Historical background

Australia is a country of dreams, miracles and adventures. It was dreamt about and experienced by many Croats who arrived from Croatia, Voivodina, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Many of them stopped at the parts of the metropolis of Sydney beside the sea finding employment in factories, some were in the administration of various companies, some were in teaching profession or everywhere where it was possible to find a job. The Croats skilled in crafts, construction works, and agriculture with growing different cultures were employed at “numerous” farms and settled at the western and south-western part of Sydney.

About 7000 Croats live at the territory of the municipalities of Fairfield and Liverpool. They built a Croatian Club named Kralj Tomislav (the King of Tomislav), the Croatian Club of Jadran-Hajduk, Istra Club. At this territory, there was formed and have been developing one of the most famous football clubs in Australia, named CROATIA. Our fellow-countrymen use to meet gladly and often in the clubs organising the courses of Croatian songs and dances, folklore appearances, various celebrations. 


Croats are predominantly Catholics who wished to have holy mass in Croatian language. Therefore, the congregation of Nova Bukovica organised, besides the Club of King Tomislav, also the celebration of the Feast of Assumption of the Virgin Mary. Croatian priests – the Franciscans of Summer Hill regularly celebrated holy mass in the Church of St. Teresa, Fairfield West. The Church was small with almost more people around the Church than in it. The congregation ever more often mentioned a need to build the own church. At that time, very powerful Croatian ethnic schools were organised with a lot of children in the municipalities of Fairfield and Leverpool where the children were taught to read and write Croatian language, Croatian history and religious teaching. Croatian-Australian Social Centre was especially precious; led for years by a nun of Sr. Terezija Kuzmić professionally, and later on, by Sr.  Anđela Jurini and Mrs. Marija Orešković.


Croatian bishops made pastoral visits, spoke with the members of congregation and were always open to their needs. The Initiative Board of believers from that domain asked to meet the bishop Ćiril Kos with respect to the building construction. The meeting was organised in Summer Hill in the premises of the Croatian Catholic Mission, at 9.00 a.m., on 2.12.1983. Ten believers led by Mijo Marić and Šimom Trinajstić came to the meeting. On 30th December 1983, the Bishop Kos receives a positive reply by Sydney Archbishop, Cardinal Edward Clancy. At that time already, the believers found a land plot to buy by Croatian priests of Summer Hill at the edge of the municipality of Fairfield. Mr. Mato Smolčić was a contact person with the public and also, the “propelling force” of the Initial Board. 


In 1984, the abbot Rajko Gelemanović, the provincial of Zagreb makes a canon’s visit to the brothers in Sydney. He spoke also with the congregation, especially, with the Initial Church Board. The local capitular of the brotherhood agrees with the provincial, abbot Rajko for the allocating of the priest of Fra Gracijan Biršić to this territory on 19.07.1984. Fairfield City Council approved the plan for the Church construction as prepared by Šime Trinajstić. The construction started immediately. The constructor was Mr. Bernard Rončević with the assistance of 38 extraordinary dedicated members of the Board. The foundations were excavated very quickly and concrete base laid. In 1984, the congregation with their spiritual father celebrated Christmas Eve Mass in the open, at the place of the new church construction. The midnight mass had an extraordinary God’s power effect on the souls of the believers who contributed abundant gifts and industriously and persistently participated with the construction of the new building. 

On 24.02.1985 already, the Bishop Coadjutor David Cremin invokes God’s blessing on the foundation stone. On the occasion of celebrating the Nativity of Virgin Mary, on 8.09.1985, the Bishop David Cremin permits the celebration of a saint mass in the church which was already roof covered. At the end of October, the church interior was liturgically equipped with the finishing of several unavoidable works more. The church has 72 windows, and all of them donated by the company of Božo, Ivo and Marko Franović “Boka Windows”. Later installing of all stained-glass windows was attended by the same company of “Boka Windows”, presenting especially made glass as the protection of decorative art windows. The works in marble were executed professionally by Mr. Boris Laurić. The believers donated big church doors at all the sides and in intermediate spaces. The benches were made of full wood, shaped with a lot of taste, and donated by Mr. Nikola Šarić. The believers alone expressed interest to make gifts for marble altar, tabernacles, pulpit, all the statues and liturgical objects. All the electricity works at the lighting were excellently executed by Mr. Andrija Gurlica. Mato Smolčić with his children planted a lot of flowers, bushes and vegetation at the parking lot and around the church. 


As early as on 17 November 1985 already, a festival of inauguration and blessing of the church of St. Nikola Tavelić was organised. Inauguration was led by the Bishop from homeland Mio Škvorc and a Sydney Bishop David Cremin. The Prime Minister of New South Wales, Mr. Neville Wran, and numerous representatives of local civil servants honoured us with their presence. The celebration was enhanced also by the provincials from Zagreb Fra Rajko Gelemanović and of Sarajevo, Fra Luka Markušić, and also the priests, Franciscans, and local clergy as well as our brother, Fra Vinko Švogor. The celebration was attended by a huge crowd of about five thousand Croatian believers. The festival was very beautiful and deeply spiritually experienced in our community. The proud of Croatian Catholics was growing so more as also the Church of Our Lady of the Great Croatian Vow of Cross was equally solemnly consecrated on 24 November 1985. 


Doubtless, the Croatian community of Sydney achieved a strong proof for the rehabilitation of its self-confidence and values after considerable difficulties with the State authorities, and ecclesiastical authorities of the seventies.


With the growth of self-confidence, as early as in September 1986, Mr. Šime Trinajstić, in agreement with the priest, made the plan of the construction of Croatian Catholic Centre. The schoolrooms for religious teachings were planned, church- and social office, library, premises for priests. The terrain was developed already on 03.10.1086, the foundations poured over on 07.10.1986, the walls constructed by 20.02.1987, and the roof completed on 23.05.1987. The centre was consecrated by the provincial, Fra Rajko Gelemanović on 17 November 1987. The works were executed by Mr.  Bernard Rončević. All the marble surfaces were executed by Mr. Boris Laurić. A large air-conditioning device was a present by Mr. Nikola Terkekš. The outlook of the Centre has a structure of a “Slavonian country complex”. Let us mention also a complete church board.


The head of the community was Fra Gracijan Branimir Biršić, and a Board Chairman was Mr. Bernard Rončević. Honourable and above all deserving members were: Jakov Bačić, † Franjo Bartolić, Jerko Bilić, Ratko Bilić, Branko Bošnjak, † Silvio Čohilj, † Ivan Čolaković, Ivan Fizt, Srećko Franković, Rok Friščić, Ivan Frketić, † Ante Gačić, Šime Gašparović, Šime Glavan, Andrija Gurlica, Petar Hudali, † Stjepan Jurlina, † Jozo Kežić, Jure Komadina,Tomo Komadina, Josip Kontrec, Luka Lebić, Mijo Marić, † Ivan Martinović, Anđelko Marunčić, † Ante Orlović, Josip Peranović, Marko Petrić, Marinko Prendja, † Stanko Puljić, Stjepan Repinec, Mato Smolčić, Ivan Vjeko Šimac, Vlado Šimunović, Stjepan Trinajstić, Šime Trinajstić, Ilija Vrdoljak, Milivoj Žderić. – Mr. Ivan POLJAK, a Slovakian, skilled in the execution of stained-glass windows, was a very successful contact person for communication with the Board members. He made more than 60 wonderful stained-glass windows that contribute to peaceful and harmonious atmosphere of the church. 


The precious love of the congregation members constructed the Church and the Centre and we have been and remain to be only God’s debtors, without a cent of a debt to people. The living capital of Croatian community has been just shown at work – i.e. their skilled and diligent hands of excellent craftsmen and moreover, their Catholic heart.   

Pastoral structure of the community


The scope of church community of St. Nikola Tavelić extends at the diameter of 50 km. Our statistics includes 6,787 people. Probably more than 7000 Catholics of Croatian origin live at that territory. The oldest members of the community came to Australia in the years of about 1920 as children with their parents. Their children hardly speak a few Croatian words. One wave of emigration reached these regions of Sydney during the World War II. During post war period, there came another, even more numerous wave of immigrants. At the beginning of 1960-ies, Croats, predominantly from the Coastal Croatia and from islands and the Peninsula Pelješac come again. From 1969 to 1973, Croatian people from the region of Syrmia, Slavonia, Hrvatsko Zagorje, Karlovac, Lika, Croatian Littoral and Istria, an unusual multitude who had enough of communist paradise and eager for honest work and results of their hands come to all the towns and settlements of Australia, so also to these parts of Sydney. Consecrating of houses includes 1015 families, apartments and farms.

An unusual value of pastoral work is contributed by a family of nuns, the Prayers of Christ’s Blood who have a house immediately across the street from the Church. They built their house in 1985.

Our ideal has been and still is, to have in the Pastoral Council of the community, represented more or less all the regions of Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Pastoral Council has presently 11 members elected by means of a voting slips and the nun representative empowered by the sisters. Pastoral Council is elected every third year according to the Constitution adopted, patterned after † Bishop John Heap. So, the Pastoral Council founded seven boards: 

  • Executive Board,
  • Board of Evangelisation, 
  • Liturgical Board, 
  • Board of Caritas,
  • Financial Board, 
  • Board of Croatian Catholic Youth and
  • Labour Board.


Every year we organize a General Annual Assembly of the Community that can change Constitution. Pastoral Council, as well as every board submit a report to the assembly of congregation about their work. 


There exist also Living Circles: 

  • Cenacle of the Devotees to our Lady, 
  • Catholic Charismatic Renovation, 
  • Prayers of the Christ Blood, 
  • FRAMA = Franciscan Youth, 
  • Candidature of Franciscan Secular Order (FSR), 
  • Vocally-Instrumental Choir of the Young “Guardian Angels”, 
  • Ministrants, 
  • “Joyful ripe age”, 
  • Servants to words (readers), 
  • Church Choir of the grown-up “St. Cecilia Choir”. 

More than 1,500 believers attend at St. Mass on Saturdays evening and Sunder morning at 8.30 a.m. and 10.30 a.m. We also have every weekday St. Masses in which between 40 to 60 people participate.  Special attention is paid to devotions 

  • Bowing to the most holy Altar Sacrament;
  • Path of the Cross during the Lent;
  • Celebrating of the Divine Mercy in Easter Time; 
  • Whitsuntide Nine-Day Devotion;
  • Celebrating the Christ’s Blood in July;
  • May and October Devotions of Holy Virgin, everyday prayers of saying Holy Virgin’s Rosary and the Litany. 
  • For15 years, we had regular Bible forums on Fridays evening. 


Pastoral workers and collaborators


Fra Gracijan Branimir Biršić, a teacher of Croatian language, the constructor of the church and the centre with the mentioned church board was active by the year of 1996. From 30.08.1987 to 28.04.1993, Fra Marijan Glamočak collaborates as a curate. Then Fra Mato Mučkalović follows with his duty of a curate and remained till the year of 1966.


Provincial administration sends Fra Marijan to St Johns Park in 1996 till some better solution is found as agreed. Fra Marijan takes the Centre over on 1 September 1996. Fra Michael Nekić comes to the position of a curate in September 2001, and remains till July 2002. Fra Euzebije Petar Mak arrives to St Johns Park to be a clerical assistant, at the beginning of August 2006, partially as he is the head of the Croatian Catholic Centre at Newcastle.  

This centre of St Nikola Tavelić issues a weekly leaflet every weekend, named MEETING CHRIST.  The first issue was published on 5 October 1996. This has been the 12th year of successful and responsible work. Our LEAFLET is neither sold, nor used to collect especial donations for it; we finance it from the charitable gifts of the church and give it to our community and guests as a gift. 

During all the past years, especially prominent pastoral collaboration is that of the nuns at the domain of catechism; preparing children for sacraments of the first confession, communion, confirmation and the engaged couples for wedding – what is presently performed by sr. Terezija Kuzmić. Beside religious instructions of children, sr. Tarzicija explains the church science to the parents; about sacraments, religious teaching and morality, prayers and organising everyday life for the benefit of children. 

Regular training and performances of the church choir of St. Cecilia is led by sr. Iluminata Antolović. The performance of Christ Suffering on Palm Sunday is extraordinary impressive every year. Sr. Margareta leads sacristy and takes care of the church. Sr. Marija Ćosić, a many year catechism teacher, started, in 1995, very successfully the prayer meetings of Catholic Charismatic Renovation and they have been well-founded in the community. Sr. Julija takes care of physical benefits of sisters and priests.


Out of the existing Pastoral Council and its boards, a vivid activity of laymen as volunteers has been developed at various domains. From the very beginning of the existence of 


the community, Financial Board takes care every week to pay invoices, counting donations, agreeing picnics, and depositing donations to bank. The Caritas Board takes care of the visits to the ill community members, especially in our Settlement of the Cardinal of Stepinac. Our Caritas members help every day with feeding the disabled in the nursing home of the beatific Alojzije Stepinac. –  

Liturgical Board followed-up the liturgy every Lenten Sunday and engaged liturgical symbols for better understanding the message of the words of God. It also organises celebration rich in symbols of the Last Supper and the Communion for all the believers at both the opportunities, Gethsemane hour, a liturgy of Good Friday and especially, carefully, the Easter vigil. – 


The Board of the Young traditionally participates at the World Day of the Young and the meeting with Holy Father Pope. Therefore, in 2005, eight young people from our community went to Cologne, Germany to meet the pope of Benedict XVI. The young people are preparing for the World Day of the Young in Sydney in 2008. FRAMA wishes to collect enough resources for full sponsoring of the two young people from Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina for WYD 2008. In agreement with the Choir of “Guardian Angels”, FRAMA also organises the MESS OF THE YOUNG every first Saturday in a month. All the picnics are organised by the Labour Board together with the Financial Board and with a great and permanent help by the Pastoral Council. 


This community has 107 members who take care for the tidiness of the church and centre, and a group of men who take care of the environment of the church and centre. Every year, Labour Board and Liturgical board arrange a holy mess and thanksgiving dinner in December to express THANKS to our more than 250 volunteers without which the life of this community cannot be imagined. 


We already have a rich experience with seminars at the field of EVANGELISATION. We just invite young married couples, and young men and girls to religious seminar in English language about “the New Life” – in Christ. Last year, from 22 to 26 November 2006, we had spiritual renovation with Fr. JAMES MANJACKAL approved by the Cardinal, Dr George Pell, the archbishop of Sydney. The members of congregation still certify in written their conversions and healings experienced at the seminar of “Our God is a Powerful God”. In 2001, a spiritual seminar was held by Fra ZVJEZDAN LINIĆ, and prior to his, by Don MILIVOJ BOLOBANIĆ. Experiences are very positive. The results are for conversions and the change of life for the benefit of the whole community.   


Our cooperation with the SETTLEMENT OF CARDINAL STEPINAC is permanent, in the form of holy messes each Friday in a month, except for the first one, when we are all in church. Prior to the first Friday in a month, a priest visits all the rooms of our inmates in the HOSTEL, and regularly, on Fridays, all the patients in NURSING HOME. Together, we organise the celebration of the beatific Alojzije Stepinac, the Day of Croatian Brotherhood in May, and various picnics at which the inmates of the Hostel are also present. Our neighbours from the Settlement of Cardinal Stepinac are gladly attending at marriages, baptism, church celebrations and, of course, holy messes on Sundays, regularly. Whenever necessary, priests certainly visit by day or night, the seriously sick in hospitals and other nursing places. 


Our beautiful fatherland is unforgettable! The congregation members of the first immigrated generation often mention Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Their dream is fulfilled. They look at their children, surprised how easily they travel over the world and spend money. With surprise, they listen to their children who describe them the beauties of Croatia, fertile forests and meadows, clear and clean water and air of Bosnia, and rocky Herzegovina. Evidently, at the horizon of the young, the sun arises and the life is abundant with challenges and beauties. It simply flows on further bubbling. – (Fra Marijan, written on 22/23.05.07).

Mass schedule

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday 7 AM

Thursday, Friday, Sarturday 6:30 PM

Sunday 8:30am and 10:30 AM


Croatian Catholic Center Sv. Nikola Tavelić, St Johns Park

Head of the Center: fra Petar Horvat, OFM

86 – 90 Brisbane Road
St Johns Park NSW 2176

Tel.   +61 (0) 2 9610 6770

Mob. +61 (0) 452 398 685