Saint Francis Xavier’s church was established by Monsignor John Rigney in 1838. This was the first Catholic place of worship in the Illawarra. Archbishop Polding had a fondness for the Illawarra. The existing church was begun in 1848, was extended at the turn of the century and, again, in the 1930s. In 1951 the church was raised to cathedral status when Wollongong was declared a diocese by Pope Pius XII. Bishop Peter Ingham had dedicated the Cathedral of Saint Francis Xavier on 16th March, 2010, on the death anniversary of Archbishop John Bede Polding, one hundred and sixty-two years after the church was begun.
Over the years the Wollongong parish has given birth to other parishes. In this sense, Saint Francis Xavier is truly the mother church of all the parishes in the Illawarra. In 2006 there were approximately 4,300 Catholics in the parish . It has an ageing population. One feature of the parish is the high percentage of visitors who come to the Masses.
In May 2020, the Cathedral was internally renewed.