The Beginnings Of Our Church
Many of the early settlers of the Swan Settlement were timber workers. Timber was needed for their homes, sheds, posts and rails for fences, bearers and decking and sleepers for the first railway. Many of the timber workers were Catholic and soon their families joined them.
Occasionally a priest from the Perth Cathedral visited and offered mass.
After Guildford became a parish, priests from there came every now and again to say mass for the growing settlement of Kalamunda. Wherever the mass was said, the few Catholic families in the area made their way – some in their cart, others on foot.
In 1919 Archbishop Clune bought a residence called “Kareela” at Gooseberry Hill.
In 1920, he entered in negotiations to purchase a property nearby in the hope of having in the peaceful surroundings of the hills an aged home under the care of the Little Sisters of the Poor. Their Superior however considered it would be wise to have the home nearer the city.
In place of the Little Sisters, the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition of Fremantle took over the property and started a boarding school for young boys giving it the name Mary’s Mount. It had consisted of two single-storied brick cottages.
Mother Emily was the first Superior with Sisters Patrick and Carmel to help her. Today it is difficult to picture Mary’s Mount humble beginnings of 3 Sisters, 5 boarders and 12 day pupils.
In the Convent Chapel, Archbishop Clune or a visiting priest said mass and local families from as far as Lesmurdie and Bickley attended.
Early in 1926 while the boys were on Christmas holidays, the Sisters took the opportunity to add a second story to Mary’s Mount as the boys now numbered 38.
In 1929, Father John Wallace came to reside permanently as Chaplain to Mary’s Mount and so became the first resident priest who commenced saying mass on Sundays in outlying areas including Barton’s Mill, Carilla, Pickering Brook, Karragullen and Maida Vale.
During 1936 Fr. J Wallace was transferred to Highgate Hill as Parish Priest and his place was filled at Mary’s Mount by Fr. John Cullen. The school now had 50 boarders.
In 1938 Fr. Pace took over as Chaplain.
In October 1942, three vacant blocks of land were bought for £188 as a site for the future church. Mass on Sundays was now said at 7.30am at the convent chapel at Mary’s Mount and at 9am in the local Agricultural hall for about 40 people.
1943 saw the appointment of Fr. C Casey as Chaplain. A division was made and Kalamunda and Lesmurdie became separate parishes. Father Casey in charge of Kalamunda and Father O’Sullivan for Lesmurdie.
On November 30th 1943, Fr. F. Ryan took charge of Kalamunda Parish from Fr. Casey who went to Wagin.
In 1944, the church land had been paid for thanks to a bazaar, donations etc. and so funding began towards a church building.
1946 – Fr. Cunningham took Fr. Ryan’s place.
1947 – Fr. Cunningham went to Guildford and Fr. T McCaul acted as Chaplain of Mary’s Mount.
1948 – Fr. McCaul left Mary’s Mount and Fr Kearnan was appointed as parish priest of Kalamunda and Chaplain of Mary’s Mount.
1951 – The timber and asbestos school was dismantled and made way for a brick school of imposing design. Designed, planned and erected by and under the supervision of Mr Stan Costello, the new school was opened by Dr Goody in 1951. A sanctuary was also added and converted to a new chapel.
The church at Kalamunda was still a dream of the future as urgent demand for housing following the arrival of new families from Europe meant plans were delayed.
In 1954 the church at Kalamunda was built. The worst of the housing problems had subsided, and more tradesmen were now available. The church was ready just in time for the Christmas masses.
In February 1956, the house (including one acre of land) across the street from the church was purchased as a presbytery for Kalamunda but was rented till it was required.
During this time, Fr. Kearnan was succeeded by Fr. J Nolan who lived in the cottage of the Sisters opposite Mary’s Mount.
In 1962 Fr. W van Baar accepted a five year contract and a new census was taken. The number of Catholics stood at about 350.
While Fr. van Baar was living at the cottage, he felt it a disadvantage to live 1 ½ miles from the church, and that the property opposite the church could hardly be called a presbytery. So the decision was made to sell the property and build alongside the church on the same land with the entrance on Burt Street and was finished in March 1965.
About 30 trees and ornamental shrubs were planted on the Church property in 1966; all donated by parishioners.
The Parish Council was fully elected by parishioners in November 1969 and the laity commenced an active part in the liturgical and temporal work of the church following Vatican II.
Father William van Baar retired in 1970 after 7 years as parish priest and returned to Holland and Father Domenic Cremasco SVD became his successor from March 1970 to April 1972.
In 1971, the Sisters of St. Joseph decided it was no longer possible to run Mary’s Mount because of a lack of vocation to their congregation. Mary’s Mount was sold and the three parishes of Lesmurdie, Kalamunda and Maida Vale bought it to be run as a mixed primary school for the three parishes.
In 1972 Fr. Cornelius van Baar came out of retirement, but in April 1973 left again to retire for good due to ill health and Fr Dom Cremasco returned for about a year.
From 1973 to 1976 Catholic numbers in Kalamunda increased to around 1700 and plans were put in place to extend the capacity of the church.
By 1979 and after three years of planning, the extension of the Holy Family church at Kalamunda had been completed. The addition doubled the seating capacity of the previous church, and due to the contribution from the San Leone Association, this enabled a bigger addition than was initially planned. The new section now included the hall that could be used for liturgical, social or educational purposes.