A rich tapestry of history was woven together on June 2 when past and present representatives from Santa Clara parish in Bentley gathered to celebrate the church’s Golden Jubilee.
The joyous event was made more auspicious occurring on the Feast of Corpus Christi and incorporating the Sacrament of Holy Communion for many of the school’s and parish’s Year 4 students.
Bishop Don Sproxton presided over Mass, concelebrating with parish priest Fr Dennis Sudla, and Fr Edward (Ted) Hewitt.
Fr Hewitt was one of the first children to receive Holy Communion at the parish as a young boy and later became parish priest in the mid-1980s.
Attending the celebrations were five Dominican Sisters, linking the day with the parish’s start in 1954 when the Order was invited to Bentley to operate the school.
Parish secretary Muriel Gallagher told The Record the Sisters had formed an integral part of the parish’s foundation.
“In the early years, three Dominican Sisters travelled daily from Bedford to teach until 1957, when a decision was made to build a convent here, which was completed in 1958,” she said.
Miss Gallagher said the Sisters’ influence spread beyond their teaching capacity as they ministered to the sick and elderly and shared the joys and sorrows of the parish community.
“When they left the school in 1992, we were sorry to see them go,” she added.
Also participating in the Anniversary Mass were Sisters from the Missionaries of Charity, who resided in the parish during their first 12 months in Perth.
Miss Gallagher said the Sisters were still deeply involved with the community, reaching out to the most vulnerable members, transporting those who have difficulty in attending Mass and holding Catechism classes for children preparing for the Sacraments.
“Several of the children receiving Holy Communion on the Feast of Corpus Christi had been prepared by the Sisters,” Miss Gallagher said.
During his homily to the crowded congregation, Bishop Sproxton expressed his congratulations to the parish and his appreciation at being able to attend such an event.
He also underlined the importance of receiving Holy Communion for the first time, linking the Sacrament with the Spirit the children received in Baptism and would have confirmed in the years to come.
It was a message that resonated with the 20 communicants as they intently followed proceedings during the Mass, according to Miss Gallagher. “They all looked so prayerful and lovely as they prepared to receive Jesus for the first time,” she said.
“It was an occasion that would remain with them forever. How proud their parents, guardians and teachers must have felt, knowing their work was now bearing fruit.”
The talents of the community’s many gifted musicians were also on display with the parish’s three choirs contributing to both the Mass and post-celebrations.
“Santa Clara’s choirs would, I am sure, give any other choir a run for its money,” Miss Gallagher stated proudly.
“The singing at Mass was tuneful and blended in well with Fr Dennis’ powerful voice, it was a pleasure to join in, or just listen.”
A large white cake was presented to mark the occasion and the atmosphere of celebration escalated as champagne glasses were raised and 50 years of parish and community life was toasted.
The celebrations continued after lunch as children entertained themselves with a bouncy castle while youth and adults enjoyed the lively tunes of Two Left Feet and the Santa Clara youth group line dancers.
Youth leader Sebastian Michael was impressed with the day’s celebrations and the involvement of so many parishioners.
Mr Michael said all ages seemed to appreciate the energetic routines choreographed by youth leader Philemon Kho and led by Ms Rita Chong.
“The whole crowd, adults and kids alike, joined in the dancing and festivities continued well into the day,” he said.
Miss Gallagher said all those involved were delighted with the occasion which had been full of reminiscing and sharing of wonderful memories.
She was disappointed that former parish priests Mgr Thomas McDonald, Fr Francis Ly and Fr Francisco Mascarenhas were unable to attend due to First Holy Communion commitments at their current parishes.
“This was most unfortunate,” she said. “We were sorry we could not meet up with them on this special day.”
It was an occasion that drew together the people and events of the last half century, and highlighted the parish’s communal bond.
“It was a day full of life and laughter,” Mr Michael said.
“It was attended by a close knit parish who all wished to be a part of the blessed day and wanted to say to the Santa Clara church: a happy birthday to you!”
The church was renovated in 2012 and remains in excellent condition 50 years after it’s foundation stone was laid.