The information on this page is taken from the brochure produced by Bishop Patrick Dwyer in 1930 to celebrate the opening of the ‘New Church of the Sacred Heart’ (now Sacred Heart Cathedral), and was reissued in 2005 to commemorate the building’s 75th anniversary. Copies are still available in the Cathedral.
Until 1873 the City of Newcastle with the district then forming the parish of Newcastle was under the administration of the Archbishop of Sydney. In that year the first Bishop of the then newly established diocese of Maitland, Right Revd James Murray, took possession of the Newcastle parish. One of the first steps taken by Bishop Murray in the development of this growing district was the establishment of the parochial districts of Hamilton and Burwood (now called Merewether), and the building of churches in both of these places. Father Michael Harrington Ryan, the Administrator of St Mary’s, Newcastle, at this time, took a particular interest in Hamilton, and he gave great assistance to Bishop Murray in obtaining the site (purchased from the A.A. Company) and building the school-church. Father Ryan himself donated five hundred pounds towards the Hamilton school-church. A few years afterwards he returned to the Archdiocese, where he died in 1887.
Father Ryan was the first priest to take an interest in Hamilton, but he continued to live in Newcastle. The first resident priest of Hamilton was Revd Patrick Finn, who, from 1884 to 1894, was Rector of that district. He lived for some years in a house on the Maitland Road nearly opposite the Hamilton Church site. At that time the Hamilton Presbytery was the residence of the Catholic schoolmaster, Mr P. O’D. Moloney. During Father Finn’s time the Sisters of Mercy from Singleton were invited to take up residence int he Convent at Hamilton and to teach in the school. Father Finn retired from active service in 1894 when, after 24 years in the Diocese, he returned to Ireland and is still living in retirement in Dunleavy, near Dublin. Father Finn helped generously some years ago in endowing the Deaf and Dumb Institute at Waratah and the Orphanage at Maitland, besides providing a burse for the education of priests for the Diocese in St Patrick’s College, Thurles.
From Father Finn’s departure (except for six months when Dr Murray took charge of the parish, with Father Tierney as an assistant) for the following thirty years, Hamilton was in the capable hands of Father Joseph O’Donohoe who devoted himself to the service of the people and was much loved by them.
When he bagn to administer the parish of Hamilton, it comprised the districts that have since been separated from it – Tighe’s Hill and Broadmeadow. Under Father O’Donohoe’s care churches were built in both of these places, and schools established, where the Sisters of Mercy taught, travelling daily from Hamilton Convent. A new school was provied at Tighe’s Hill. the school ast Hamilton was built, and, as became necessary, the Convent was extended, since it had to accommodate the Sisters who taught, not only in the Hamilton schools, but also those who travelled daily to the schools established at Adamstown, Stockton, Tighe’s Hill and Broadmeadow. The Hamilton Presbytery was enlarged by the addition of an upper storey, and several extensions were made to the Sacred Heart Church to accommodate the growing congregation. Land also was bought for the future extension of the church building. After thirty years of active work in Hamilton, Father O’ Donohoe’s health gave way, and he was obliged to retire from active service. He sought repose in his native air, and now resides in Virginia, Co. Cavan, where he frequently sends his good wishes for his former parishioners. During an absence of Father O’Donohoe from Hamilton in 1906-07, the parish was cared for by Father C.J. McAuliffe, now of Lambton, and during the period 1921-24, when Father O’Donohoe was leaving, his assistant, Father Marshall, now of Kurri, had charge.
Since 1924, the parish has been cared for by the present worthy Rector, very Revd V. F. Peters. It is Father Peters’ ambition to provide Hamilton with one of the best churches in the diocese, and he has already gone far towards accomplishing that object. Within a month or two the new Church of the Sacred Heart at Hamilton will be finished, and all the parishioners are earnestly looking forward to the day, in June, when their efforts shall meet with a successful achievement.
It should not be forgotten that the important work of establishing a central boys’ school for the entire Newcastle distric, comprising the nine parishes of Newcastle, Hamilton, Merewether, Lambton, Waratah, Stockton, Tighe’s Hill, Mayfield, and Adamstown, and which, with the Marist Brothers Monastery, is located near the Hamilton Church, has been going forward at the same time, and that the priests and people of Hamilton have done their share in promoting that most necessary establishment.