Work began on this little stone church in 1848, using a design of Gothic revival architect, AWN Pugin. Fr James Hanly celebrated the first Mass in the church on 12 May 1850 when there were just sixty Catholic families in town.
In 1859, with the appointment of Bishop James Quinn, Brisbane became a diocese and the church a cathedral. When the new cathedral was opened in 1874 this church became a school room. During the past century it was used for school, church offices and storage, and was several times threatened with demolition.
Based on painstaking historical research and heritage reports, the bell tower has been rebuilt, the stone tracery in the windows reconstructed, and a timber shingle roof reinstated. In fact, it has been enhanced with treasures our ancestors could not have imagined: the West window is now filled with magnificent stained glass depicting Christ in glory and the story of St Stephen. The building will take its place in the cathedral precinct which serves as an oasis for shoppers and workers in the midst of a busy city.
The building now provides the cathedral with a small-scale worship space. The seating and sanctuary can be rearranged so that it is suitable for the Liturgy of the Hours, small group Masses, meditation groups, and weddings. The occasional spiritual talks or musical performances will also find a home in this sacred space. The whole of the worship space is located in the nave which is divided off from the apse by four solid timber panels and a rood bar with a crucifix in the midpoint. The apse space has been devoted to the diocesan shrine of Mary MacKillop.
Archbishop John Bathersby solemnly dedicated the restored St Stephen’s Chapel on 5 February 1999.