The history of the Catholic Church in the Kimberley began in the late 1800's when the spread of cattle and the growth of the pearling industry in the Kimberley region drew an influx of Europeans and Asians into the region. In the 1870's, the Bishop of Perth, Martin Griver, campaigned for a missionary foundation in the north. It was not until 1884, at the invitation of Bishop Griver, that Father Duncan McNab finally arrived in the Kimberley to serve the Catholics in the region and to establish contact with the local Aboriginal people. Keen to build on the work of his predecessor, Bishop Gibney negotiated for the establishment of an Aboriginal mission in the Dampierland area. A mission site was selected a few kilometres inland from Beagle Bay (Nyul Nyul country) which was a popular lay-up base for the pearling luggers. In 1890, Trappist (Cistercian) monks from Sept Fons in France founded a mission at Beagle Bay. Their activities extended into the growing metropolis of Broome in 1895. In 1901, the Pallottine Fathers from Germany took over Beagle Bay Mission with two priests and four brothers and, in 1907, they were joined by the Sisters of St. John of God from Ireland. The Sisters assisted the priests and brothers in evangelising the coastal and desert areas of the vast Kimberley.
In 1895 Father Nicholas Emo was placed in charge of the mission station in the town of Broome which was developing at a steady pace. The population of approximately 500 consisted of about 50 'white' residents with the remainder being Japanese, Chinese, Malays and Filipinos.
In 1897, the Parish of Broome was established. A small church and a small school for native children were built. The church became known as 'Our Lady Queen of Peace'.
During the First World War, the German Pallottine missionaries were interned and Father John Creagh, a Redemptorist Priest, took charge of the newly established Vicariate.
Bishop Ernest Coppo of the Salesian order, administered the Vicariate between 1922 and 1928. In 1929 Father Otto Raible SAC, took over and was consecrated Bishop in 1935.
During World War II, the German Pallottine Fathers and Brothers were jailed and interned in Melbourne. Most of the population of Broome was evacuated to Beagle Bay and the Lombadina Missions. Bishop Raible, Vicar Apostolic of the Kimberley, resigned in August 1958 and was succeeded by Bishop John Jobst, the first residential Bishop of Broome.
The post war era saw extensive expansion of missionary activities, influx of religious orders and establishment of the Kimberley Lay Missionary Association. Priests and religious Brothers and Sisters starting moving into the east Kimberley, at the invitation of the Bishop, and a network of parishes and schools spread throughout. There are now eight parishes and 13 Catholic schools within the diocese. In 1966 the Vicariate was raised to the status of a Diocese. The first Diocesan priest was ordained in 1976. The present Bishop of Broome, the Most Rev Christopher Saunders, was ordained Bishop on 8th February 1996. Today, the Diocese of Broome covers over 773,000 Sq Km of the greater Kimberley region and serves a population of over 33,500.
24 February 2014
Cite this: http://www.findandconnect.gov.au/guide/wa/WE00265
First published by the Find & Connect Web Resource Project for the Commonwealth of Australia, 2011
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