The parish of Port Kennedy has been built from the ground up by parishioners, and will celebrate the dedication of its new Church on Sunday at 2pm
By Anthony Barich
Little over ten years ago, the site of Port Kennedy parish was not much more than an expanse of dirt, and since then it’s been a tough row to hoe.
But on June 8, St Bernadette’s Church will finally be dedicated by Archbishop Barry Hickey.
In 1994 the sand was tilled and the site for the new Catholic primary school was blessed by Fr Tony Vallis. The foundations were laid a year later.
Garry Burgess was appointed school principal and Fr Richard Doyle was appointed as foundation parish priest having come from Willetton.
By 1995 a liturgy committee was formed and special ministers were commissioned, plus an RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) program and social committee were also initiated.
The first Mass was celebrated on July 8, 2005 in the new parish centre and Archbishop Hickey officially opened it on August 24.
Among the difficultues the parish has faced are the departure of clergy under less than happy circumstances.
Now Bangladesh-born Fr Gavin Gomez, who was assistant priest at Claremont, is steering the ship after having been appointed parish priest at Port Kennedy.
This year he also celebrates 20 years in Australia since moving from England where he grew up since the age of nine.
But back in the 1990s, Port Kennedy’s fledgling faith community had to improvise, with Mass being celebrated in the Year One classroom of the parish school, and parishioners still recall squatting on the tiny chairs until the community outgrew the room and Mass was moved to the pre-primary centre.
Then a pastoral worker arrived – Sister Francis Gibb from the Sisters of the Mission in Armadale, who organised many community-building events around the parish that forged friendships. Sr Frances was based at Port Kennedy until 1998.
Groups such as the Majellan and mothers’ groups, others focused on shepherding children and youth through various phases of their faith development were all initiated.
In January 2001 the community celebrated the country’s federation with the installation of a Federation Bell that the children took great delight in ringing after all the Masses.
The children also closed the Holy door that marked the end of the Jubilee Year initiated by Pope John Paul II.
Requests were flooding in for baptisms and soon, in 2002, discussion started about the need for a house for refugees.
A house was purchased in October and prepared to host its first refugee family.
Until now, the parish hall has been used for Mass; in November last year it was announced that the parish would officially be known as St Bernadette’s. Construction of the new church began with the erection of the spire in April last year, and people were still forced to sit on rugs outside the parish centre as parishioners packed into it for Christmas Eve Vigil, Midnight Mass and Christmas Day Mass at the end of 2007.
Fundraising, a difficult but necessary process for new parishes, netted over $35,000, and the parish also received a donation of just under $40,000. As reported in The Record recently, the famous five cent collection organised by parishioners netted $5429.
The community also rose to the occasion, supporting the Fence Appeal and a Buy-a-Pew campaign that raised just over $3400 and $15,600 respectively.
But finding those past parishioners who helped build the parish for the upcoming dedication of the new church has proved difficult.
“Despite concerted efforts, we have been unable to contact some of our past parishioners who have moved away from the area,” explained Fr Gomez.
“An open invitation is extended to them to join in celebrating with us this historic occasion, an occasion which they helped to create.”
A full report will appear next week.