


Parish History

First anniversary of the handover in 1947. Fr Atanasio Paoletti was among the group of four Capuchin Friars who arrived in Brisbane in 1945. Their point of embarkation was America, where they had all lived for many years. Their Italian-American background or their length of service in the U.S.A. ensured that they were bilingual and possibly also, as Bosi notes, "more acceptable to the Australian clergy than the mistrusted Italians" (Bosi 121).

The Capuchins were granted by Cardinal Gilroy not only the parish but the role of chaplaincy for Italian immigrants in Sydney. St Fiacre's was initially staffed principally by Capuchins who, like Fr Anastasio, had strong links with Italian immigrant communities in the United States. Fr Anastasio was born in Philadelphia of Italian immigrant parents. Capuchin Friars began to arrive in Australia directly from Italy after 1948. The first Capuchin Friars at St Fiacre's included Henry Kusnerick (a German American), Adalberto Salerno, Silvio Spighi (who had arrived in Australia from India), Samuel Rodomonti, and Anastasio Paoletti, first as parish priest and from 1948, Superior of the Australian Province at the new Capuchin House in Sydney. Among Capuchins who followed were Frs Alfonso Panciroli, Atanasio Gonelli and Romano Franchini, as well as Frs Paolo, Filippo, Claudio and Carlo (Bosi 125).

Italians in Australia in the late 1940s carried a triple burden, first as recent national enemies, second for what was seen by many as their racial and cultural deviation from Anglo-Celtic norms, and thirdly as Roman Catholics in the climate of parochialism, biogtry and mutual distrust between Catholics and non-Catholics that characterised Australian society until, some would say, well into the 1970s. As the Reverend Dr Ryan observed in April 1947, remembering the work of Fr Giuseppe La Rosa, at a reception offered by the Italian community to honour the arrival of the Capuchin Friars:

You Italians are here in a land where there are people whose attitude towards you is determined in large part by racial and religious prejudices which are based simply on ignorance, ignorance of history and ignorance about Catholicism. There is no need for you to be ashamed of being Italian, just as there is no need for you to be ashamed of being Catholics.

In 1950 Fr Anastasio reflected on the Australia which he had discovered in 1945. After one week in Brisbane in 1945 I was shocked and hurt to realise the amount of dislike towards all foreigners, in general and to Italians in particular. I told myself that it was the war. But then, on second thought, we had a war in America and there were no such ugly feelings. As I talked to the hundreds of Italians who returned from internment camps, I was bewildered at the resentment expressed by them. Internment had made them bitter . . . All this is the result of hostile public opinion and that alone. That is my conviction. Public opinion is a mighty weapon . . . The basis for this antagonism I do not know fully. I believe that it is partly due to Australia's long isolation in the Pacific, to what the Hon. A. Calwell calls xenophobia; and partly due to a racial pride that seems to have deep roots in countries with non-catholic majorities.