Brief History of Floreat/Wembley Catholic Parish

Our Lady of Victories Church, Wembley

From the start of the Second World War in 1939 until its finish in 1945 very little building of churches was undertaken in the Archdiocese of Perth. This was not only due to the shortage of funds but mainly to the lack of manpower and materials. For some years after the war finished, bricks and other materials were in very short supply being need mainly for houses for the returning servicemen and their families.

In 1934, a new church [St. Joseph's] was built in Subiaco which then catered for that area as well as the new developing suburbs of Wembley, Floreat and City Beach. Archbishop Prendiville realising the need for expansion into the latter fast growing suburbs moved to create a parish in Wembley and named it Our Lady of Victories. Fr. John Brosnan was appointed parish priest.

The first mass in the newly formed parish was celebrated in the home of Mr. & Mrs. Jack Edwards in Newry Street at 6.00 p.m. on the 15 June 1947. Subsequently two masses were said each Sunday, one in the tennis club pavilion located on The Boulevard and the other in the Wembley State School on Grantham Street.

Fr. Brosnan was given the task of purchasing a block of land big enough to contain a school with suitable playgrounds, church and presbytery. The site chosen was a dairy farm owned by a Mr. Dallemere on Cambridge Street between Simper and Marlowe Streets. The property purchase included the cows and a brick homestead in very poor condition. Initially, the cows had to be taken daily to graze by a lake at Jolimont but they were subsequently sold. Fr. Brosnan set about renovating the home for him to occupy as the presbytery. He purchased an adjoining block on Simper Street with a view to it being used as a playground for a school which was his first priority. He was given permission early in 1948 from the Education Department to build a school and received a grant of some money from the State Housing Commission. The parishioners were very generous in donating money for the school and organising fundraising events. Our Lady of Victories School was blessed and opened by Archbishop Prend iville on the 7th November 1948. Responsibility for conducting the school was entrusted to the Brigidine Sisters and classes commenced in February 1949 with sixty children. Weekend masses were then held in the school which involved two adjoining class rooms having to be re-arranged on Friday afternoons so mass could be celebrated and then converted back to class rooms in time for the students on Monday mornings.

Due to the rapid increase in the number of Catholics moving into the area, building a church became essential. The foundation stone for Our Lady of Victories Church was laid on the 15th August 1953. The design of the church was considered to be very modern at the time. The church was blessed and opened by Archbishop Prendiville on the 15th August 1954. Being the first building in W.A. in which pre-pressed concrete arches were utilized, this detail won very favourable comment.

The name of Our Lady of Victories church comes from the establishment of the feast of Our Lady of Victory by Pope St. Pius V in 1572. On the 7th October 1571, the Christian forces overcame the Moslem armada during a sea battle at Lepanto (now called Navpaktos, Greece). [Navpaktos is located at the western end of the Gulf of Corinth. The gulf lies between the European mainland and the island of Peloponnesus.]

The approximate Latin to English translation of the inscription on the foundation stone dedicating the blessing of the Church is as follows:-

In our faith or belief in Jesus Christ, the primary stone was laid here on Assumption Day
1953 of the Mother of God. Placed here as a bestowal to the Virgin Mary of Victories.
Redmond Prendiville, Archbishop (Presiding Priest of the metropolitan area)

By the 1980s, as a result of changing demographics in the western suburbs of Perth over the preceding years, Our Lady of Victories School closed in 1982. The buildings and land were eventually sold in 2004 and a development company constructed a mixture of commercial and residential buildings on the site.

Similarly, the old presbytery on the corner of Cambridge and Marlow Streets was demolished in 2000 and the land was subdivided into 5 small lots and sold the following year. Fr. Paul Fogarty was the acting parish priest at the time and was the last priest to live in the old presbytery.

Since the parish's establishment, it has continued to be a vibrant Catholic community with people truly caring for one another and a tradition of strong devotion to the sacraments. In 1997, the parish celebrated its fiftieth anniversary with mass celebrated by Archbishop Hickey followed by lunch in a marquee erected in the former school grounds.

Towards the end of 1990, Archbishop Hickey announced that the parishes of Wembley and Floreat would be merged and Fr. Sean Sorohan was appointed parish priest of the new entity. Understandably, many of the parishioners at Our Lady of Victories were unhappy about the merger with the parish priest to be resident in Floreat together with parish office being located there.

The Town of Cambridge identified the church building as significant from a heritage perspective in 2003 and as a consequence a Heritage Agreement, negotiated between the Town of Cambridge and the Archdiocese of Perth, now covers the church.

In the first half of 2004, Our Lady of Victories church was extensively refurbished. The works included the provision of new electrical wiring throughout the building, new electrical meter box, upgrading of all of the lighting both internally and externally, repainting of selected areas, replacement of some plumbing and waterproofing on the western side of the building, replacement of broken/cracked panes of glass in various windows, up-grading of the sound system and general cleaning of surfaces throughout the building.

 

St. Cecilia's Church, Floreat

By the late 1950's, it became apparent that another parish was needed to cope with the ever increasing numbers of Catholics moving into the areas beyond Wembley. Some years earlier the Perth City Council had allocated to the Archdiocese of Perth land bounded by Grantham & Brookdale Streets and Peebles Road and Kenmore Crescent. Of the five blocks retained for parochial buildings, one was a free gift from the Council. The initial four blocks were sold to the Brigidine Sisters and were used by them to build a secondary school.

On the 20th March 1960, the parish of St.Cecilia's, Floreat was created. Initially, weekend masses were celebrated in the Floreat Park State School.

The Church is named after St. Cecilia who was a Roman patrician, virgin, martyr, and patron saint of musicians. She lived in the second and third centuries. Her feast day is celebrated on the 22nd of November with a special mass each year.

The architectural design for the new church in Floreat was completed in May 1961. Building commenced soon afterwards and the new church was blessed and dedicated by Archbishop Prendiville on 26th February 1961. The building of the original presbytery alongside the church was made possible by an exchange of the parish owned block No. 715 for block No. 758 owned by the Brigidine Sisters.

The Stations of the Cross, carved in wood in Genoa, Italy were donated to the parish and erected in the church in November 1964. The parking area for cars was completed in May 1966. Alterations to the sanctuary to facilitate the celebration of mass with the priest facing the congregation and the concrete and glass screen behind the altar were carried over the course of 1968.

Mass was televised from St. Cecilia's church on the 14th March 1971.

In 1977, the confessional used for the Sacrament of Penance was modified to permit the option of "open" confession. Two years later, the Baptismal Font was relocated to the sanctuary.

The altar rails were removed in 1982 to facilitate the congregation receiving communion standing up.

During the course of 1986, specifications were drawn up for the purchase of a new pipe organ and construction of the organ began in February 1987. On 20 November 1987, St Cecilia's Church was solemnly dedicated by Archbishop Foley. The music for the mass was sung by St. Mary's Cathedral Choir.

The feast of St. Cecilia in 1988, marked the blessing of the organ by Bishop Healy and the inaugural recital by organist John Beaverstock, accompanied by a 17 piece chamber orchestra.

By 1998, the condition of the original presbytery had deteriorated to the extent that it was no longer habitable . Plans were developed for a new presbytery [with accommodation for two priests], parish offices, meeting rooms, and a hall with kitchen facilities and toilets. The new buildings were constructed and occupied in 2000.

In December 2002, Corran Pike, who had grown up in St Cecilia's parish and was educated at Newman College was ordained a priest by Archbishop Hickey. He celebrated his first mass at St. Cecilia's the following Sunday which was followed by reception in the parish hall.

In the second half of 2003, the sanctuary area of St. Cecilia's was significantly renovated with a marble floor being laid, a new Baptismal Font, the provision of additional lighting on the sanctuary, one confessional being converted to storage for musical instruments and related equipment and with the walls on either side of the altar being rendered.

More recently in November and December 2010, the sacristies were refurbished with new cupboards/storage facilities, some new tiling and blinds installed.  The main lobby of the church was also re-carpeted. 

The roof of the Church, Parish Centre and presbytery were replaced in early 2012 having been damaged by a severe storm the previous year.

To mark the 50th Anniversary of St Cecilia's Church in 2012, Peter Graham, a well know local sculptor  was commissioned to design and make a sculpture.  The design is in the form of a harp with a palm branch signifying St. Cecilia as patron of music and a martyr of the church.     The sculpture is on display in the courtyard between St. Cecilia's church and the Parish Centre.

Over the years, a number of documents were written (one by Mr. Michael O'Dea others by unknown authors) recording historical events at both Wembley and Floreat over the period from 1947 to the present time. This document is a collation of the recorded events and to the extent that it has been possible to do so, the accuracy of dates, persons, etc has been verified. This document was originally prepared by Brian Parry in January 2010 and continues to be up-dated, as appropriate.