Fr McCarthy and Fr Flynn, 1936 – 1959
Very Rev. Fr McCarthy, came to the parish at a time when Ferntree Gully, Bayswater, Boronia and the Hills district to Belgrave, were becoming more and more settled. It became imperative that the headquarters of the parish be fully centralised with proper facilities for the Catholic education of the growing population.
With this in mind, Fr McCarthy in the 1930s commenced a building program that culminated in the blessing and opening on 26 January 1936, of the Presentation Convent, a school, and a presbytery. The original 1890 church was moved from its old site to Forest Road and with additions constituted the beginnings of established Catholic education in the parish.
It was expected also that the more distant areas of the parish, such as Monbulk and Gembrook, would now be more efficiently serviced.
But within three years World War II broke out, and difficulties again faced everybody.
Father McCarthy was appointed Deputy Chaplain-General around 1938 and a curate was appointed to assist in the parochial work in this now very large Catholic parish. His name was Fr T F Flynn. Fr McCarthy administered his last baptism in the parish on 6 October 1939 and soon after was fully occupied with his duties as Deputy Chaplain-General. He was succeeded by Fr Flynn as parish priest.
After World War Two
Probably the greatest effect on the parish in the post-war years was the population boom that brought thousands of migrants into Australia, many from Catholic countries in Europe. It was fortunate that by this time parish structures were well in place. Sunday Mass services, the focal point of Catholic worship, were available at Mass Centres across the Dandenongs – an amazing feat of logistics. The challenge of providing a Catholic education for all the children was also taken up, with all the fund-raising and building work this involved. The need to provide social activities for young people led to a plethora of theatre productions, balls and picnics that make the era seem like a golden age to those who still remember it.
In October, 1939 Fr Flynn had taken over the vast parish and remained in charge until, in 1959, the parish of Belgrave was separated and placed under the supervision of Fr Kennelly. In Ferntree Gully, continuing growth in population meant that the needs of the parish could not be adequately attended by one priest. Consequently, assistant priests were appointed to the ever-growing parish, including Fathers J O’Carroll, D O’Connor, G O’Callaghan, J J Heffey, F Harman DD, J Phelan, P Creed, K Quinlan, F Casamento, E Fitzpatrick, A Sheehan, T Jones and L Tien. Fr Harman, DD ran the famous school bus service. Fr Phelan was the musical enthusiast whose work for youth of the parish is still remembered. Fr Quinlan will be remembered for the 1957-58 wing of the new school.