By Anthony Barich
Father Michael Gatt is known as the Mufti of Osborne Park.
The nickname came shortly after he moved into the parish – his sixth – on February 3, 2000, when a parishioner told him that’s what he was being commonly called.
Apparently he was the only Catholic parish priest who has a church and a mosque next to each other.
Then there’s the curious fact that St Kieran’s Church in Osborne Park actually looks a tad like a mosque itself, with its unusual spire design.
Before arriving at St Kieran’s, Fr Gatt says he had been known as the Tidyman, a title he was “quite comfortable about”.
In fact, on day one at the parish he brought with him his handyman kit and started work putting his house in order.
St Kieran’s is a parish that has proved something to ponder greatly for Archbishops Patrick Clune and Redmond Prendiville for 30 years – from 1907 to 1937 when the parish was erected in its own right.
Since then it has grown larger and, like a family, other parishes were created in Scarborough, North Beach, Gwelup, Wanneroo, Nollamara and Balcatta.
Other parishes between Osborne Park and Wanneroo were also created at a later date.
But Osborne Park – the “Mother parish”, as Fr Gatt calls it – remains strong, despite branches breaking off it to form new parishes over the years.
It seems to have a hold on those who have been baptised there by one of the 11 priests who have resided there since 1937.
“It’s interesting to know that many of the old parishioners who were baptised at St Kieran’s preferred to continue to belong to St Kieran’s till death did them part; and they were even happy to be buried from our parish,” Fr Gatt said in his vote of thanks at the Silver Jubilee Mass on July 23 celebrating the new church’s 25th anniversary.
Present at the Mass was Perth Auxiliary Bishop Donald Sproxton, who was there when the refurbished parish centre was blessed in November 2004.
Proof that St Kieran’s has grown as a thriving, loving community is the amount of positive feedback Fr Gatt received after the Silver Jubilee Mass. One woman, who called herself Dorothy, told Fr Gatt in a letter, “Once again you have outdone yourself. The church looked magnificent decked out in all those red and white flowers. Apart from the decorations, it really is a beautiful church.
“St Kieran’s brings back memories for me of our grandson Michael’s baptism…” and proceeded to update the parish priest on the movements of said grandson over east.
Like many parishes, St Kieran’s has its stalwarts: those who go about their business unbeknown to most ensuring the parish runs smoothly.
“I would like to acknowledge the good work of so many other unsung heroes like the most revered Thomas Deacon who has held – and he still holds – the parish portfolio of organising the Planned Giving Program for the last 44 years,” Fr Gatt said in the booklet accompanying the Silver Jubilee Mass.