History, tradition, come together at Leederville after 100 years

18 May 2024

By The Record

Parish Priest Fr Jeffey Casabuena with Mercy Sisters and parishioners, cutting the cake for the 100th anniversary Mass of St Mary’s Church, Leederville, Sunday 28 April. Photo: Guilben Cabagyo.

In honour of the 100th anniversary of St Mary’s Church, Leederville Parish, The Record is re-producing an indepth historical account.

The parish marked the occasion on Sunday 28 April, with a Mass celebrated by Perth Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB and Leederville Parish Priest Fr Jeffey Casabuena.

In 1903 the sisters of Mercy from West Perth (Leederville originally formed part of the West Perth parish) opened a convent and school in Marian Street Leederville, which they called Aranmore, after a well-known isle off county Galway in Ireland.

In 1904, land on the corner of Marian and Shakespeare streets, attached to the convent was purchased and handed to the Sisters of Mercy.  A weatherboard building was erected, and Mass was held each Sunday.

On the 1 March 1919 the Leederville Parish was established with Father Moloney appointed parish priest. 

Hailing originally from Limerick, Ireland and educated by the Christian Brothers at Charville, France, he undertook studies philosophy. After arriving in Western Australia, he served as curate at St Mary’s Cathedral, followed by periods as parish priest in Busselton, York, Victoria Park, Menzies and Wagin.

Father Moloney’s new parish – the boundaries extending from Scarborough to North Beach, Osborne Park, Wanneroo and Tuart Hill – had no assets, no church, no presbytery or site for either.

Archbishop Timothy Costelloe receives the gifts of bread and wine during the St Mary’s Church Leederville anniversary Mass, Sunday 28 April. Photo: Guilben Cabagyo.

In March 1919 the cottage at 46 Shaftsbury Street was purchased for a presbytery, and in the same year an arrangement was made with the Sisters of Mercy, that they would give half an acre of their ground as a site for the church in exchange for land at Osborne Park.

These lots subsequently became part of the now Aranmore Catholic College.

On the 28 October 1922, parishioner Teresa Leeder died and, on the 10 March 1923, it was announced that the old homestead where Mrs Leeder had lived had been purchased for the site of a new church. 

In total, three blocks of land and fences were purchased for the sum of 900 pounds and then Archbishop Patrick Clune laid the foundation stone on 6 May 1923.

Work began immediately.  Father Moloney assisted with the building of the church.  A severe storm caused damage setting the church back about 500 pounds.  The work continued quickly, and the church was finally opened on 9 December 1923.

The stained-glass window featuring the crucifixion and the Last Supper, the work Matthieson and Gibson, of London and Melbourne at St Mary’s Leederville. Photo: Archdiocese of Perth.

The architect was an EH Hamilton.  Oral history from members of his family records show that Mr Hamilton designed the Capitol theatre and the Subiaco Clock Tower.  He died suddenly in 1928 aged 54 after falling into the Swan River from the Barrack street jetty.  Little is known of the builder Mr E Russell but it is understood that local parishioners, Berry brothers, were responsible for the extensive jarrah joinery throughout the church.

E H Hamilton’s block plan dated 28 March 1923 shows quite clearly the outline of the original building and the plan for future extension to include a larger sanctuary, transepts and tower.

Parish Priest Fr Jeffey Casabuena speaks to the congregation on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of St Mary’s Church, Leederville Parish. Photo: Guilben Cabagyo.

In 1930 the address of St Mary’s Church was changed from Shaftsbury to Franklin Street when the street was renamed and gazetted on 20 June 1930.  Residents in the area had requested the change as the streets nearby had similar sounding names i.e. Shakespeare and Salisbury streets.

In 1934, a new presbytery was constructed to the west of the church with the priests taking up residency on 5 November that year.

The extension works to St Mary’s commenced in 1937.  Father Moloney helped organise fundraising and the annual fete was always a huge success.

The extension to the church was completed in 1938 and opened on Sunday 13 February 1938 by then Archbishop Patrick Clune.  Father Moloney was very involved in the design and supervision of the work that was carried out.

The extensions include two bays to the nave, a spacious Sanctuary, two Sacristies, baptismal font and two side alters.

In the Sanctuary a beautiful stained-glass window featured the crucifixion and the Last Supper, the work Matthieson and Gibson, of London and Melbourne. 

Parish Priest Fr Jeffey Casabuena with the choir. Photo: Guilben Cabagyo.

A terrazzo Communion Rail, made by Franzan Bros., Perth, enclosed the Sanctuary.

The sacred edifice is crowned with an imposing tower and spire, a landmark for miles around and the whole structure is a magnificent addition to the Ecclesiastical architecture of the Archdiocese.

In St Mary’s Church, the original building had the Altar in the traditional position, but this was later moved to meet the new requirements.  There is still a confessional on one side of the church, but on the other side one was removed to make a doorway.

The bell that rings faithfully every Sunday morning was cast at the O’Byrne Foundry in Dublin in 1928. 

The bell was placed in the imposing 150ft tower during the extension work to St Mary’s, which took place between May 1937 and Sunday 13 February 1938 when it was blessed and opened by the Archbishop.

Monsignor Moloney died on 21 February 1958 after a long illness. The marble High Altar at St Mary’s was erected by the parishioners in gratitude of his accomplishments as is commemorated by a plaque.

Then Rev Monsignor A T Langmead became the next Parish Priest.

In 1992, Fr Jim Petry was appointed Parish Priest. His 50th Anniversary of Ordination to the Priesthood was celebrated at St Mary’s Church on 31 May 1998 and following the Mass a celebration was held at St Mary’s Hall. In 2004, Fr Jim Petry retired and from February 2004 to May 2011, Fr Ossie Lewis was the Parish Priest. During this period the extensive restoration work in the Church started, carried out by Mr Michael Broderick.

In May 2011, Fr Joseph Angelo was appointed as Parish Priest. The restoration of the Church was completed in September 2011.

In September 2013, the Parish centre was exclusively given to Aranmore Catholic College. In return, Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB made arrangements for the college and Catholic Education Office to buy a house for the Parish with the result being 35 Salisbury Street to serve as the Presbytery.

In 2004 the 80 years old Presbytery was renovated with the intention to make room for Parish office, meeting rooms and Priest’s residence.

Parishioners came from near and far for the St Mary’s Church Leederville 100th anniversary Mass, Sunday 28 April 2024. Photo: Guilben Cabagyo.