Parish History

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
According to Roman Catholic theology and Catechism, the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus “having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.” This means that Mary was transported into Heaven with her body and soul united. The feast day recognizing Mary’s passage into Heaven is celebrated as The Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary by Roman Catholics.

This doctrine was dogmatically and infallibly defined by Pope Pius XII on 1 November 1950 in his Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus.

Feast Day

The patronal Feast of Mandurah Parish is celebrated on the 15th August with a Solemn Mass followed by a social get together in the Parish Centre.  The Novena in preparation for the feast begins on the 6th of August.

History of Our Lady’s Assumption Catholic Parish

When the first Mass was celebrated in Mandurah is unknown, we do know however that Mandurah was part of the Pinjarra parish when the first priest Father John Fahey was appointed to Pinjarra in 1909. Mandurah was one of the many Mass stations Fr Fahey served, and he travelled mainly on horseback. He visited other such as Yarloop, Waroona and Harvey, by train. Mandurah was a small village of about 400 people.  The majority of workers were in fishing families who supplied Perth and Fremantle with 80 per cent of the “wet” (that is, fresh) fish used.  Mandurah was part of the Murray Road Board.  Pinjarra was the main centre of the Murray area with all government offices there, Police, Electoral office, hospital etc. As there were busy timber mills at Holyoake, Banksiadale and Dwellingup, the last named was the economic centre of the Hills district.  The Forestry Department maintained a large centre at Dwellingup.  Mandurah was isolated on the coast with very poor communications, with roads of gravel and sand. When the first census was done of the Murray Mandurah area in 1891, there were 701 Anglicans and only 252 Roman Catholics. The first indication of the intention to establish a parish in Mandurah appears in a letter dated May 30th 1934 from the Perth Archbishop Redmond Prendiville, referring to purchasing of land in Mandurah. Blocks 44 & 45 “Cockburn Sound Location”, the present church stands on Lot 44. Due to financial difficulties in the early 1940’s Lot 45 was sold.

Fr Russell was Parish Priest from 1937-1940.  From 1940-1949 Father Clery was the Parish Priest in Pinjarra, and was still servicing

first presbytery- Churchill Ave 1955
Churchill Ave 1955

Mandurah.   Mandurah was lucky enough to have Sunday Mass from Christmas day until the end of the school holidays and then until Easter, once a fortnight, and during the winter once a month. Sunday Masses required readying one of two centres, the Hotham Valley Hall (now Foreshore Real Estate on Pinjarra Rd) or the Capitol Theatre (Cnr of Sutton St and Pinjarra Rd).  Timetables for Mass in Mandurah appeared in “the Record” only during the summer months in the 1940s.  One such announcement in “The Record” dated January 1, 1941 reads-“On Sundays, January 12 and 19th at Manudrah. Enquiries to Fr W Clery, Priest, Pinjarra”.

first church 1956
First Church 1956

As Mandurah was moving towards becoming a parish in its own right, a momentous event in the history of the Catholic Church took place.  On November 1, 1950 Pope Pius XII declared as dogma the Assumption of our Blessed Lady.  Although no documentary evidence can be found to prove it, those were parishioners at that time believe that the decision was then made to name the proposed parish, “Our Lady’s Assumption Parish”.  It is also believed thatMandurah would be the first in this Sate to bear this title.

From 1949-1952 Fr Joseph Nolan was parish priest in Pinjarra, and was still travelling to Mandurah to say Mass. With the end of the war, several changes took place, petrol rationing was eased, giving people more mobility, and so the holiday population grew. Father Nolan become to ill to continue, and was replaced by Fr Rupert Kelly from 1952-56. Father Kelly went head-on in plans for a building of a church and a convent school. At the time, only 20 or so parishioners were wage earners, the small remainder were pensioners or part-time residents.  The only help gained was -the Diocse would pay for the land acquiared in Churchill Avenue but the final cost would be borned by Mandurah Parish if and when it came into being.  The debt of the church to be started in the immediate furture could be serviced by the Mandurah congreagation through the Pinjarra parish.  The parishioners started fundraising events, to try and lessen the strain, with things like raffles, bazaar’s, catholic balls, fete’s etc.  The campaign to raise money persisted for many long years.

fr Gerard Harper 1955
Father Gerald Harper

In 1952 the dream of a church became a reality.  It was built on the site of the present church, Lot 44 Creery Street.  The contractor was Mr Stan Costello.  Because it was to serve as a school during the week, it was designated a ‘school/church’.  However, the Presentation Sisters did not begin to use the building for a school until the first tem in 1955.  Fr Kelly celebrated the first Mass in the church, Midnight Mass at Christmas in 1952 in the new building that a tremendous effort was made to achieve this goal.  The pews were made by Jim Byrne, Wally Weeks, Bill McGeogh, Keith Firns, Ray Gray and Ross Kirkpatrick.   Only five pews were completed in time for the first Mass, and they used tilly lanterns for lighting.

His lordship Bishop Goody blessed and opened the church on 4th January 1953. Fr Gerard Harper was parish priest in Medina, became responsible for Mandurah in 1954 and 1955 and negotiated purchase of property for the parish.  When he first arrived in Mandurah there was nowhere for him to reside, and he lived with parishioners for about 7 months.  Fr Harper alternated saying Mass between Medina and Mandurah. Fr Harper was also a builder by profession and planned to build on the land that he had purchased in Churchill Avenue. He also pursuaded  the Presentation Sisters at Iona in Mosman Park to start a school here in 1955.  the Sisters had accommodation in their holiday home in Leslie Street.

Plans for a school were visioned for the future, but in the meantime the Presentation sisters travelled to Mandurah once a month to teach religious classes at the convent. The first Baptism conducted was on November 14th 1954, and the first wedding was on the 8th February 1955. The first Confirmations recorded were on the 20th November 1955 with a mere 6 children being confirmed.

The Presentation Convent School.   This is the address summarising the history of Presentation school in Mandurah, which was presented by Sister M Carmel Loubere, PBVM, on April 21, 1983 at the official opening of the Assumption Catholic Primary School on Gordon Road.  “The School was opened at the commencement of the first term of 1955 in the Parish Church, which was converted weekly on Sunday after Mass into two classrooms.  The first roll call of students for the church was 40 students, of all ages and denominations. The older students learnt Typewriting, book-keeping, shorthand, and English, art and needlework. Sr M Assumpta Forest was in charge of the school, and her co-worker Sr Carmel Loubere taught music at the convent after hours.  The school continued like this until 1959 when tragedy struck the sisters of the convent, with a boating accident that lost four lives, Sr Patricia, Sr M Finbarr, Sr M Joachim and Father Gerald O’Hara who had come from Iona to spend a holiday in Mandurah.  On the face of this the school was temporarily closed for a period of two years.”

Fr Lawrence Formosa 1971
Father Lawrence Formosa
cottage school-1963
Cottage School 1963

The new parish priest Fr Formosa renovated the church and there was no room for a school any more, but in 1963 the Presentation Sisters started the school again, but in the cottage, through changing schools again was not favoured by parents, and had a feeble re beginning. The cottage school was closed in December 1967 owing to the lack of pupils. The school was under the direction of Sr Immaculata and numbered only 28 children, and only 14 of these were Catholics.

Bishop Rafferty inducted Father Franz Hope as the first resident Parish Priest of Our Lady’s Assumption Mandurah in 1956. Fr Hope was confronted by a small number of parishioners and a church debt out of proportion to the annual income.  Fr Hope left Mandurah suddenly (and the priesthood) in late 1960.

In April 1961 Fr Laurie Formosa arrived in Mandurah to serve as Parish Priest.  Shortly after his arrival, he undertook the task of painting the church inside and out.  Further improvements were included in the project like concrete kerbings, a reticulation system and additional pews and a baptismal font were installed.  A At the time Mandurah population was only 1200 people, and only 40 of them Catholic. Fr Formosa planted the roses in the garden which today still flourish.  Fr Formosa stayed for 18 years in the parish.

The Catholic Ladies guild was formed in 1965, which was later renamed CLAG. The St Vincent De Paul was established in 1978, and stays vibrant ever since. The church was finally debt free, when the blocks of land in Churchill St were sold. Work then began on constructing the new church.  In 1968 Fr Formosa continued on by purchasing Lot 63 Pinjarra Rd, realising it would be an ideal spot for the presbytery, as it was directly behind the church. On January 1st 1969 the new church of Our Lady’s Assumption was blessed and opened by Arch Bishop Goody. By 1975 a bigger church was needed as Mandurah’s population was thriving. Extensions on either side were soon erected to accommodate for this. A Parish Council was elected in 1976, and in December 1976 Bishop Peter Quinn visited to induct the parish councillors and to bless the new Presbytery at 63 Pinjarra Rd.

Fr John walsh 1991
Fr John walsh 1991

In 1975 Fr Formosa bought Lot 65 Pinjarra Road.  The old asbestos and weatherboard house became the headquarters for the St Vincent de Paul Society. The other half of the church was built and the altar moved to its present position.   In 1977 Lot 43 Creery Street, next door to the church was also bought.  The house was used for parish activities.  A parish centre is planned for this site.  In 1978 Our Lady’s Assumption Mandurah, a decision was made by the Arch Diocese of Perth to place Mandurah in the Bunbury Diocese. Fr Formosa left Mandurah in 1979.  In the 1980’s Mandurah saw rapid growth from a shire in 1961, to a town in 1987 and received City status in 1990. There was a real population explosion in these years. Fr John Walsh became our parish priest in 1979, and saw the opening of the Assumption Catholic Primary School in 1982 on a 10 acre site on Gordon Rd.  During the 1986 census, parishioners took a survey of the whole district and all known Catholics were entered on a database at the parish.  The newly appointed pastoral assistant Sister Marie Crosby, a nun from Our Lady of the Missions order divided the parish into 17 zones.

Fr Neville faulkner 1991
Fr Neville Faulkner 1991

The property at 4 Stevenson Street was bought for the Presbytery in 1991, and Mandurah Catholic College opened in 1992 with 50 students in year 8. The school at Coodanup Dr was not completed in time for the opening, and for a short time students had their lessons in the church once again.  Extensions were made to the western side of the church in the mid-eighties and to the eastern side in 1990/1991.

Fr Neville Faulkner was appointed assistant to Fr Walsh in January 1991, and when he retired in October 1991, Father Faulkner became parish priest with Father Adrian Van Klooster as assistant. In 1992 Sr Aquinas McMahon a Presentation sister, came to fill the role as Pastoral Assistant, being one of the survivors of the boating tragedy of 1959. She remained until Easter 1996, when another presentation Sister, Sr Kathleen Power, was appointed the position.

Deacon Frank Nieman and his wife Jean moved from Bunbury in 1995, and has been serving this parish and surrounding areas tirelessly since then.

Two lovely additions to the church were made in 90s.  In 1993, Our Lady’s shirine with lighting and stained glass.  In 1994, the stained glass memorial window dedicated to the three nuns and priest who lost their lives on the Peel Inlet.

fr Bernie Dwyer 1996
Fr Bernie Dwyer 1996

Following a period of ill health in 1994, Fr Faulkner moved to Harvey Parish, and Fr Adrian decided to make a change as well. They were replaced by Fr Noel FitzSimons and Fr Bernie Dwyer in 1995.

The Parish Centre and Parish Office were blessed and opened by Bishop Quinn on 12th June 1998, at 3/65 Pinjarra Rd.   Fr Noel and Fr Bernie have since retired. This also saw the first employment of a Parish Secretary, who worked in the offices in the parish centre.

Father Gerald Tan
Father Gerald Tan

In 2001, the parish was blessed with Fr Ian Johnson who stayed on until January 2007. His  associates Priests were Fr Pierre Repuyan, Fr Roy Pereira and Fr Suranga Amaratunga. In January 2007, we were lucky to receive Fr Gerald Tan from Philippines. He had an assistant Fr Anthony Savarimuthu, followed by Fr Adolfo Bonghanoy. Fr Jayan Johnson was here for six months.

Fr Adolfo (JB) Bonghanoy
Fr Adolfo (JB) Bonghanoy

In 2009 we officially opened our glorious new Parish Centre, which stands on the old cottage site.

Fr Gerald Tan completed his ministry on the 8th of January 2012.

Three Discalced Carmelites from Kerala (India) took over the administration of the parish on the 26th of January 2012. They were Fr Xavier Mathirappilly as the parish Priest and Frs Antony Madathiparambil and Shemil Vallavanattu as the Associates and later joined by Fr Jude Mukkomury, also an Associate Priest.

3priests
Fr Xavier Mathirappilly, Fr Antony Madathiparambil, Fr Shemil Vallavanattu

Fr Antony Madathiraparambil left the Parish in 2014, Fr Jude Mukkomury in 2015, Fr Shemil Vallavanattu in 2016.  Fr Xavier Mathirappilly completed his ministry in our Parish in 2017 and Sr Kathleen Power retired as the parish Pastoral Assistant on the same year.  

Fr Theophane Antony arrived in 2017 as the Parish Priest and was also joined on the same year by Fr Anson Antony Akkappilly and Fr Antony Albin Odippattil as Associate Priests.

carmelites with bishop
from left: Fr Albin Odippattil, Fr Theophane Antony, Bishop Gerard Holohan, Fr Xavier Mathirappilly, Fr Anson Akkappilly

Fr Theophane Antony was replaced by Johny Arattukulam  as Parish Priest in March 2020.

Carmelites

Fr Theophane Antony, Fr Albin Odippattil, Fr Anson Akkappilly

fr johny
Fr Johny Arattukulam

Although we had small and humble beginnings, the parish continues to flourish and grow. May God Bless everyone who contributed to our existence and helped us to where we are today.

Fr Ian Johnson, Sr Kathleen Power, Fr Pierre Repuyan 2002
Fr Ian Johnson, Sr Kathleen Power, Fr Roy Pereira 2002
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