It was in the late 70s right through to the early 90’s that thousands of Vietnamese people – many of them refugees who had risked their lives to flee the country by boat – commenced arriving in Perth, Western Australia.
Many of the refugees were housed by the Government at Graylands Hostel for a short period, in the meantime learning English in addition as how to adapt to a new society and culture.
It was around this time, that a large Catholic community began to emerge, attending St Thomas’ Church in Claremont, which was only a short distance away.
Then in April 1981, Father Dominic Nguyễn Ngọc Để, arrived, and became the first Vietnamese Chaplain.
Later that year, in September 1981, the official Vietnamese Catholic Community of Western Australia was born, following a unanimous decision by community members, with the aim of helping to identify and support the needs of its people.
It was a decision that was wholeheartedly supported by then Archbishop Lancelot Goody.
It was not long after however, that many of the community members moved to areas such as North Perth and Highgate – to be close to Sacred Heart Church – where they had started gathering for the 5.30pm Sunday Mass and other special occasions – in Vietnamese language – with permission and support from Archbishop Goody.
At the time, now Perth Emeritus Archbishop Barry Hickey was Parish Priest and Director of The Catholic Migrant (Centrecare) and had been supporting the community in many ways. Msgr Michael Keating was Chaplain to the community until 1987.
Sometime after 1987, with the permission of then Archbishop William Foley, then Chaplain Fr Francis Ly, purchased a small Chapel in Mt Lawley for daily Mass, while still using Highgate Sacred Heart Church for weekend Masses.
A Federal family reunion policy in effect from 1988 to early 1990, which allowed family members of refugees now living in Australia to migrate, saw the community continue to grow and develop.
In 1996, Fr Francis Ly went on to purchase an old sports Centre in Chipala Road, Balga, which would become their Mass and Community Centre.
The community had grown exponentially, with Masses at the time being held on Saturdays at 8pm at Our Lady of Mercy Church, Girrawheen Parish, followed by another three on Sunday mornings at the new Mass Centre in Balga.
Finally, in August 2005, then Chaplain Fr Minh Thuy Nguyen, who had been Assistant Priest at Mirrabooka Parish until 1998 and knew the community well, purchased the former Macedonian Community Centre building on Wanneroo Road as the new Mass and multicultural centre.
There are now more than 3000 members of the Perth Vietnamese Catholic community, with some 40 per cent integrated across the 105 parishes, with some 200 young people who regularly attend the Vietnamese language school and Eucharistic Youth Movement celebrations.
Late last year, on 28 November 2021, the community celebrated its 40th anniversary, also marking the feast of their patron saints, the Vietnamese Martyrs.
The Mass was celebrated by Perth Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB, who was joined by concelebrants Emeritus Archbishop Barry Hickey, Monsignor Michael Keating, current Chaplain Father Dominic Son Kim Nguyen, Assistant Chaplain Fr Hong Quang Pham, former chaplains Fr Minh-Thuy Nguyen and Fr Mong Huynh Nguyen, together with former assistant Chaplain Fr Chien Nguyen, retired priest Fr Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Pham and St Thomas Moore College and University of Western Australia St Thomas More College Chaplain, Fr Peter Hung Tran.
Current Chaplain Father Dominic Son Nguyen, who has been in the role since 2021, said he is grateful to be a part of a growing and loving community.
“The celebration of the feast of the Vietnamese Martyrs, the patron saints of our Community, celebrates our ancestors who risked everything when they fled Vietnam, so that the future generation can grow in faith in this beautiful country we now call home,” he said.
“God has definitely been with us all the way. I congratulate the Vietnamese Catholic Community past and present.
“It is through God’s providence that our community will continue to journey and hold hands together to develop our community in a deferent aspect for the growth of the sodality, beliefs, practices, and faith in the future.
“We cannot wait for the next 40 years, however at this moment we ask for your prayers and support in different aspects, so that we can stand firm for the sake of our faith and generations to come.”
LIST OF CHAPLAINS AND ASSISTANT PRIESTS:
1981 – 1983
Father Dominic De Ngoc Nguyen: Chaplain
1984 – 1987
Monsignor Michael Keating: Chaplain
Father Francis Ly Van Ca: Assistant Chaplain
1987 – 2000
Father Francis Ly Van Ca: Chaplain
July 2000 – January 2001
Father Dinh Tuong Vu: Administrator
January 2001 – February 2009
Father Minh-Thuy Nguyen: Chaplain
January 2003 – January 2006
Fr Chien Nguyen: Assistant Chaplain
January 2006 – February 2009
Father Dominic Son Kim Nguyen CSsR: Assistant Chaplain
26 February 2009 – February 2021
Huynh Nguyen: Chaplain
Father Hong Quang Pham: Assistant Chaplain
Father Dominic Son Kim Nguyen CSsR: Chaplain
Father Hong Quang Pham: Assistant Chaplain
[JO1]All red text amended by Jamie O’Brien.