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Roman Catholic

RC Churches in the Fremantle Area

St Patrick's

Christ the King

Immaculate Conception

St Anne's

Roman Catholics were the next religious community [after the Wesleyans and Anglicans] to establish a presence in Fremantle. Irish-born secular priest John Brady arrived on the Water Witch on 8 December 1843 as vicar-general of Western Australia. The following day, local Catholics approached Brown for permission to use the courthouse as a chapel. Brown forwarded the request to Hutt, who readily agreed. After a recruiting trip to Europe, Brady returned as Bishop of Perth on the Elizabeth in January 1846. He brought six Sisters of Mercy and the Benedictine monks Rosendo Salvado and Joseph Serra with him.
In October 1847, Brady acquired lots 66 and 67 in Henry Street, with 'a nice little house' for the Sisters of Mercy, who were to open a convent and school. It was barren ground: Sister Anne Xavier observed that everyone in Fremantle was Protestant with the exception of two families. The family of Patrick and Charlotte Marmion, who had found beds for the Sisters when they arrived the previous year, was one. However, census data from October 1848 indicates that 29 people in Fremantle were Roman Catholics, 6.8 per cent of the town's population of 426 people. Catholics attended mass in a room in the convent, but the impulsive Brady closed the convent and school in May 1849. In February 1848, Brady sent Serra to Europe on a very successful fundraising and recruiting mission. While away, Serra was promoted to bishop and in December 1849, he returned on the Spanish warship Ferrolana as Brady's coadjutor-bishop. Included in his large party of recruits was the Catalonian secular priest Fr Martin Griver, who would eventually succeed Brady as Bishop of Perth.
Fremantle began a rapid transformation in June 1850 when the Scindian arrived, carrying the first group of 75 convicts and 54 pensioner guards and their families. Fremantle was chosen as the location of the Convict Establishment, a very large depot for receiving convicts built on a limestone ridge overlooking the town, officially renamed Fremantle Prison in 1867. Rev. J. R. Postlethwaite was appointed Anglican chaplain to the Convict Establishment, and an Anglican chapel, built in 1856-57, was incorporated in the depot's main cell-block. The arrival of the convicts and their guards—many of whom were from Ireland—noticeably boosted the number of Catholics in the Fremantle community. By December 1859, the proportion of Fremantle residents nominating the Church of Rome as their religious affiliation had risen to nearly 22 per cent and it peaked at 30 per cent by the time of the 1870 census. Fr Timothy Donovan, ordained by Brady in January 1849, was appointed as the Catholic chaplain to the Convict Establishment, and in 1862, a Catholic chapel was created in the cell-block from within an existing dormitory ward.
A timber structure erected by the Catholic community in Henry Street was the third purpose-built church in Fremantle. In August 1851, Bishop Serra chaired a meeting at their 'temporary place of worship' (presumably the cottage on the lot when purchased) to commence fund-raising for the structure. The building on lot 66 received no further newspaper publicity, but was probably the scene of the infamous confrontation on Christmas Day 1851 between Fr Griver and Bishop Brady that saw Brady's largely Irish followers celebrate mass for some weeks in Patrick Marmion's nearby Emerald Isle Hotel. A visit by Archbishop Polding from New South Wales resolved the bitter split between the two bishops, with Brady ordered from the colony in October 1852.
The timber church in Henry Street has left little historical trace. Apparently dedicated to St Patrick, it was described as 'a miserable room' and seems to have been abandoned by 1856.
In 1856, under the direction of master-mason Brother Joseph Asdone, the Benedictines started construction on the present site of the Roman Catholic basilica in Adelaide Street. Erection of a presbytery was followed by the construction of a new St Patrick's church, the limestone for both having come from nearby Quarry Street. Members of other denominations contributed to the church's building fund. Fr Griver, who was Administrator of the Diocese in Bishop Serra's absence, opened it on Sunday 5 August 1860. (Errington 2016; republished here by gracious permission of the author.)

Presentation Sisters

The order of the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (PBVW) was founded in Cork in 1775 by the Venerable Nano Nagle - Honora Nagle, 1718-1784. Their original title was the Society of Charitable Instruction of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, adverting to the fact that from the beginning they were dedicated to the cause of education.

The first sisters to come to WA arrived in Geraldton in 1891. Presentation Schools in this state include: Iona Presentation College (and Primary School); Star of the Sea, Cottesloe; St Thomas' Primary School, Claremont; Nagle Catholic College, Geraldton; Assumption Catholic Primary School, Mandurah; St Mary's Star of the Sea Catholic School, Carnarvon; a school at Beverley (? James).

Other RC schools

Other Catholic schools include Aquinas College, the two Christian Brothers Colleges, Fremantle (extant) and Perth (now merged with Aquinas and Trinity Colleges), St Louis School and Loreto College (now merged with John XXIII College), the 1889 Catholic Convent Girls School, Our Lady of Carmel, Seton Catholic College (formerly St Brendan's and De Vialar Colleges and St Joseph's School), St Charles Seminary, Mercedes College, Santa Maria College.

References and Links

Bourke, D. F. 1979, The History of the Catholic Church in Western Australia, Archdiocese of Perth.

Byrne, Geraldine 2000, A Basilica in the Making: the Centenary of St Patrick's Fremantle, Mazenod.

Byrne, Geraldine 2001, 'It was our life', Fremantle Studies, 2: 47-64.

Errington, Steve 2016, 'Places of worship in Fremantle, 1829 to 1900', Studies in Western Australian History, 31: 145-158.

James , Ruth Marchant 1980, 'The Presentation Sisters: unsung pioneers of education'Early Days, Volume 8, Part 4: 83-92.

James, Ruth Marchant 1996, Cork to Capricorn: A History of the Presentation Sisters in Western Australia 1891-1991, Congregation of the Presentation Sisters of Western Australia.

Rossen, I. nd, St. John Evangelist Pro Cathedral Victoria Avenue, Perth Western Australia, A Sequential Building Study for the Purpose of Restoration.

Garry Gillard | New: 8 March, 2018 | Now: 4 February, 2023