First ‘Kennedy’ Mass a masterpiece of precision

11 Feb 2009

By The Record

By Peter Kennedy
Home Masses were features of the early development of the Doubleview-Woodlands Parish and the Holy Rosary School, well before the school’s blessing and official opening in 1959.

The Sydney-Smith’s family home in Corbett Street, Doubleview, was the venue of the first Mass, on December 1, 1957. The next Sunday, Mass was at the home of Jenny and Lionel Elliott in Albermarle Street.

Tom Kennedy holds a chalice at the Kennedy home, the place where initial Masses were held for the Doubleview Parish. Photo: Peter Kennedy.

Within three months Fr Fintan Campbell had gained the agreement of my parents, Tom and Pat Kennedy, to also celebrate Mass at our home in Elveden Street.

Preparation for the first Kennedy Mass, on March 23 1958, was an exercise in military precision.

After Saturday evening’s meal the dining and lounge rooms were completely reorganised. The dining table was pushed up against the eastern wall to become the altar. The lounge suite was also pushed against the walls, and the double doors between the two rooms opened wide to enable as many people as possible to see the altar. Naturally the vacuum cleaner came out, and flowers miraculously appeared.

No one really knew how many people would attend, so there was a hint of tension as Fr Campbell arrived in his brown Morris Minor, after first saying the 7am Mass at the Elliotts. By the time he’d vested the house was comfortably full.

Holy Rosary Church community. Photo: Peter Kennedy.

It was truly a family affair. Everyone had a job. My mother did most of the planning, assisted by my sister Marilyn. My father and brother, also Tom, helped with the furniture moves, and I served the Mass. My father also took up the collection.

That was the routine at our place until the school opened early the next year. Attendances built up too. On some days parishioners not only filled up the kitchen and passageways, but also spilled out on the front veranda.

It was real grassroots stuff, and not without some humour. Occasionally in his sermons, Fr Campbell would rail against the “secular press” and its coverage of various issues, especially relating to the Church.

On one such occasion, in a wonderful coincidence, the newsagent drove past, throwing the Sunday Times onto the front lawn. Moments later my father darted out to “rescue” the paper, which included articles he had written in his role as one of the cricket-football writers. That didn’t worry Fr Campbell in the least.

A class of the late 50’s/early 60s from Holy Rosary Doubleview on their day of First Holy Communion. Photo: Supplied.

In addition to the Sunday Mass, the parish’s first envelope collection was masterminded on our dining room table. The initial goal was two shillings per family per week. My mother had the little brown envelopes and the stamping gear with a number for every family and a date stamp for each week. Each bundle of envelopes would be meticulously prepared. Overheads were minimal!

One early issue to cause consternation was a report that the adjoining suburb to the south was to be called “Hale”, coinciding with the move of Hale School from its West Perth site.

According to Parish records, Archbishop Redmond Prendville requested an objection be lodged; presumably on the belief the name of an Anglican bishop was inappropriate for a new suburb.

The objection was upheld. Not only was “Woodlands” duly chosen as the name, some of the streets surrounding the new Holy Rosary School property were given names closely linked with the history of the Dominican Order. They included A’ngelico,’ ‘Lombardy’ and ‘Sabina,’ alongside names aligned to Hale School, such as ‘Loton’ and ‘Lefroy.’ The nomenclature officials had indeed performed an admirable balancing act!

Students from Holy Rosary Doubleview in the 1950’s-60’s. Photo: Peter Kennedy.

Getting the new school ready in time for the official opening and blessing for the 1959 school year was not without its challenges. Vehicle access was via Huntriss Street, the southern part of which was simply a limestone base. No bitumen in sight! And with the school surrounded by bush, there were no power or water connections. The day was saved by our Elveden Street neighbour, and fellow parishioner, Ernie Gibb, who ensured that a power generator and 1,000 gallon water tank were installed to meet the school’s initial needs.

A big crowd was on hand when Bishop J. J. Rafferty blessed the new school on a warm Sunday afternoon early in February 1959.

It marked the end of the home Masses, as the school was also to be the venue for Sunday Mass. But Fr Campbell’s home-based strategy had served its purpose. And I can vouch for the fact that the Passiona stall returned a healthy profit on opening day.