St Anthony's was opened in 1922 by the Society of St Vincent De Paul, first in St Peters, and then in Petersham. It was not intended to provide long term residential care. Several hundred adoptions and foster placements were arranged from Petersham. In 1925 the home became St Anthony's Home Croydon.
St Anthony's was developed to ensure that Catholic infants and children, especially those born to unmarried 'girl mothers', were not lost to the Church by fostering or adoption into non-Catholic families.
In 1916 Brother Denis Haugh, President of the Central Council of Sydney's Society of St Vincent De Paul, was concerned that Catholic babies and infants were being lost to the Church and in 1921 formed the 'Stray Children's Committee' to find Catholic foster homes and placements. Rev Father J.M. Cusack of St. Francis', Albion Street, Surry Hills and Archbishop Kelly decided there was a pressing need to care for unmarried mothers who were turning to non-Catholic institutions for care, and surrendering their children to non-Catholic foster parents.
In March 1922 Mrs Patchett, a custodian for the Child Welfare Department, transferred the lease of her property at Albert St, St Peters to the Society and the home began operations. Four months later the Society purchased a two-storied property at Palace St, Petersham and the home was placed under the patronage of St Anthony of Padua. Mrs Patchett was named Matron. St Anthony's at Petersham was officially opened on Sunday, 19 November 1922.
Overcrowding was an issue from the start. The home had 13 rooms and a gardener's cottage, yet the policy of the home was never to turn a child or mother away. In the first two years it attended to 186 'Girl Mothers' and 402 infants and children, while 347 infants were boarded out (fostered) or adopted. A new site at Croydon was purchased and officially opened by the Archbishop in May 1925.
Sources used to compile this entry: A history of St Anthony's Home Croydon, with Sister Kathleen Burford, July 1989, http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Community_Affairs/Completed_inquiries/2010-13/commcontribformerforcedadoption/submissions; Burford, Kathleen E. RSJ, Unfurrowed Fields: A Josephite Story NSW 1872-1972, 1991, 287 pp; Burford, Sister Kath R.F.J., St Anthony's Family Care, St Anthony's Family Care, Croydon, 1989; 'SAFC History', in St Anthony's Family Care, St Anthony's Family Care, https://safc.org.au/safc-history/; St Anthony's Foundling Home, Silver jubilee, 1922-1947, St. Anthony's Home, Alexandra Avenue, Croydon, N.S.W. ; conducted by the Society of St. Vincent De Paul., St Vincent's Boys' Home, Westmead, 1947; Thinee, Kristy and Bradford, Tracy, Connecting Kin: Guide to Records, A guide to help people separated from their families search for their records [completed in 1998], New South Wales Department of Community Services, Sydney, New South Wales, 1998, http://nma.gov.au/blogs/inside/files/2011/02/connectkin_guide1.pdf.
Prepared by: Naomi Parry
Created: 9 March 2011, Last modified: 5 December 2013