The town of Bridgetown is situated on the Blackwood river, 95kms south of Bunbury and is set in extremely picturesque country. The Shire of Bridgetown Greenbushes has a population of 3,700 and is on the increase. The Parish of Bridgetown was declared in 1903 and placed under the protection of St Brigid’s of Ireland. However, the Parish records show that the church had already begun its work in the town before the turn of the century.
The town of Bridgetown is situated on the Blackwood river, 95kms south of Bunbury and is set in extremely picturesque country. The Shire of Bridgetown Greenbushes has a population of 3,700 and is on the increase. The Parish of Bridgetown was declared in 1903 and placed under the protection of St Brigid’s of Ireland. However, the Parish records show that the church had already begun its work in the town before the turn of the century. The first Catholic Church/school was built on the corner of Steere and Roe Streets in 1894. This was replaced in 1904 by the present St Brigid’s church building which also served as a school with an opening enrolment of 33 pupils. A separate weatherboard building (now the school library) was the Infants’ School. In the same year the ground floor of the Convent (now Ain Karim Retreat House) was built and occupied by four Sisters of Mercy from Bunbury. Prior to this, two Sisters had lived in a cottage close to where the present presbytery stands.
The second storey was added to the convent in the early 1920s to admit boarders from outlying districts and, for many years, was used in the school holidays to accommodate children for “Bushie Schools.” The present Parish Hall was built in 1925 as a school to serve the growing numbers of students seeking Catholic education. The present school was built in 1956 and has be4en extended three times. It now has an enrolment of 160 students and a staff of lay teachers. The first resident priest for Bridgetown, Fr William Tracey (1899-1901) lived in Roe Street. The present Parish House in Steere Street, which is occupied by a lay Pastoral Administrator, was built as a Presbytery in 1939. From 1897 until the present, there have been twenty one Parish Priests in Bridgetown.
In the beginning the Parish included Manjimup and Donnybrook but, with a growth in population and the availability of more priests, the boundaries were reorganized. Because of thriving mills and settlements at Donnelly River Mill and Yornup, Mass was celebrated in these places for many years as well as at Bridgetown, Greenbushes, Nannup, Boyup Brook and Kulikup. However, since 1986 the Parish of Bridgetown has included Balingup, Greenbushes and Nannup. The Sisters of Mercy left Bridgetown in 1989 and the Ain Karim Retreat House was established in the convent building, in the same year. Throughout the year retreats are offered on a one, two or three week basis and, from time to time, day retreats are also offered. In recent years the various religious denominations in the towns have moved closer together and have shared in celebrating some religious events. With three new ministers in Bridgetown in 1999 the Ministers Fraternal has been restablished and regular breakfast meetings are proving to be positive times to support and plan.
Preparation for the sacraments throughout the Parish includes children and parents, and programs are offered in each Mass Centre. Sacraments are then celebrated with the local church community. Programs to enhance the faith development of the parishioners are offered each year.
In order to provide a sense of community and belonging, a variety of social events are organized throughout the year. One of these has been directed towards funding for Uganda.
One distinctive feature of our church is the Choir which was formed for the annual Gospel Mass and now participates and contributes to many local events.
St Patricks, Greenbushes
Greenbushes was the earliest of the towns settled in the Bridgetown Parish and is situated 15 kilometres north of Bridgetown itself. It was established as a mining town in 1888 and rapidly attracted a large population. A church, convent and school were built and the latter staffed by the Sisters of St John of God. The parishioners of Greenbushes have always been served by the priest of Bridgetown. The presence of the Sisters and the school’s existence was short lived and the building was eventually moved to Nannup in 1939.
For many years the children went into Bridgetown during the school holidays for “Bushie School”. They stayed at the convent and were prepared by the Sister to receive the Sacraments of confession, Holy Communion and Confirmation. In later years, the Motor Mission sisters came and taught Religion Classes in the local school. The original church at Greenbushes was burnt down in 1973 and a new church was built and furnished within a year. This church is used by the Greenbushes and Balingup communities on the first and second Sundays of each month. On the third, fourth and fifth Sundays the combined church community meets at Balingup. The church is an important meeting place for the community.
St Therese’s, Balijngup
Balingup is a very old and attractive village situated on the South West Highway, about 30 kms north of Bridgetown. The Catholic Church is a prominent landmark on the highway and was constructed in 1979 after Cyclone Alby in 1978 caused great havoc in the south west of WA and blew the original church off its wooden foundations. Originally Balingup was part of the Nannup Parish and the priest travelled across to celebrate Mass there monthly, fortnightly and then weekly. It was transferred to the care of Bridgetown in 1971. The Motor Mission Sisters provided great service to faith development of the families in the Balingup area over a long period of time. The communities of Balingup and Greenbushes, who share Sunday Liturgies, have worked over the years to build a spirit of unity. Morning tea after each liturgy has helped to contribute to this. Their efforts to host the Ball and assist with the running of the Small Farm Field Day are notable contributions to the local community. As in all small towns of the parish, the church of Balingup is a focal point for the local Catholic community.
St Thomas More, Nannup
Nannup is beautifully situated 43kms west of Bridgetown and 55kms south of Busselton, and is once again coming alive as a popular tourist town. The townsite was officially declared in 1890 and was established quickly for its timber industry. It was first visited annually by a priest from Bunbury and then in 1912, when a priest was stationed in Busselton, he came to Nannup about once every three months. By 1917, Mass was celebrated in the local hall each month and the present church, St Thomas More, was built and opened in 1925. 1937 the Sisters of St Joseph moved into a convent and taught for a time in the church until the Greenbushes school was moved to Nannup in 1939. From 1938 to 1952 Nannup was attached to the Parish of Bridgetown then, when a presbytery was purchased, Fr Sean Sorchen was appointed as the first of ten Parish Priests to serve in the Nannup Parish which included Cundinup, Jarrahwood and Balingup. With a decline in the population the school was closed in 1965 but the Sisters stayed on to run the Motor Mission which covered an extensive number of schools. They withdrew to Busselton in 1971 and the convent was moved to form part of the Busselton Youth Camp. In 1986 Nannup again became part of the Bridgetown Parish and a priest no longer resided there.
Although the Catholic Community is small at present, Liturgy is celebrated each Saturday evening and one special highlight of the parish is the women’s weekly prayer/study group. The Sacramental Programs are conducted in Nannup when the need arises and in 1999 Bishop Peter Quinn will visit and confirm six young adults.
The banner logo chosen by Fr. Matt and the Parish Councillors was the design submitted by Charne Scallan (Year 11) of Greenbushes.
The explanation of the various symbols she has depicted is as follows:
- The crucifix represents Jesus.
- The Hand of God blesses us with the Blackwood River.
- The Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, carries a tulip (Balingup and Nannup).
- The Heart shows our love.
- The Blackwood River – all towns in the Parish are associated with it.
This logo was quilted and attached to the Diocesan Banner by Anthea Brough of Nannup.