Fr. James Long MSC was appointed the first resident priest of Alice Springs, or Stuart as it was called then in May 1929. Alice Springs was officially gazetted in 1933. He was given the commission of setting up the Catholic Bush Mission. Prior to this appointment the people of ‘Stuart’ were administered to by Fr. Clunes MSC who came from Port Augusta, South Australia. Fr. Long travelled as far as Rumbalara on the train as the line was still under construction so he completed the final part of the trip in a truck driven by Gus Brandt, arriving on May 26th. Fr. Long resided in the Stuart Arms Hotel, but due to the fact that his portable altar had been misplaced on the journey north, it was another two weeks before he could celebrate the first Mass. There were about two hundred Europeans along with mixed races and Aborigines. The Residency served as the church, but Fr. Long saw that there was a need for a church to be built and set about the task.
Negotiations for land in Stuart commenced in April 1929 and on July 1st the Church was given title over Lots 53 and 54 in Hartley Street. It was decided that concrete bricks be used for the building of the church and these were made by Mr. Long, Stan Cawood and an Aborigine. Building commenced on June 9th, 1929. The site was marked out by Joseph Kilgariff and the foundations dug. Most of the work was done voluntarily, with the brick-laying done by John Kilgariff and the plastering by Arthur Long.
The first Mass took place on Sunday, 8th December, 1929, even though the church was not yet completed. There were 50 people present.
On 28th February, 1938, Fr. George Henschke arrived from Sydney and on the same day the nuns opened the Catholic School with 25 children attending; Bernie Kilgariff being the first student enrolled. This first ‘Convent’ school was built by Steve Kilgariff, Gordon Lines and Br. Ed Bennett.
Fr. Maloney, Br. Ed Bennett and Frank McGarry vacated the presbytery so that the nuns could use it as a convent. They took up residency in a two roomed stone cottage. Three more sisters arrived on 12th April, 1938; Mother Adrian Smith, Sr. Gemma McCullagh and Sr. Consolata McKay.
The School, now called Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Primary School began on 28th February, 1938. Classes were held in the church and infants were taught on the porch.
The present day church is built
In 1965 Fr. Dwyer MSC commenced preparation for the present church. Construction of a new church was underway on Lot 56 in late 1967. The foundation stone was blessed by Bishop JP O’Loughlin on 17th March, 1968. The church was officially opened on 11th May, 1969. Construction was by the Alice Springs firm Sitzler Brothers and the architect was Andrew McPhee. A two-storey dormitory building was constructed at the rear of the convent in 1969. The present day Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Primary School was completed in 1972 and dedicated to Fr. Dwyer.