Archbishop Emeritus Barry Hickey has been announced as the patron of the restoration of St Jerome’s historic church in Spearwood.
Built in the wake of the Great Depression in 1934, St Jerome’s Church had lain dormant behind security fencing for some years while the Archdiocese of Perth decided what to do with the much loved building.
“People have expressed a will that it should be kept, and I felt it should be kept,” Archbishop Hickey told The Record.
Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB concurred, he said, and was happy for the project to go ahead.
“The present Archbishop is happy for me to be patron of the project; to make it stand out as a special historical project in memory of the founders; the pioneers of the parish.”
The Archbishop Emeritus said fundraising wouldn’t take place immediately but there might be future opportunities for people with a connection to the church, to fund raise for its eventual furnishings.
The history of St Jerome’s is intimately bound-up with that of the area’s Dalmatian migrant settlers.
Opening on May 27, 1934, the church was built by Steve Dobra with limestone from Andrew Zumunich’s nearby quarry.
Future Perth Archbishop, Father Launcelot Goody, had been tasked with ministering to Croat-speaking Catholics in 1933 and was present at St Jerome’s 1934 opening.
Shortly after Fr Goody had been ordained in Rome in 1930, then-Archbishop Patrick Clune asked him to travel to the Croatian city of Split, to study the language so as to minister to Western Australia’s growing Croatian Catholic population.
“Despite the Depression, I never remembered ever giving a handout to an Italian or a Slav,” Archbishop Goody said in comments contained in Michael Murphy’s 1993 history of St Jerome’s Parish.
“In fact it was the other way around. If I ever went to see them they’d often give me a bottle of home made wine, or a piece of salami sausage that they made themselves in the household.”
In 1949, Archbishop Redmond Prendiville separated Spearwood from its parent parish of Rockingham, appointing the fondly-remembered Fr John Chokolich as Spearwood’s first parish priest, and his first appointment as parish priest.
The Archdiocese of Perth bought the church from St Jerome’s Parish in 2003. The parish opened its current and much larger church in 1987, after which the old church was used for a variety of welfare services, including a crisis pregnancy centre.
The Archdiocese is yet to announce the future use of the historic church, after it has undergone restoration.
Archbishop Emeritus Hickey said he would be meeting with the Archdiocesan Finance Office soon, to finalise the details of the project.