In 1969 Father Geoffrey Beyer and two other former Anglican ministers were ordained Catholic priests in an event forever etched in the history of the Perth Archdiocese.
The ordination took place under the leadership of the late Archbishop Goody, and made news around Australia.
Now married for more than 55 years and with four children, six grandchildren and one great-grandchild, Fr Beyer recently published his autobiography titled Father and Father: A Married Priest’s Tale.
The now retired priest said he had been eager to tell his story for some time.
“A lot of people, including my family and parishioners, have been at me to put it down on paper,” he said. “People who have read it have said they found it interesting; one person said it was a real ‘page-turner’. All the comments have been very positive.”
The book was completed with the help of Fr Beyer’s wife and children, Valery, Stephen, David and Mark.
“It’s been a real family enterprise, putting it together,” Fr Beyer said.
“I think they’ve discovered a few things about me that they didn’t know before.”
Frederick Geoffrey Beyer was born in Cottesloe on September 10, 1931, the only child of parents Theodore and Angela.
He was raised in the Anglican church, where he assisted as an altar boy and sang in the church choir for many years.
In 1953, he met Dorothy and the couple were married in 1956, with Fr Beyer at the mid-point of his theological studies for ordination.
The pair had four children before Fr Beyer was ordained in the Anglican church in 1963. It was around this time that the first glimmer of Fr Beyer’s conversion appeared.
“I came across the Anglo-Catholic movement, which was an eye-opener for me … and I was attracted to it,” Fr Beyer said. “I thought, this is something good, it has roots that go back a long way, way back before the formation of the Anglican church in the 16th century.”
After ordination, Fr Beyer began his pastoral work in the Anglican parish of Kojonup; however, his leanings towards Catholicism were slowly gaining momentum.
“My feelings towards Catholicism were beginning to crystallise more and more and I found certain aspects of the Anglican church hard to accept,” he said.
These aspects included the Anglican denial of Transubstantiation, as well as its ambiguous position on the re-marriage of divorced people.
Although Fr Beyer began to question the Anglican beliefs, he believed his marriage automatically made it impossible for him to ever become a Catholic priest.
That was until, through colleagues he had met, Fr Beyer became aware of the possibility of a dispensation.
“I began to make moves in that direction and Bishop Goody, who was then Bishop of Bunbury, accepted me without demur, along with two other men in the Bunbury Anglican diocese,” he said.
“I have asked myself if, had I not been accepted would I have remained an Anglican priest – probably not. I think I had reached that point where I just didn’t feel at home in the Anglican church.”
Fr Beyer and his family were received into the Catholic Church in March 1968.
In October of the following year, Fr Beyer, along with two other former Anglican ministers – Fr Rodney Williams and Fr John Lisle – were ordained to the Catholic priesthood.
Life as a married Catholic priest has certainly had its challenges for Fr Beyer.
“It was very difficult for my wife, because it was entirely new for her too although, like me, she was certainly attracted to the Catholic Church,” he said.
“Once Dorothy had got used to the idea, and got over the shock, she got some help from Catholic people we knew, and one or two religious sisters, and was able to talk to them about it.
“Once she realised that we were going to have plenty of support from the Church, because that was one of her concerns, she was quite happy to follow me and support me.”
For Fr Beyer’s four children, life changed significantly as well.
“They’ve all said it was difficult. When they went to school – they got all the usual questions … it wasn’t easy for them, but I don’t think it got them down,” Fr Beyer said.
Youngest son Mark said his father’s occupation was the source of much curiosity at school.
“Sometimes you’d tell a person and they’d just have a blank response,” he said.
“It was always funny to see what response you got.”
Mr Beyer, the editor of WA Business News, said his father’s conversion required great bravery.
“All of us admire immensely the strength of his belief, and the way that he has put that into practice in his life,” he said.
“Dad’s faith and his values are why he’s become a good priest and why he’s been a good father.”
Whilst it was a new experience for Fr Beyer and his family, the first parish that he was appointed to had become somewhat accustomed to married priests.
Fr Beyer, who had been working at the Jesuit school of St Louis since his ordination, replaced fellow Anglican-cum-Catholic priest Fr John Lisle at Armadale in 1974.
“He paved the way if you like, it wasn’t easy for him at first, but he was very well accepted by the people,” Fr Beyer said of his predecessor.
“By the time I went there they’d got used to the idea of a married priest and any opposition which he had encountered had evaporated, so we were made most welcome in the parish.”
Having already spent four years juggling the responsibilities of having a family and running a parish when he was an Anglican pastor, Fr Beyer gradually found a good balance between fulfilling both roles.
“It was a learning curve,” he said. “The only thing was that I had to be careful that I didn’t allow parish obligations to interfere with my role in the family as husband and father.
“I always tried to share as much as I could with [my children], maybe I wasn’t always as successful as I should have been, but I’ve tried to do that.”
Financially, the Beyers were initially concerned about being able to support their young family.
“When I first was ordained I wanted to know how we’d manage financially but there was no problem there thanks to the bishop’s generosity,” Fr Beyer said.
“In the parishes, we were supported by the parish first collection, and by and large they were quite adequate.
“While we haven’t been by any means wealthy, we’ve always had adequate support.”
While Fr Beyer was heavily involved with his parishes, his wife Dorothy preferred to focus on her family.
“Her priority was always the family,” Fr Beyer said.
“When we first went into a parish people would wonder if she wanted to take over running things, but she didn’t.
“People would often ring up with problems and she was able to help them, probably better than I could.
“We often joked that she would get all the curly ones.”
After 11-year stints as the parish priest in Armadale, Karrinyup and Attadale, Fr Beyer retired in 2006.
He now lives with his wife Dorothy in Swanbourne, in the house that he grew up in.
With slightly more free time, Fr Beyer was able to complete his Masters in theological studies at the University of Notre Dame in 2008.
He has also continued to work as a judge at the Catholic marriage tribunal, where he has been for more than 30 years.
Additionally, Fr Beyer said he is often asked to supply Mass at various parishes. “That keeps me in touch with what’s going on in the Church,” he said.
Reflecting on the momentous decision he made to become a Catholic priest almost 50 years ago, Fr Beyer said he had never regretted the choice he made.
“I’ve always said I feel like I’ve come home but at the same time I’ve always retained a love for the Anglican church because I learnt so much in it,” he said.
“It was hard leaving but I’m sure I’ve done the right thing”.