In 1962 everything was changing.
The world came to the brink of nuclear warfare as the Cuban missile crisis unfolded. Zebra pedestrian crossings, known in the UK as Panda crossings, were introduced, causing confusion among – and between – pedestrians and motorists. France’s President, Francois De Gaulle, survived an assassination attempt by a disaffected airforce engineer over the issue of Algerian independence, crediting his armoured Citroen with saving his life.
In a showdown in Chicago Sonny Liston beat Floyd Patterson for the world heavyweight boxing title.
Two relatively unknown rock bands began to make an impression.
The Rolling Stones made their debut at London’s Marquee Club while The Beatles made their first televised appearance on a program called People and Places. Lawrence of Arabia won the Oscar for best movie but Gregory Peck took out the Oscar for Best Actor for his role in a movie expressing much about the deeper currents of the times – To Kill a Mockingbird. In Rome, the Church began to reflect on the challenges of the modern era as it opened the Second Vatican Council.
Such were the background notable events of the year, but in Shenton Park, in faraway Perth, Catholics had their eyes fixed on something much closer to home – their first parish church.
In fact, they had been waiting 25 years. An article on page 1 in The Record of August 9 reported that Archbishop Prendiville solemnly blessed the new building dedicated to St Aloysius Gonzaga, which was also erected as a memorial to fallen soldiers, at 7.30pm in the evening before presiding at a Solemn High Mass.
In that period, The Record noted, it had taken 23 years of effort on the part of the parish priest, Monsignor EJ Collins, to arrive at the solemn ceremonies featuring not only the Archbishop but a cast of clergy lending weight to the solemnity of the occasion.
Among these were Monsignor Collins as celebrant, Fathers W Foley and J Mullins as deacon and sub-deacon respectively, Fr Tom Phelan as Master of Ceremonies and Monsignors EJ Kennedy, A Langmead and E Sullivan as assistant priest and assistants at the throne.
The sermon was delivered by Fr Alphonsus OCD of the Carmelite Prioty at Morley Park.
All stops were pulled out to make the occasion a memorable one for all present including the many parishioners who had sacrificed time and money for the building of the church.
Archbishop Redmond Prendiville and a cast of clergy lent clerical weight to the blessing of the Church.
In fact, the Shenton Park area, known as ‘Rosalie’, had originally been part of the Subiaco parish in the 1890s and was known as a blue-collar district.
A school founded in 1909 was established in Henry Street and dedicated to St Aloysius Gonzaga, becoming also the Mass centre for the surrounding area.
It was originaly staffed by Sisters of St John of God until 1912 and then by Sisters of Mercy until 1937 when the present convent in Nicholson Road was purchased.
Due to falling enrolments the school closed in 1972.
Rosalie remained part of St Joseph’s parish in Subiaco until 1937 when Fr Peter Doddy was appointed to the newly estblished parish.
However he died unexpectedly in 1939.
When he was succeeded by Fr EJ Collins, the parish received its new name of Shenton Park; Fr Collins was to remain Parish Priest for a heroic 26 years until his death in 1965.
Father Phil Farrelly served as parish priest from 1967-1973.
For the next three years the parish was administered by the English Franciscans, the Greyfriars, who were then replaced by the Order of St Camillus, an order specialising in hospital ministry.
Fr Patrick Holmes served as Parish Priest for 16 years from 1977 onwards until he was transferred to Subiaco and was followed by Fr John Ryan whose sale of the former school property enabled the building of the Parish Centre and enhancements to the church, including its beautiful stained glass windows.
Fr Ryan was succeeded by Fr Peter Bianchini, now Parish Priest of Highgate whose genial personality won him many friends.
Fr Bianchini’s six years were followed once again by the Camillans under Fr Sean Bredin but in 2007 the Camillans ceased ministry in Australia.
In early 2008 the parish administration was taken over by the Vincentians from India, whose order had been established in 1902.
Fr Rojan George, who arrived with two companions in 2008, became the new Parish Priest and was succeeded by Fr Sabu in 2011.
Over the years at least 15 other priests have served as assistants in the parish.
Down through the decades, numerous parishioners have assisted in the administration and service of the parish, including activities such as conveying Communion to the sick and the elderly in their homes, hospitals and aged care facilities.
After Vatican II the Parish Council took on a greater role in parish life, together with catechists and discussion groups.
Today, parish life is replete with altar servers, organists, a ladies’ singing group, special ministers of the Eucharist, lectors and those who supervise the childrens’ liturgy.
There is also a St Aloysius Care group, a book exchange and monthly activities for youth.
Despite its cosy size – there are about 150-200 parishioners at weekend Masses – the parish has also supported charitable works in East Timor, western NSW and Three Springs.
Visitors often comment on the “country-like” friendliness of the parish.
Now that the parish has celebrated the 50th anniversary of its parish church, it truly can be said that it is a mighty little package of faith.