St Francis of Assisi

St Francis of Assisi Parish History
Friday, 19 January 2018 05:18
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In 1950, Masses were started in this area, thanks to Mr & Mrs Ernest Smith, who converted a brick & tile packing shed on their property into a Chapel.  Archbishop Prenderville advanced the sum of One Hundred Pounds for the purchase of an altar, altar linen and other items necessary for the celebration of Mass. It was named “The Chapel of St Francis of Assisi” after Fr Francis Ryan who would come from Guildford to say Mass.  The first Mass in the Chapel took place on the 18th June 1950. Initially Mass only took place monthly, but by the following year thanks to some other Priests, Mass was able to be said weekly.

On the 23rd October 1956, Fr Dario Brunetti was officially appointed as the Parish Priest of Maida Vale, and so the Parish was officially born.  Fr Brunetti initially stayed at the Smith’s property until a property was purchased for the development of the Parish.  After much fundraising by the supporters of the chapel, a block of land was purchased, on the current site in Lilian Road and a new Chapel was made from an ex-army hut.  Archbishop Prenderville officially opened the new Chapel on the 11th August 1957.

In 1967 the Parish was given over to the pastoral care of the Camillian Order as they were developing a Nursing Home called Mount Saint Camillus in Forrestfield.  Fr Sean Bredin, O.S.Cam was introduced to the Parish, and with him a new dimension of parish life began.  This included hospital visitation from the parishioners and support for their hospital building project.  At the same time that we were undergoing change, the whole church was changing with the introduction of Vatican II.  On the 30th June 1968, 200 families were invited to the First Annual General Parish Meeting in the High Wycombe Hall to discuss the formation of a Parish Pastoral Council in Maida Vale.  A proposal was to incorporate more lay participation in the life of the Church.  This was accepted with great enthusiasm.  In 1968 the Maida Vale Parish Pastoral Council was inaugurated with its own constitution and was the first among many Parishes to do so.

The most important task over the ensuing years was to build a new “bricks and mortar” parish church. It was architecturally designed by a local parishioner, (Lourens West) and was the first “Parish-Council-built church.  At the same time as Father Bredin was responsible for the building of our church, he also had to supervise the addition of new wings at Mount St Camillus and the opening of both the church and enlarged hospital were highlights of Father Bredin’s administration of the Parish. A young assistant Priest, Fr Patrick Burns joined Fr Bredin from 1971-1973.

The new Church was officially blessed and opened on the evening of Saturday 30th March 1973 by Archbishop Goody.  Among the many dignitaries was Father Francis Ryan who was honoured along with other benefactors and local craftsmen responsible for the creation of so many of the interior furnishings and fittings.

In 1972 Fr Bredin took overseas leave and upon his return from Ireland and America Father brought with him a new style in church music, the Folk Mass.  A folk group was formed, mixing the old and the new hymns in a happy combination suitable to all tastes.

Fr Bredin’s stewardship and devotion to the Maida Vale Parish was paramount and will be long remembered with gratitude and affection.

In July 1974 Fr Bredin was replaced by Fr David Egan O.S.Cam.  His duties, as those of his predecessor, encompassed both Parish work and the administration of the Nursing Home.  Unfortunately Father’s health caused him difficulties after some time, and the Assistant Priest had returned to Ireland.  Fr Brendan Conway O.S.Cam came to help out in the Parish in 1975 and was officially appointed Parish Priest in April 1976.  Since Fr Brunetti’s departure, no Priest had used the Presbytery, so Fr Conway decided to renovate the old house and move in.  Father’s actions in choosing to live in the Presbytery put a heart back into the Lilian Road property and stopped the vandal attacks on the old dwelling.  He made himself available to everyone.  The grounds were improved and barbeques built in the gardens so that they could be used by parishioners in the summer.  Father realised the need for a new Presbytery and Parish Centre, which became one of his long-term goals.

Fr Conway was keen to encourage the youth congregation at the church and revitalised the Youth Club, this was the forerunner of the Antioch group which was formed at a later date.  Fr Conway was also happy to introduce the Ministry of the Acolyate with four Acolytes inducted on Sunday 30th July 1978.

Fr Conway will be long remembered for his beautiful singing especially when he sang “Danny Boy” with his lovely Irish brogue.  He would often be asked to sing at any fundraising events such as socials or cabarets.  He was also very involved with the youth and made the car park into a dual purpose carpark/tennis and basketball court area.  The courts were flood-lit and fenced and were available for parishioners to use at all times.

The Parish grew rapidly over the next few years with a boom in house-building in Forrestfield, Maida Vale and High Wycombe too.  Mass numbers increased.  Fr Conway organised a sub-committee of the Parish Council to assist in the planning, financing and building of the new Presbytery and Parish Centre.

On the first Sunday in February (5th) 1984, Bishop Healy Blessed and Opened the new Presbytery and the new St Clare’s Meeting Centre.  This was followed by an International Dinner organised by the many ethnic groups now belonging to the Parish.  It was a very happy occasion.  On the first of July we had a visit by His Grace, Archbishop William Foley – his first visit to the Parish – at which he viewed the new buildings, received 10 adults into the Church and Confirmed 3 other adult parishioners.  This was followed by morning tea.  He also blessed the Statue of St Francis of Assisi which was made and donated by parishioner, Dick Coote.  The Archbishop then went to visit Mount St Camillus Nursing Home.

Soon after this it was announced that Mount St Camillus was sold to the Knights of the Southern Cross and the Camillians would move to the Parish of Subiaco.  Sadly Fr Conway didn’t get to enjoy the new Presbytery for long.

Our new Parish Priest, Fr Patrick Turner, formerly of the Parish of Kellerberrin, arrived to take up duties at St Francis in June 1985.  One of his first duties was to organise (with church members and the Knights), a farewell Mass and afternoon tea for the Camillians.  This was held at Mount Saint Camillus Nursing Home on the 14th July 1985 when we all joined together as an expression of gratitude to the Order for the past years.

During Fr Turner’s time, he saw the need of having a Catholic Primary School in the Parish.  With Archbishop Foley’s approval, an Interim Board was put together in 1990 to get the school up and running.  The school opened at the start of the following year in 1991 with 29 students (19 in Pre-primary and 10 in Year 1).  The first buildings on site were the Pre-Primary room on its own, and the first four class rooms along with a wet area at the end, plus a small toilet block.  The first classroom was used as the Administration room, the second classroom was used as the library, the third was the Year One classroom and the fourth was filled soon after.  The first Principal of the School was Mr Greg Wyss.

Matthew Gibney Catholic Primary School was officially Opened and Blessed by Archbishop Barry Hickey in September 1991 (one of Archbishop Hickey’s first official duties, as Archbishop).  The name Matthew Gibney was chosen as Bishop Matthew Gibney made a huge contribution to the development of Educational facilities in Western Australia.

The school has continued to grow and is a wonderful asset to our Parish.  (By the 10th Anniversary of the school in 2000, there were 252 students.)

Fr Turner will also be remembered well for his purchase of the Chair and Lectern used by Pope John Paul II during his visit to Perth in 1986.  Fr Turner was very pleased with himself over this and many people have sat in the chair and had their photograph taken.  Fr Turner completed his time in the Parish in 1994.

Fr Patrick Russell followed from December 1994- October 1998.  Fr Russell was a gentle man who gave guidance in all spiritual matters.  He was a great favourite amongst the children of Matthew Gibney where he visited on a weekly basis and encouraged the children and staff in their sacramental program.  He also had the support of Sr Benedict Mansfield who came to work in our Parish visiting the sick and needy.  Sr Benedict also worked with a small band of faithful Catechists who ran the Education in Faith Classes for children of the Parish who attended state schools.

Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament took place twice a week and the Sunday morning Mass at 9.30am was lead by a small group of singers.  The Mass also included “The Children’s Liturgy” to cater for the very young members of the Parish.

There were many groups using the Parish Centre including the Parish Council, the St Vincent de Paul, Clarecare, Acolytes, five Education in Faith classes, YCW, Playgroup, Magellans, Legion of Mary and a Craft group.

Fr Russell had a life-long dream to go to the Holy Land and walk in the footsteps of Jesus so in October 1998 he was able to fulfil his dream and travelled to the Holy Land.  After being in Jerusalem for a few short days, our beloved Fr Pat died in his sleep and was found by the leader of the pilgrimage on Tuesday 13th October.  Archbishop Hickey organised for the return of Fr Pat’s body and a funeral conducted by the Archbishop was held in our Parish on 27th October 1998.

The Playgroup was in the process of getting a playground built, so when it was Blessed and Opened on the 20th December 1998 it was to be known as the Fr Pat Russell Memorial Playground.

Fr Jim Mullins (a retired Priest) who had agreed to fill in for Fr Russell while he was on holiday, found himself filling in a bit longer until a new Priest was appointed.

Fr Simon Carson joined our Parish on 7th January 1999 and was with us until the 18th May 2000.  He continued the Parish work and visiting the school each week.  Sr Benedict also remained in the Parish during that time.  A celebration was held for Sr Benedict on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of her profession as a Presentation Sister.  Sr Benedict also left the Parish in May 2000.

Fr Stephen Durkin commenced as our Parish Priest in June 2000 and remained until he died in July 2010. Fr Steve didn’t like meetings so decided not to have a Parish council but worked with a few members of the Parish.  He refurbished the Church with new carpets and had the outside painted to blend with the natural environment.  He enjoyed his visits to the school and became a real favourite there.  Fr Steve was liked by everyone.  He had a great friend also in his dog “Mate”, who was then followed by “Buddy”, both Golden Retrievers.  Both of the dogs in turn transformed into reindeers on Christmas Eve which delighted the children and parishioners alike.

Trevor Lyra and his family have been part of our Parish for a long time and after quite a few years of study Trevor was made a Deacon on 29th June 2006.  Since then Deacon Trevor has provided assistance in our Parish in many different areas.

Fr Elver Delicano became our Parish Priest in August 2010.  Fr Elver has brought a lot of life back into the Parish with the formation of a new Parish Council.  The Parish is still a very multicultural Parish.  Fr Elver was instrumental in getting a Grotto and Memorial Wall for the Unborn made, and is also responsible for getting our Memorial Garden.  He also introduced the Parish web-site. Unfortunately Fr Elver was only with us for just over 4 years, and in January 2015 was appointed Parish Priest at Greenwood Parish.

Fr Francis Ly, has returned to our Parish after being here as an assistant Priest, for a year, from October 1986 – October 1987.  He said it was like “coming home”.  Fr Francis is happy with the Parish Council and would like to start a Youth Group.

A Parish History Booklet was launched in the Parish on 23rd October 2016, the 60th Anniversary of the Parish.  The Booklet includes the history as well as many photos and stories from parishioners.  Copies of the booklet are available for $5.00 from the Piety Shop which is open before and after mass on the weekends, or contact the Parish Secretary on 9454 6385.

(If you have any further information or photos, please send them to Philomena Theseira or contact her on 0417 936 757.)




Last Updated on Friday, 19 January 2018 06:25