Our Parish – Our History

The parish of St Joseph the Worker began on 4 February 1970 when it was cut off from the neighbouring parish of St Gabriel’s in Spring Street Archbishop James Knox appointed Fr Joseph Yu as its first pastor, a Chinese-born priest who trained in Rome. It was an inspirational choice and a mighty challenge for the man who stood among paddocks, thistles and a few scattered houses and dreamed of building a dynamic community of faith.

In the early days, Fr Yu resided at St Gabriel’s and celebrated Sunday Mass at the Methodist kindergarden in Ryan Street. As the congregation began to grow, the first parishioners committed themselves to building a Church hall that would serve the needs of this growing community. It was an exercise in living out the parish motto of ‘working together’ and seeking the inspiration and intercession of St Joseph the Worker to bring the dream to reality.

On 8 August 1971, Archbishop Knox blessed and opened the first Church which now serves as the parish hall . The parish now had a spiritual and social home. Various committees were formed, endless fundraising functions were undertaken and the social life of the parish began to take shape. Within a few years a presbytery was built for Fr Yu and the first stage of the new primary school was completed in 1978.

The dream knew no bounds. As the school continued to develop in stages, a Community Centre was planned to accommodate the many needs of the young parish – a soccer club, social functions, discos for the youth and constant fundraising efforts. Many hours of voluntary labour and endless working bees contributed new buildings to meet the new needs of the area.

The crowning glory was the blessing and opening of the new Church on 1 May 1990 by Archbishop Frank Little. It was a proud day for the parish community. The Church continues to serve the purpose of welcoming people into our community, celebrating the faith that unites us and giving all parishioners the courage and inspiration to be people of the Good News of Jesus in their daily lives.

The parish over the years has been well served by generous and hard-working priests, religious sisters, teachers and an extraordinary array of committees and groups. All have contributed to making the parish what it is today. We welcome you to be part of our parish family.

Fr Joseph Yu

Joseph Jen Kin Yu was born on 9 March 1926 in the province of Hupeh in central China, the last of five children. His father, Yu Dei Qien, was a local school teacher who died when the young Joseph was 2 years of age. His mother Mary died in 1981. His siblings were James, Elizabeth, Mary and Paul. Joseph Yu was educated by the Columban Fathers who ran the mission in the Han Yang Diocese.

Joseph Yu travelled to Rome in 1948 at the age of 22 to continue his studies for the priesthood at Propaganda Fide College. It was at this time that he met a number of Australian seminarians including Frank Little who would later become the Archbishop of Melbourne and a very close friend. It was a providential encounter.

Fr Joseph Yu was ordained to the priesthood on 7 December 1954. It was a day of great joy overshadowed by the profound sadness of having lost contact with his family and the insecurity of ever seeing his homeland again. Fr Yu arrived in Melbourne in 1955 where he was appointed a part-time chaplain to the Chinese community and assistant priest at St Anne’s parish, East Kew. He also served in the parishes of Ascot vale and North Brunswick.

Fr Yu gave the parish of St Joseph the Worker 32 years of dedicated and loving service. His gentle and prayerful style of leadership is remembered by all, in particular, his natural ability of getting various groups of people ‘working together’. Ill health forced him to retire in November 2002 but he still felt the need to continue to use his priestly gifts. He took up residence at Villa Madonna in Plenty Rd, Bundoora, where he lives independently and provides valuable pastoral ministry to the staff and residents. The parish and parishioner friends maintain regular contact with him.

In December 2004, the Parish hosted Fr Yu’s 50th anniversary celebrations of his priestly ordination. He stated how grateful he was to have come back ‘home’ and to celebrate with those he considers as his family. In May 2005, Fr Yu was fortunate to travel to Rome to celebrate a reunion with many of his colleagues from around the world with whom he studied over fifty years ago.

The Parish of St Joseph the Worker pays tribute to its founding parish priest and thanks God for his vision, dedication and 32 years of generous service.