The Holy Rosary Catholic Parish In Kensington

Parish History

Prior to 1902 there was no church in Kensington, despite the opening of the saleyards in 1859 and the increased population that came with it. St Brendan’s in Wellington St Flemington (opened in 1886) was the local church for all.  Flemington and Kensington formed a borough from 1882-1906 so there is a history of a strong connection between the two suburbs.  Even to this day they share the same postcode.

In 1902 the first church opened in Kensington on the corner of Ormond Rd and Derby St, however it wasn't until 1915 that Holy Rosary was established as a separate parish.  Prior to this, the priest from St Brendan’s would ride his pushbike to the church in Derby St to celebrate mass there.

The Parish School was built in 1916 and until then children also had to walk to St Brendan’s.  The foundation stone of the first school building was laid and blessed by Archbishop Carr on 14th May 1916.

For reasons unknown, the church in Derby St was pulled down and replaced by what is now the church on Gower St.  The first mass was celebrated in this church on Christmas day in 1928, and  was officially opened by Archbishop Mannix.

Over the many years Holy Rosary Parish has been, and continues to be,  a home away from home  for many migrants - Irish, Italian, Maltese, Salvadorians, Vietnamese, Sri Lankins and Somalians.  The closing of the saleyards and abbatoirs in 1984 and consequent urbanization of the pocket of land boarded by Smithfield/Epsom/Dynon and Kensington Rds has brought many new families to the suburb.

Fr Max Vodola, appointed  in 2011,is responsible for both St Brendan’s and Holy Rosary and he resides at St Brendan's.  History has gone full circle!

Sitting high on the hill,  Holy Rosary Church remains to this day one of the most  prominent and beautiful buildings in Kensington.  Its spires can be seen from as far away as the bridge that crosses the Maribyrnong River at the edge of Kensington Banks.  It boasts a magnificent stained glass window, donated by the Hardiman family, long-time parishioners.  And thanks to a recent renovation, has been brought back to its former glory inside.

Parish Priests who have served at Holy Rosary

  • Aeneas Hennessy
  • John Bolger
  • Patrick Power
  • Thomas Bride
  • William O’Farrell
  • Thomas O’Ryan
  • Jim English (Administrator)
  • Frs Galea and Borg of the Society of St Paul
  • Patrick O’Connor
  • Michael O’Sullivan
  • Francis Kissane
  • Leo Saleeba
  • James Gearon O.Carm
  • David Kehoe
  • Rom Murphy
  • Neville McKie
  • Michael Mulcachy
  • William Jordon

In 2002, for the 100th anniversary of the church, members of our parish contributed their thoughts on Holy Rosary Parish and the community of Kensington.  These memories were used to produce a booklet at the time.  Their words still provide a valuable insight into our rich history and excerpts from this booklet are available here for you to view.  We keep in mind those  who have passed away since that time.  They will always be in our thoughts and prayers. 


Original presbytery on the site of the current church


First Church Derby St


Archbishop Mannix preaching in the school grounds, after the opening of the church in 1928.


Current church, Gower St Circa 1929