By Matthew Lau
As Kalgoorlie-Boulder Parish celebrates its 125th anniversary, The Record takes a look at what the Goldfields Catholic Community has meant to the lives of its people.
Robert Hicks has been involved on the parish council and finance committee for more than 30 years, much of that time as Council Chairman.
Due to the city’s transient nature of parishioners and priests who come and go, Robert has often found himself in the position of being asked to be the chairperson for reasons of continuity.
After marrying in 1986, Robert and Tracy Hicks relocated to Perth for a few years before deciding to move back to their hometown to start a family.
“My wife’s conversion to Catholicism happened on our wedding day,” Robert recalled.
“In fact, it was my wife’s conversion to Catholicism that really strengthened my Catholic faith journey.
“Had it not been for the parish – and particularly Fr Greg Donovan at the time who instructed my wife – I would question whether my faith journey would be as profound as it is now.”
Upon their return to Kalgoorlie in 1990, Robert became involved in the parish administration and Tracy worked in Catholic Education.
“The reason we took that approach as a family, was so that we could connect parish life with Catholic school life. That model worked really well, therefore, we developed a very strong appreciation for the need to connect the two – particularly in a community like Kalgoorlie, with a population of about 30,000 people,” Robert explained.
“It’s a model that we would absolutely promote to others if they’re looking at how they want to be involved in parish and school life.”
As a parish stalwart, Robert fondly recalls being present for various milestone celebrations – such as the centenary of the St Mary’s Church building in 2002, which he describes as “a local, state and national treasure”.
The 57-year-old parishioner said it is those milestones that has allowed Kalgoorlie-Boulder parishioners to develop a profound and deep appreciation of Catholic pioneers, the faithful laity, various priests and religious institutions.
“We could reasonably argue that had it not been for the Catholic Church in the early days, Kalgoorlie would not be the thriving community it is today. Because it was mainly the Catholic Church that did much of the educating and health care of the population, irrespective of whether the students were Catholic or not,” he expressed.
Robert is a fourth-generation Kalgoorlie resident, whose family has ties with the city since the early 1900s. As one of the pioneering retail families in Kalgoorlie, the Hicks clan ran a significant family business until the mid-80s called “J.A. Hicks & Co”.
Agnes Miller has been going to Boulder Parish since she was 15, and has attended Mass regularly at St Mary’s Church for the past 10 years.
“We’ve been associated with [Kalgoorlie Parish] all the previous years. If the time didn’t suit you, say in Boulder, then you came to Kalgoorlie Mass,” she said.
Now aged 90, Agnes’ fondest memory of the church was her daughter’s wedding and witnessing the First Holy Communion of her five children over the years.
“The old church [in Boulder] is still going strong, even though they said it would fall down…it didn’t, it withstood an earthquake even.”
Agnes appreciates being able to attend Mass at St Mary’s, which she describes as “a beautiful church”.
“Generally speaking we’ve had wonderful priests. We’re blessed with very good priests, thank God,” she added.
“I wish [the parish] well for the next 125 years! It’s a great milestone.”
There was a period of time when John Butcher fell away from the Church, but like the Prodigal Son he returned with his faith stronger than ever.
“I was away from the Church for about 30 years, and I came back in 1984,” the 77 year old said.
After a poor turn of health, John found himself hospitalised. With the guidance of Fr Michael Separovich, he vowed to attend Mass every day for seven years to make up for the all Sundays he missed over that period of time.
That began in 2000. To this day, John has kept the habit of attending daily Mass without fail.
Now, John could not imagine envisioning his life without the Catholic Church.
“I certainly don’t want to miss Mass now,” he proclaimed.
John paid homage to Harry Argus OFS, who died on Monday 18 June, the day after the Goldfields Catholic Community 125th parish anniversary event.
“Harry started a Franciscan movement up here about four years ago; I joined that. He left a big legacy in the parish. He will be sorely missed because he was the fella who started it all.”
Bishop Emeritus Justin Bianchini brought communion to Harry over the weekend, and paid tribute to a man who was “instrumental in the Church of Kalgoorlie”.