By Bridget Spinks
The old carpet has been ripped up and new carpet has been laid down at St Denis’, Joondanna.
The crying room at the back of the church has been converted into a gathering space.
These major structural changes, which occurred in the last six weeks,
have happened since the appointment of Fr Peter Porteous OSM to the
Servite parish on 22 November last year.
But this physical change is not the only transformation that is taking place.
“It’s indicative of the change that’s occurring in the parish,” Fr
Porteous said, referring to a restructuring of parish committees and the
council. “St Denis’ was a very well known parish in the 70s and 80s;
they had a great youth Mass down here. But it went very quiet in the 90s
and it went through some very terrible times.”
Fr Porteous said he is trying to renew the parish. He organised a
mailout to 500 families in the area in the first week of January and has
introduced a Sunday 10.30am Mass.
He said he has noticed a growth in Mass attendance of anything up to 100
new people and a willingness to get involved in parish life.
“We’re confidently working as a parish to increase the Mass attendance,
which currently stands at 250 on a Sunday and we’re hoping to increase
it to 400 by the end of the year,” he said.
Under the guidance of the parish priest, parishioners are being
encouraged to be more involved in the practical running of the parish
under this new structure, he said.
The new structure involves several committees with their own budgets who report to the parish council once a month, he said.
The committees meet once a month, the parish council meets once a month
and the priest oversees and guides them all as they participate in the
running of the parish, he said.
“The purpose of this structure is to assist committees in networking with other committees,” he said.
The parish council is composed of members who have been elected by their
respective committee, appointed members from the school and two
appointees by the parish priest.
“The priest is the pastoral and theological guide but this is about
empowering the people to build their own parish and work within the
parish,” he said.
The ultimate responsibility for the parish still falls to the priest who represents the Bishop, he said.
“The authority entrusted to the priest by the Bishop is to be in no way diminished under this programme,” he said.
The practical aspects of running the parish such as calling the plumber
to fix a leaking tap is left in the hands of the parishioners, he said.
“It’s similar to the model operating at North Beach parish,” Fr Porteous
People have noticed a change and are coming on board, he said.
“There seems to be a new spirit alive in the place; people are getting actively involved again,” he said.
Prior to his appointment as Joondanna parish priest, Fr Porteous was
chaplain at Melbourne’s La Trobe University for two years out of the
four he has recently spent in Melbourne. Prior to that he was in the
United States for four years as a catechist in the parish and religious
education teacher in St Louis.
He said he was looking forward to continuing and building on over 60
years of Servite tradition that started in the parish with Fr Nolan when
it was established in 1952.
SAINT Denis’ Parish in Joondanna has not had any structural changes in 50 years, until now.
In addition to the new carpet that has been laid down and the conversion of the crying area, more changes are set to take place.
Parish priest Fr Peter Porteous said that all the developments that will
occur at the parish would take place within the framework of the Roman
“It’s important that we see ourselves as part of the universal Church
and as part of the Church in Perth and that we’re marching in step with
the mandates set down by the ACBC, the Archbishop of Perth and his
Assistant Bishop and the holy magisterium in Rome. This is
non-negotiable and all developments will occur within this framework,
that’s imperative,” Fr Porteous said.
The changes to the gardens and the introduction of a green area beside
the sanctuary will take place in accordance with ACBC Earthcare
guidelines, he said.
“We’ve got to avoid any form of pagan, new age eco-spirituality and are
looking to promote a Catholic eco-spirituality in accordance with the
guidelines set down by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference,” Fr
THE Joondanna Parish has devised a five-year plan to
renew the environmental, structural and spiritual aspects of the
building and the community itself:
– The Greening Committee is planning to remove the three fir trees and
replant native trees (such as tuart trees) behind the church and around
the side as well as a botanical garden.
In the area between the church and the presbytery, a reflective garden and resting area with exotic species is being planned.
This committee will take care of managing the reticulation, tree removal
and planting and are working with Kings Park Authority and Stirling
Council on the project.
– There is a plan to use the roof of the church to collect solar energy so as to not draw from the system.
– The iconic gum tree will stay.
– Along the side of the presbytery down to the shed will be paved but the shed will eventually have to go.
– The bathrooms in the car park will be removed.
– The parish is planning to plant and grow a natural barrier around the car park.
– One committee is looking at organising retreats and workshops to form and educate people in Catholic Earthcare spirituality.
– On the right side of the sanctuary, parish priest Fr Peter Porteous
wants to create a living green wall in between the baptismal font and
the Paschal candle.
– The Building Committee will look after the development of the Memorial
Chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows. This is a very Servite
devotion, Fr Porteous said.
As part of this, there will be a wall for the photos of deceased members of the parish.
– The parish is also looking into installing new speakers to enhance the sound of the two parish choirs.
– Out the front of the parish, there are plans to remove the concrete
canopy, extend the church entrance out, and add a new ceiling, kitchen
and new bathrooms that will have disabled access.
Fr Porteous said they are hoping to start work on that early next year.
– There will be new signage incorporating the Crucifix on this new exterior to the parish.