By Matthew Lau
On Sunday 13 May 2018, Attadale Parish’s new St Joseph Pignatelli Church was consecrated by Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB. One year on, The eRecord speaks with some of the key influencers who helped the parish complete this large project.
It was the sheer generosity, determination, and vision of long-time parishioner Doug King that planted the seed to build what grew to become the new St Joseph Pignatelli Church in Attadale.
Mr King, now deceased, informed then-Parish Priest Father Sean Fernandez of his intention to bequeath a significant sum of money to Attadale Parish, under the proviso that it would only be used to construct a new church.
“I was there for a while and realised there were lots of issues with the [former] church building which were going to require a substantial amount of money, which we really didn’t have. I didn’t have any clear idea of how to address it,” Fr Fernandez explained.
That all changed in 2011 when Mr King donated $1.2 million to his beloved parish in memory of his departed wife Beulah.
The initial St Joseph Pignatelli Church, opened in 1962, was only intended to be temporary.
“Admittedly, it was a big start,” Fr Fernandez said. “But a new church, you’d be looking at more than triple that.”
The Attadale Parish Priest of 12 years – now Dean of St Mary’s Cathedral – had his doubts in the early stages whether Mr King’s dream would become a reality.
That was until he brought the idea to the Parish Finance Committee and the Parish Council, who equally backed the idea.
“Then we had a meeting with the parishioners, and people seemed to believe this was the way to go,” Fr Fernandez told The Record.
“Doug King had the foresight; I just picked up the ball and keep going with it.”
Encouraged by the support gathered behind him, Fr Fernandez took it forward on what would become a long and challenging process.
Fr Fernandez was adamant that the project would only go ahead if the parish community supported it.
The then-Archbishop Barry Hickey backed the project wholeheartedly.
“We slowly inched our way forward, and a lot of the time I couldn’t see how we would be able to raise all the money. Through the grace of God and providence, it came to fruition,” Fr Fernandez added.
“People responded very generously to the request, they could see that this was important for the future of the parish community.”
The construction itself took about one year to complete, with the new church building consecrated by Archbishop Costelloe on Sunday 13 May 2018 (the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord).
When it came to planning the design of the new church, Fr Fernandez insisted that it had to be “beautiful”.
“The whole structure should speak of a sacred place. I remember years ago I had been to the dedication of Lockridge Parish, and I loved the limestone. So one of my suggestions was to have limestone.
“We also wanted to move all facilities and make that part of the church building.”
Another key element was to make the Church a visible presence on Galloway St, as the previous building was slightly obscured.
“We wanted it to be a clear sign of the presence of the Church and of Christ in the area.
“We intend to have a memorial wall for all the donors, which will include Doug and his wife Beulah. We will certainly keep them both in our prayers.”
The large glass Cross that overlooks the altar is a standout feature of the new St Joseph Pignatelli Church.
“There is a simple beauty about the building, and it’s also very comfortable. The old church used to get terribly hot and terribly cold.”
It is uncertain what the future will hold for the old church building on Davidson Rd.
“I was sorry to leave; it’s a lovely community. It has its own character, its own strength, and it will flourish,” Fr Fernandez summarised.
John Abrusci, a retired builder and Project Manager for the development of the new St Joseph Pignatelli Church, entered the scene in late-2013.
“The base documentation had already been done, but Fr Sean received costings that were way beyond what the expectations were,” Mr Abrusci.
“The initial budget was quite high; we got it down to a reasonable price and we got all the approvals we wanted in late-2016.”
EIW Architects created the design, construction began in 2017, and the building reached completion in early-2018.
“My business and my experience is in public buildings, so I’m very up-to-date with what to do and how buildings operate. That’s why, I think, Fr Sean got me on board.
“Fr Sean and I worked very closely, and were in contact daily.”
Fr Fernandez oversaw the spiritual and canonical aspects of the design.
“The old church wasn’t a place where you could really attract young families and people who want to go to what we have today,” Mr Abrusci added.
“Like a lot of young people, they expect facilities. We’re seeing a lot more people who are just happy that it’s happened.
“For what we’ve spent [compared with] what we’ve got … value for money.”
Leadership Gifts Chair Alex Banovich AM ran the fundraising campaign from 2014, supported by Steve Van Mierlo as Key Gifts Chair in the following year.
The overall fundraising chairman was Tony Middleton, supported by Joe Pierluigi and Pauline Mascarenhas.
Their collective push got the project over the line.
“When they did the drawings and studies, the costing came to nearly $4m. We set about putting together a professional fundraising campaign to raise the remaining $3m [after Doug’s bequeath],” Mr Banovich said.
“We had reasonable results, even though it was tough times for raising money, but we had a couple of very significant benefactors who gave very large sums of money and pledged them to the completion of this new building.”
Despite the hurdles faced along the way, Mr Banovich said Fr Fernandez gave the committee the belief that the project would come to fruition.
“Luckily, Fr Sean was absolutely determined to push it through. I’m sure that we would’ve given up a few times along the way had he not had such a strong resolve to make sure that this would actually happen.
“We’ve put most of the money together, there’s still a bit to find. But like most projects, you’re left with a little bit to pull in, and we’re in the process of that.”