Several theories are put forward as to the origin of the name of the town. The Aboriginal name Ketaning – the place where the bird known as the Willy Wagtail (Chitty Chitty) nests. The aboriginal Kartanup where “kart” means head and “annup” meeting place, so the head meeting place…for visiting Aboriginals. The history of the parish of Katanning reads like a miniature version of “Gone with the Wind”. So many interesting and historical events, humorous anecdotes, family tragedies and on many occasions shared joys are recorded that some of them are almost unimaginable. The nationalities of the priests are mixed, mainly Irish as were their parishioners and English, Italian, Australian, Polish, Dutch and Filipino. The Catholics of this area, which became known as the “Great Southern”, lived in the districts and towns of Katanning, Kojonup, Gnowangerup, Tambellup, Wagin, Narrogin and down south to Ravensthorpe. In earlier years the priests had to cover these distances on horseback or in a horse and buggy – the latter could only be used if finance was sufficient and there was a track on which to drive.

The first Catholic Mass celebrated in the Katanning district was by Fr Matthew Gibney, an Irishman traveling his vast parish on horseback. On one of his visits to an outlying homestead he called at Martinup near Broomehill where the lady fo the house, Anna Maria Norrish Treasure, gave him newly baked scones to ear. Unfortunately she had made a mistake and used arsenic instead of baking powder. The priest nearly died. Another story from Martinup – the marriage of Elizabeth Mary Treasure, eldest daughter of Anna Maria and Edward Treasure, who was to marry James Michael Flanagan. The food was prepared and many guests had arrived, but no priest. It seems he had got lost! So they all got dressed in their wedding attire and had the wedding feast – Father arrived in a few days. The bride got dressed again and Elizabeth and James were married. Fr Gibney was followed by a Frenchman, Fr Matteau. Then came Fr Delaney, another Irishman. He was well known for his poor sense of direction and often became lost. Fr Coll traveled extensively around the district mostly with the sandalwood cutters. He did his best to persuade parents to send their daughters to Albany where a convent was being established. Fr Joseph Chmelicek, a Russian Pole, cam to live in a mud hut in the district, his place of residence being situated between Katanning and Kojonup. He died alone in his hut with a rosary in his hand. He was 76 years old when he died in 1890. Fr Reidy had his body exhumed from its burial place near the hut and placed in consecrated ground in the Norrish-Treasure-Jones family portion of the Kojonup cemetery.

Katanning then became a separate parish from Kojonup and the first resident priest was Fr Duff, an Irishman. He was responsible for the first timber church which had an attic over the sacristy where he had his home. Four families were responsible for the construction of the building – Job Haddleton, Cronin, Grover and Noonan were the builders. The building did not have sufficient foundations for the large heavy building and the top part gave way under the excessive weight. Next was Fr Timothy Dooley 1894-96, followed by Fr James Flood, then Fr James Phelan 1901-08. Fr Michael Reidy came to the parish in 1908. In that year he celebrated the marriage of Job Francis and Agnes Haddleton. This was just before the church was built and they were the first couple married by him after taking up his duties in the area. The Haddleton family has been associated with the parish from its very beginning. The first marriage in the church in 1909 was Mary Jane Haddleton and Patrick Garrity. The first marriage in the renovated church in 1962 was Ainslie Haddleton and John Evans. Fr Reidy was Irish and a very popular figure around town. He mixed with persons and ministers of all religions. He combined his religious ideas with being a great sportsman and horse owner. He was instrumental in having the church in Amherst Street constructed and obtaining the services of the Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions. Under his pastoral care the three rooms of St Rita’s, now St Patrick’s school was constructed. In the late 1920s Fr Reidy drove his old bomb of a car the 40 miles to Gnowangerup to celebrate Mass once a month. After Mass he usually called at Martinup on his way back to Katanning. Huge roast dinners were prepared for Father and the adult members of the Treasure family. Fr Reidy left Katanning in 1935 for Northam and later West Perth. From 1935-37 Fr Peter Doddy served the parish but he suffered from asthma and the cold winter was bad for his health. He died in Shenton Park in 1950. Fr Fred Byrne, an Australian, was Parish Priest from 1937-50. He was followed by Francis Regan who was an outgoing and generous priest. He was a very energetic priest and was responsible for the successful St. Rita’s Choir, which won Australia wide accolades after their successful visit to Canberra in 1951.

Then came Fr Edmund McSweeney who served his people for the next 14 years. He was known as the “builder priest” and it was during his time that additions were done to the school. It was under Fr McSweeney that the P & F was formed, as was the first parish council. Bushie schools for children from outlying areas were held in the convent giving the children the opportunity to learn their faith and receive the sacraments. Fr McSweeney moved onto Denmark where he spent the rest of his life. The first undertaking of the new Parish Priest, Fr William Costello was to build two more classrooms, a new toilet block, staff room and headmaster’s room for a total cost of $30,000. These were opened and blessed in 1975 by Inspector Graham McKinnon and Bishop Myles McKeon. Fr Costello was Parish Priest until 1979. The Sisters celebrated their 50 years in Katanning in 1976. Fr Edward Kenny became Parish Priest in 1979 being transferred from Albany. He was Vicar General of the Diocese. 1986-88 Fr Andrew Pyka SDS – a Polish Priest. He was followed by another Polish Priest, Fr John Liszka, Parish Priest from 1988 to 1990, when he was transferred to Esperance. Fr Michael Dziedzic then served from 1990-91 until his transfer to Mt Barker in January 1992. From 1992-94 Fr Kevin Johnston served the parish by starting a lot of outgoing associations. During this time of service he had his long service leave when he went home to Ireland and Fr Adrian Van Klooster relieved him serving in the parish from 1994-98. Relieving priests have been Fr McCall (1947); Fr Crocetti (1967); Fr Faulkner (1975); Fr Douglas Conlon (1980,83,84).

Members of the Founding Families who have spent their lives in the service of the Lord:

Laurel Harken – Sr M. Phillipa (Our Lady of the Missions); Marion McLeod – Sr M. Bernadette (Our Lady of the Missions); Phillipa Cronin – Sr M. Marion (Our Lady of the Missions): Miss Brosnan – Sr Romuald (Our Lady of the Missions); Kathleen Levitzke – Sr M. DeRicci (Dominican); Fr John Bonata SM – Missionary Priest Tonga; Fr Hugh Galloway – former Albany Parish Priest; Br Patrick Dwyer – Christian Brother; Fr Michael Slattery who was a teacher at St. Pat’s before joining the seminary and is now Parish Priest of Waroona and Harvey.

Katanning is in the centre of the Great Southern area, and is the centre of a wheat and sheep farming district and is primarily an agricultural farming community with its supporting industries. It is a multicultural community with 12 different religious organizations. It is 240kms east of Bunbury and has been a parish since 1880. There is a fine church and presbytery as well as a Catholic school. The priest in Katanning also oversees the parishes of Kojonup and Tambellup, as well as providing Mass in Broomehill as an out station of Katanning. The church in Katanning has St. Patrick as Patron, the church in Kojonup has St. Bernard, the church in Tambellup has St. Michael and Broomehill has Our Lady of Fatima. There is a presbytery in Kojonup and a Parish house in Tambellup. Katanning has a population of 5,500 people.

Long before Broomehill or Katanning came into being, a small but thriving township with hotel, two stores, three Smithies, a church and farm houses was established at Eticup on the Kojonup- Broomehill road. Then came the railway in 1889 and the town of Broomehill was formed, four miles away, replacing Eticup as a focal point. Through there were Catholic families in the district, and in the 1920s Broomehill must have been fairly prosperous, society was very diverse and the church seems not to have had much influence and no effort was made to build a church, although there were three town blocks for the purpose. Perhaps the proximity of Katanning, which was expanding rapidly, had something to do with this. The first resident priest of the district, which comprises Narrogin, Wagin and Katanning was Fr Chimelicek, who arrived in 1882 and the first resident priest of Katanning was Fr James Duff, circa 1890, who incidentally built the first church in Katanning. His successors were Fr Tim Dooley 1994-96, Fr James Flood, Fr James Phelan and Fr Michael Reidy 1908-1935. The first recorded Mass in Broomehill was celebrated in the early 1920s by Fr Reidy who traveled per motorbike from Katanning, the venues being variously, the Mechanic’s Institute, the Shire Hall, a corner room in part of the hotel building or a vacant shop. There followed the Great Depression and the second World War. The end of world War II and the subsequent “New Beginning”, plans were set in motion to build a church. The Community, led by Fr W. Costello, set about fund raising in earnest e.g. fancy dress dances in the Broomehill Hall, Barbeques and Square dances at “Kia Ora” woolshed, and generous donations of wool and grain. The church was finally completed and blessed by Bishop Goody in 1954.Broomehill is a small town with a population of 540 and it serves a mainly farming community. It is part of the Katanning Parish but has its own identity.

Patch Story
Done by Mrs Flugge (Snr)

The patch shows the hands of friendship extended to everyone in the parish and the world.

The dove is for peace to everyone.

The heart means that Katanning is the centre of the great southern.

The railway line which contributed to the development of the great southern met in Katanning in the year 1888.

The sheep/ wool: Katanning and Broomehill have the biggest and the best sheep country in Australia, and also the largest sheep yards in the southern hemisphere.