The history of “Church” in Tea Gardens dates back to 1869 when Mass was first celebrated at Viney Creek before the township of Tea Gardens came into existence. In 1889, the Catholic Church (the first church to be erected in the district) was built in Witt Street. The first priest, journeyed from horseback from Taree once every three months.
In 1885, Saint Stephens became a part of the Dungog Parish. Later Bulahdelah became a Parish and Tea Gardens was included within its precinct. Mass was celebrated by the Parish Priest from Bulahdelah who conducted services on a monthly basis.
Saint Stephens has had a succession of Parish Priests from Bulahdelah, with the original Church being extended in 1926/1927 and again in 1949. History also shows that Saint Stephens became a part of the Raymond Terrace Parish from the early 1940’s until 1989 when it again became part of the Bulahdelah Parish.
In 1993, the “old” church was demolished and the new brick structured church with car park and gardens were completed in 1994 as a Mass Centre of the Bulahdelah Parish. This structure continued until 2007 when Tea Gardens again became a part of the Raymond Terrace Parish with Parish Priest and Associate Pastor resident in Raymond Terrace and supported by the appointment of the Diocese’s first Parish Pastoral Coordinator in 2007 who resides at Saint Stephens.
Saint Stephens Parish Centre with its Columbarium and Memorial Gardens were completed on an adjoining site in Witt Street in 2009, the Centre serving the purpose of providing a gathering space for the many Parish and Mass Centre functions and meetings, as well as allowing Saint Stephen’s parishioners to further their outreach mission of connecting young families, the aged and the lonely to church.
Tea Gardens and Hawks Nest situated on the Northern side of Port Stephens are both popular seaside holiday destinations and are renowned for their hospitality and scenery as is evidenced by the welcomed influx of visitors to the area during the holiday seasons.