Parish History

 

History of the Assumption

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.

Standing on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its founding by the Romans, who named it Londinium.

Feast Celebration in the Parish

The patronal Feast of Mandurah parish is celebrated on the 15th August with a Solemn Mass at 05.30pm followed by a social get together in the Parish Centre. The Novena in preparation for the feast will begin on the 06th 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, as Pinjarra was the main centre of the Murray area with all government offices there, Police, Electoral office, hospital etc. 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.

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).

first church 1956
First Church 1956

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, and was quite daunting to have such a large financial burden, considering they had already had to seel land due to financial stress. The parishioners started fundraising events, to try and lessen the strain, with things like raffles, bazaar’s, catholic balls, fete’s etc.

fr Gerard Harper 1955
Father Gerald Harper

was to serve as a school during the week, though the Presentation sisters did not begin lessons until the first term of 1955. Fr Kelly celebrated the first Mass in the church, Midnight Mass at Christmas in 1952. 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 4thJanuary 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, as when he first arrived in Mandurah there was no were 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.

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 catholic.

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 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.

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 catholic.

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.

fr Franz Hope 1950
Fr Franz Hope 1950

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 Lawrie Formosa arrived in Mandurah to serve as Parish Priest and he would stay for 18 years. 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.

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 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. The first year there was 91 children from years 1-6, then the following year it flourished to 150 students.

Fr Neville faulkner 1991
Fr Neville Faulkner 1991

The property at 6 Stevenson St 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. 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. Following a period of ill

fr Bernie Dwyer 1996
Fr Bernie Dwyer 1996

health in 1994 Fr Faulkner moved away, and Fr Adrian decided to make a change as well. They were replaced by Fr Noel FitzSimons and Fr Bernie Dwyer in 1995, who stayed on to see the parish centre and office 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.

In 2001, the parish was blessed with Fr Ian Johnson,

Father Gerald Tan
Father Gerald Tan

who stayed on until January 2007, he had various associates including 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 assistant Fr Anthony Savarimuthu, followed by Fr Adolfo Bonghanoy in our presence. Fr Jayan Johnson was here for six months.

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

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 08th 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.

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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