Tuesday, 1 April 2008


Father Wilfred Pooley (1912 - 1969)
Image: Maryknoll: history of a Catholic Rural Settlement by Gael White (Artistic Wombat, 2002)

Maryknoll was established in 1949 by Father Wilfred Pooley (1912-1969) as a Catholic community based on the principals of faith, family life and co-operative enterprise. This was part of a broader movement in the Catholic community, encouraged by the Melbourne Archbishop, Dr Daniel Mannix, for Catholics to move away from the distractions of the city to a rural environment and become closer to God. A National Catholic Rural Movement was established in 1939 to support Catholic farmers and Father Pooley was very keen to establish a 'City of God' in a rural community and paid a deposit of 100 pounds on 218 hectares (540 acres) in Tynong North, on March 25th, 1949. The rest of the purchase price of 4,400 pounds was lent by the Handley family of Dandenong, and was initially in the name of Margaret Handley. The settlement was known as St Mary’s until 1955 when the name was changed to Maryknoll to avoid confusion with other towns called St Mary’s.

Margaret Handley,  is pictured in the back row of the St Mary's Parish Ladies Tennis team. 
Image: A Parish carved from the bush : a centenary history of the Dandenong Parish by Greg Dickson (St Mary's Centenary Committee, 1983)

The first settlers lived in 'temps', very basic dwellings without running water, electricity , gas or other 'mod cons'. Families then moved onto two acres block, where a modest three bedroom house was built.

 Ted Knox and son, Martin,  taken 1959, outside their home in Maryknoll.
Image: Knox family collection.

The cornerstones of community life, the Holy Family Church and the Holy Family School were both opened by Archbishop Mannix on September 3. 1950 attended by more than 3000 people. The Archbishop reiterated the rationale for the Maryknoll settlement in his address - We are tired of listening to people talk about the drift from the country to the cities and the necessity of decentralization. People and Governments talk much but little is done. Father Pooley, however, doesn't talk very much, but he is certainly very active, and I am confident he will succeed in this great project  (The Advocate, September 7 1950, see here)

The Holy Family Church and some of the houses in Maryknoll were designed by the architectural firm of  Smith, Tracey, Lyon and Brock, read about this, here.

Holy Family Catholic Church, Maryknoll, 1963.
Image: Knox family collection.

Maryknoll had a number of co-operative industries including a housing co-operative, a joinery, hardware store and an aerated water factory. Other towns in Casey and Cardinia were established as stopping places on transport routes, or to serve the surrounding farming community and for Maryknoll to be established on the values of faith and religion gives it a unique place in the history of Casey and Cardinia. More information on Maryknoll can be found in the book Maryknoll: history of a Catholic Rural Settlement by Gael White (published by Artistic Wombat, 2002)

1 comment:

convolutedexperiment said...

Thanks for this contribution. Mark Manning, son of Joan and Phil Manning.