DAMPIER PENINSULA PARISH
SACRED HEART CHURCH,
BEAGLE BAY WA
CHRIST THE KING CHURCH,
DJARINDJIN - LOMBADINA WA
| Parish | History
| Pallottine Centenary |
Resident: No Pallottine Priest is currently stationed at Beagle Bay.
This page remains listed
because of its importance in our Pallottine History.
PO Box 90
Broome WA 6725
Beagle Bay Telephone:
61 8 9192 4917
Beagle Bay Fax:
61 8 9192 4105
Djarindjin - Lombadina Telephone:
61 8 9192 4942
Djarindjin - Lombadina Fax
61 8 9192 4110:
Click on pictures below to enlarge
THE DAMPIER PENINSULA PARISH
The Parish was created by the
current Bishop of Broome, Most Rev. Christopher Saunders, in 1996 by merging two
parishes on the Peninsula: Lombadina-Djarindjin and Beagle Bay. Dampier
Peninsula has a historical significance for the Catholic Church in Western
Australia because it is from here that the Church began and spread to the rest
of the Kimberley region.
Investigations into possibility of setting up mission sites in Western
Australia began in 1883 by Fr. Duncan McNab. In 1884 he examined the Kimberley
region and found a suitable place here in the Peninsula. The first settlement
took place in 1885 when he built a church at Goodenough Bay, a little north of
Disaster Bay, on the eastern side of the Dampier Peninsula. At this embryonic
stage the mission suffered many setbacks due to illnesses, harshness of the land
and the scarcity of both finance and human resources. Thus, it was not until
late 1890 that the Church’s missionary work among the Aborigines developed in
the Kimberley with the arrival of the French Trappists in response to Bishop
Gibney’s invitation. They selected an area of good natural springs on the
Western side of the Peninsula a few kilometres inland from Beagle Bay. The site
was chosen because it was where large numbers of Aboriginal people congregated.
The Pallottines Fathers and Brothers, then known as the Pious Society of
Missions, took charge of the Beagle Bay mission in June 1901. There has always
been a Pallottine presence here except for a period of about six months after
Br. William Schreiber retired to Rossmoyne during the early part of 1996.
The Aboriginal people from Beagle Bay were actively involved in the spreading
of the Catholic faith in Western Australia. During the 30’s, long before the
concept of Lay Missionaries were thought of, Aboriginal people from Beagle Bay
went down to Tardun in the Murchison area to help the Pallottine priests and
brothers to start up the Mission farm. In 1934, Rockhole Station 23 kilometres
west of Hall Creek was established with the help of Aborigines from Beagle Bay
to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the desert people. From Rockhole Station
other missions were set up at Balgo and Billiluna. Then in the late 50’s more
Aboriginal "Lay Missionaries" went to help out at La Grange Mission
south of Broome. Vincent Pallotti’s vision of every baptized person being an
apostle, actively participating in the life of the Church, was being actualized
here at Beagle Bay years before the Second Vatican Council acknowledge it
The Dampier Peninsula Parish has 3 major settlements; One Arm Point with a
population of about 300, Lombadina-Djarindjin with a population of 220 and
Beagle Bay with 250 people. There are also two smaller settlements, one at La
Djardarr Bay with 35 people and another at Middle Lagoon with 8 adults. There
are 2 Catholic schools and 1 government school on the Peninsula. Lombadina-Djarindjin school has an Our Lady of Missions Sister as the school
principal but the rest of the staff in all our schools are lay people. Beagle
Bay is located about mid-point between Broome and the tip of the Dampier
Peninsula. It is 120 Kms north of Broome and 78 Kms south of Lombadina-Djarindjin. One Arm Point is another 31Kms past Lombadina. All the
roads are unsealed and mostly corrugated.
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- SACRED HEART CHURCH - BEAGLE BAY
After the Swan River settlement was established in 1929, it
was inevitable that explorations to the northwest would take place. Thus, in
1838 Beagle Bay was named after HMS Beagle, the vessel in which J.C. Whickham
surveyed the north-west coast when he discovered the bay on the 24th of January.
A little over half a century later Beagle Bay became the
bedrock of Catholicism for the Kimberleys. It all began when Bishop Gibney
invited the French Trappists to establish a mission there. Bishop Gibney placed
Beagle Bay under the special protection of the Sacred Heart by naming the
Mission "Notre Dame du Sacre Coeur" of the Kimberley. Today the
statue of the Sacred Heart takes a prominent place above the church's entrance
keeping a watchful eye over the community.
By the end of 1890 two Trappist Fathers, Ambrose Janny and
AIphonse Tachon, began fulfilling the vision of Bishop Gibney of bringing the
Good News of Jesus Christ to the Kimberley. When the French Trappists were no
longer able to support Beagle Bay Mission, Bishop Kelly of Geraldton invited the
Pallottines Fathers and Brothers to take over from the Trappists. Thus, on the
12th of June 1901, Propaganda Fide officially transferred Beagle Bay Mission to
the care of the Priests and Brothers of the Society of Catholic Apostolate, then
known as Pious Society of Missions.
On the 31st of January 1904, the mission suffered a great
loss when Fr. Henry Rensmann, a talented linguist who was able to preach in Nyul
Nyul after only a few months, died at the age of 27 years. He was the first
priest to be buried in the Beagle Bay Mission cemetery.
In the same year Fr. Thomas Bachmair was sent to fill the
vacancy caused by Fr. Rensmann’s death. Fr. Bachmair later became the
protagonist for the building of the new mission church. Perhaps if Fr. Rensmann
had not drowned on that fateful day we may not have the church that we have
In 1907, after approaching various religious orders Bishop
Gibney finally persuaded the St. John of God Sisters to come to Beagle Bay. By
1910, the mission school ran by the sisters had 44 girls and 40 boys.
Rudolph Newman, the oldest resident in the community, arrived
at Beagle Bay in that same year, 1910, as a 10 year old boy. He can still recall
the old mission church made out of rough iron sheets being located in front of
the present church’s main entrance, and the mission school located where the
church now stands. These old buildings were destroyed by a cyclone a number of
years later, which enabled Fr. Bachmair to use the site for the new church.
Rudolph also remembers a lugger named "Namban"
bringing in supplies from Broome to Beagle Bay. From the Bay bullock carts were
used to complete the final part of the journey to the mission. It was not until
1921 that a proper road to Broome was built by Fr. Droste and goods were able to
be brought up by car.
After the old church was destroyed the missionaries desired
to build a brick church. In order to obtain proper bricks they had to experiment
with different clay mixtures before getting the right proportion of white clay
and black mud that formed the right consistency for baking. A kiln for baking
bricks and burning shells was built at the back of the blacksmith's building.
For mortar, lime had to be extracted from sea shells. Large
piles of shells were collected from the beach by people and brought back to the
kiln with bullock carts. Rudolph tells how oyster shells had to be knocked off
the rocks with mattocks before loading them onto carts drawn by team of
bullocks. In the kiln layers of shells and layers of wood were placed on top of
each other alternatively, and shells thus burnt produced white lime. Since
cement wasn't available lime was used both for mortar and for plastering walls.
Br. Matthias and Br. Anton were the stone masons responsible for the brick work.
60,000 bricks into the church. By 1918, the shell of the church was finished
thanks to the brothers, priests and Aboriginal people who worked each day
regardless of the weather conditions.
Once the roof trusses were in place and sheeted with
corrugated iron the inside of the church was white washed and decorated. Fr.
Droste decorated the main brick altar with mother-of-pearl shells and coloured
shells embedded into the plaster. He cut letters from shinning mother-of-pearl
for an inscription around the tabernacle, "Dominus Deus et Deus Meus:
My Lord and My God. The tabernacle was framed with cowrie shells. Two boys,
Joseph Neebery and Joseph Gregory helped him to lay the high altar with shells
and a mosaic of mother-of-pearl.
The three inset mosaics in front of the altar depicts the
Lamb of God in the centre; a Greek Cross with a snake (The Lord said to Moses,
‘Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and if a serpent bit any man, he
would look at the bronze serpent and live’. (Numbers
21:8) on the right; and a Roman Cross on the left.
The original ceiling was made from bush timber; where strips
of mangrove wood were nailed, plastered and set with shells to resemble the sky.
This ceiling had to be altered after white-ants destroyed the plaster and
woodwork. Flatten kerosene tins were then used to replace the wooden ceiling.
On either side of the arch of the sanctuary, two angels hold
a scroll with the words:
"Christus Vincit, Christus Regnat, Christus Triumphat":
Christ Conquers or Overcomes, Christ Reigns, Christ Triumphs.
Br. Frank Hanke made the communion rail from red gum with
designs made of shells inset into the wood.
On the left, is the altar of Our Lady with the words, "Tota
pulchra es Maria, et macula non est in te": Mary is totally pure and stain
is not in thee. On the right is the altar of St. Joseph with a boat symbolising
the Church and an inscription: "Joseph, Patron of the Church pray for
The church was blessed and officially opened in August 1918
on the feast of the Assumption by Fr. Creagh, a Redemptorist priest and the
Apostolic Administrator of the Kimberleys. There is an inscription of that year,
1918, on the inside wall of the sanctuary. Fr. Thomas Bachmair died of
septicaemia ten days after the church was blessed.
Fr Droste then took on the task of completing the building of
the church tower. 15,000 double bricks, equivalent of 30,000 normal bricks were
used to build the 12 metre bell tower. The base of the wall is 1.2 metre thick.
According to Rudolph Newman, two of the bells were a gift from a parish in
Germany where Fr. Otto Raible was before coming to Australia May of 1928.
The Stations of the Cross are original paintings by a sister
of Fr. G. Hermes. Each Station is framed with shells. Each church door and
window is also framed with shells. The original plain transparent glass from the
windows were replaced with stained glass by Bishop Raible in 1940. Br. Joseph
Tautz and Br. Frank Hanke were the carpenters.
The floor of the church was re-tiled and concreted in the
60's by Fr. Michael Jackson and David (Dicky) Cox. Dicky's parents, David and
Lena Cox were the first couple to be married in this church.
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