There is an accessible version of this website. You can click here to switch now or switch to it at any time by clicking Accessibility in the footer.

‘Catholicism on the Margins’ conference honours the Catholic Church’s contributions to WA


Professor Kilda delivered a lecture “Absence or Amnesia, Was the Golden West really free from ‘the noxious weed of sectarianism’ that blighted early twentieth-century Australia?” on 18 April at the St Mary’s Cathedral. Photo: Amanda Murthy.

By Amanda Murthy

Every year, the Archdiocesan Archives Office – in collaboration with The Centre for Faith Enrichment celebrates the rich culture and traditions of the Catholic faith, and this year was no different.

More than 70 participants gathered at St Mary’s Cathedral Parish Centre for World Heritage Day on 18 April.

The three-part lecture series titled “Catholicism on the Margins” featured academic researchers, including: Dr Catherine Kovesi of the University of Melbourne, Adjunct Professor Jeff Kildea of the University of New South Wales, and Independent Researcher Dr Christine Choo.

The topics in focus this year included Dr Kildea’s talk “Absence or Amnesia, Was the Golden West really free from ‘the noxious weed of sectarianism’ that blighted early twentieth-century Australia?”, Dr Kovesi’s “Keeping the Faith in Faithless Times” that lends an insight into how the Hungarian poor sisters of Notre Dame of Kalocsa offered a rest home for ladies in WA, and Dr Choo’s lecture titled “Daughters of Our Lady, Queen of the Apostles – the first order of indigenous nuns in Australia, 1938 to 1951”.

Introducing the event was Perth Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB and St Mary’s Cathedral Dean Father Sean Fernandez.

Archbishop Costelloe began his speech by welcoming all present and reflecting on the recent fire that engulfed Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, connecting the sad event to some of his experiences within the Catholic community here in Australia.


Perth Auxiliary Bishop Donald Sproxton participated in the event. He is seen interacting with a relative of Dr Kovesi during the lunch break gathering on 18 April at the St Mary’s Cathedral. Photo: Amanda Murthy.

“In 2007, the St Joseph’s Church in Collingwood in Melbourne, of which I was Parish Priest of at the time, was burnt to the ground on the Monday of the Holy Week, just as the Notre Dame Paris Cathedral fire took place on the Monday of Holy Week this year, hence this news affected me even more so,” Archbishop Costelloe said.

“The sense of horror, powerlessness and loss in watching a sacred place go up in flames before your eyes is unfortunately very familiar to me.

“What connected the two experiences mentioned was a comment made by a religious sister who was interviewed a couple of days ago after witnessing the Notre Dame tragedy.

“She remarked that the Church of God is not made up by bricks and wall, but it is made up of the people – even if it seems that we are facing destruction, we will rise again because Christ is risen from the dead, we will rise from our present sufferings,” Archbishop Costelloe added.

Archbishop Costelloe said despite the Church being a place of encountering Christ, it does not matter how the exterior is, it matters how we, create that physical, emotional, sacred and intellectual place for God to enter into our hearts.

“All these experiences reminds us that maybe being on the margins, as the theme of today suggests, is where we should be,” he said.


Centre for Faith Enrichment Director Dr Marco Ceccarelli and Archdiocesan Archivist Odhran O’Brien together with other participants at the ‘Catholism on the Margins’ on 18 April at the St Mary’s Cathedral. Photo: Amanda Murthy.

“Jesus found Himself on the margins when He was crucified outside the city walls, abandoned by His people, and ridiculed by everyone who passed by.

“But it is from the disaster of the crucifixion that the new life of resurrection sprang, just as we are being reassured that from the disaster of the fire from Notre Dame, that the Cathedral and all God’s Churches, will rise again from the ashes,” Archbishop Costelloe concluded.

Archdiocesan Archivist Director Odhran O’Brien said the event was a success and hopes that it will continue to grow and provide more academic opportunities.

“Many representatives from Catholic parishes and Catholic schools from the Perth Archdiocese, the University of Notre Dame Australia, the University of Western Australia, and the Anglican Archdiocese of Perth participated,” Mr O’Brien said.

“Interest in the event grows every year as it provides an opportunity for professional development and explores new aspects of Christian scholarship.

“Now more than ever, I feel it is important to provide a space in which the Catholic community can continue to tell its story with all its complexities and accomplishments,” he added.


Dr Kovesi stands with her family who attended “Catholicism on the Margins” on 18 April at the St Mary’s Cathedral. Photo: Amanda Murthy.

Centre for Faith Enrichment Director, Dr Marco Ceccarelli, said that the event was a good way to unearth and discuss the unreported history of the Catholic Church at such a significant historical site such as St Mary’s Cathedral Church.

“We want to continue to create awareness around the incredible work which religious orders, groups, missionaries, and clergy have carried out in the Catholic community, but we also want to share how this has impacted the secular world,” he said.

“Much of the charitable, social and religious work done by the religious groups discussed in this conference was offered to all, regardless of one’s religious, cultural or political background.

“We are therefore celebrating the rich history of the Church in WA and believe that we have much to learn from these individuals if we are to continue the legacy they have left behind.