By Caroline Smith
The Kimberley region of far-north Western Australia has long been a place of faith, with churches and schools being established there from the late 19th century onwards, and a recent book, A Photographic History of the Catholic Church in the Kimberley, collates this well, with images and stories of the parishes and local people in the area.
The book was published in 2016 in time for the 50th anniversary of the Diocese of Broome’s since 1966.
The book traces the history of the Catholic presence in the Kimberley, starting with Father Duncan McNab, a Scottish priest who has been working in country Victoria, who came west and established a Mission of the Church in the Kimberley in 1884.
This set the stage for the area to be proclaimed the Vicariate Apostolic of the Kimberley by Pope Leo XIII in May 1887, with Bishop William Kelly appointed Vicar Apostolic in 1898, and the book moves on to link this to the designation of a Diocese under Bishop Johannes Jobst in June 1966.
Time and dates are one method of organisation for the book, which divides the historical stories and photos into three sections: 1878-1925, 1926-1965 and 1966-2016.
It also gives particular attention to specific religious orders of brothers, sisters and clergy, as well as lay volunteers, who were involved in supporting the Kimberley communities.
Their stories begin with the Trappists (monks from the Cisterian Order) who came over from France in 1890 and set up a Mission at Beagle Bay, although their influence extended to Broome, which was established as a Mission in 1895 by Fr Nicholas d’Emo.
Also memorialised are the Pallottine Missionaries, who took over the Beagle Bay Mission in 1901, the Sisters of St John of God who arrived in 1907 and Benedictine Monks who were involved in the early development of a Mission at Kalumburu.
The early years of religious and community life are recorded through photographs of First Holy Communion groups, the construction of churches and monasteries and school classes.
As time went on, other religious orders became involved in the region, such as the Salesians, who were entrusted with the Kimberley Vicariate in 1922, Benedictine nuns, and the Sisters of St Joseph, who were involved in setting up and staffing schools for local children.
Historical events affecting the Diocese such as the wartime bombing of Broome and Wyndham, Pope John Paul II’s visit to Australia in 1986 and Sydney’s hosting of World Youth Day in 2008, are also recorded.
Another point of interest is the section dedicated to the ‘Art of the People’ which reveals how important arts and crafts are in the Kimberley, with the Diocese’s ‘Christ of Collection’ often being shown at the University of Notre Dame’s Broome campus. Works from Balgo, Kalumburu and La Grange, as well as local art centres, are also depicted.Well-known institutions and buildings such as Our Lady Queen of Peace Cathedral (dedicated in 1964) and the University of Notre Dame Broome campus (opened in 1994) are also described and depicted, showing the growing confidence of the religious community in the Kimberley.
A Photographic History of the Catholic Church in the Kimberley includes a forward by Bishop of Broome Christopher Saunders and acknowledgements, including a thank you to various orders of clergy, religious sisters and lay volunteers.
Published by Spectrum Publications P/L, Richmond, Victoria, for the Catholic Bishop of Broome, and is available through the Diocese website (www.broomediocese.org) at a cost of $45.00.