Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish, North Belconnen
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2 Tyrrell Circuit, Kaleen
Fr Mick Mac Andrew
(02) 6241 3364
Tuesday 10.00 to 13.00, Thursday 10 to 13.00, Friday 9.30 to 12.30


A History of St Michael's Parish and Mass Centre, Kaleen ACT

On 7 October 1976, Archbishop Cahill officially "… dismembered the parish of St Monica, Evatt, and erected the parish of St Michael the Archangel, Kaleen, as from the 4th of November 1976". The suburbs of Giralang and Kaleen had been formally created in January 1974 and for archdiocesan purposes were attached to St Monica’s.

The first months of the parish relied on the Giralang pioneers, as housing construction in Kaleen started later. Giralang parishioners have been integral to the spiritual and practical life of the parish which was often described locally as "St Michael’s Kaleen-Giralang".

The first Mass was celebrated on 7 November 1976 at the new presbytery in Powlett Street. Sunday Masses were soon celebrated at Kaleen Primary School in Ashburton Circuit. On commencement of classes at the new St Michael’s primary school in February 1982 all Masses were celebrated in the school hall. Weekday masses were in the small annex at the back of the hall.

In 1990 St Michael’s Church was opened. The foundation stone was blessed by Archbishop Carroll on 13 May 1990 and the dedication took place on 8 December 1990. The church and presbytery are adjacent to St Michael’s school, with easy and safe access between school and church. The house at Powlett Street was sold in February 1991.

A young St Michael’s parish thrived, but reflecting its suburbs the demographics slowly changed. From a peak of 156 Baptisms in 1982-83, St Michael’s saw only 18 Baptisms in 2016-17.

The parish was formally absorbed into the new North Belconnen Parish of Our Lady of Perpetual Help (OLOPH) on 1 January 2018. The ‘Decree for the Modification of the parishes of Evatt and Kaleen’ was issued on 30 August 2017 by Archbishop Prowse. A simple Liturgy of Inauguration of the new parish was held on 18 February 2018, at St Francis Xavier High School, Florey. The church building retained its name, as did St Monica’s. St Michael’s presbytery became the OLOPH office in 2018.

Kaleen has a claim as the suburb of churches, with four purpose-built church buildings – St Michael’s, St Mark Coptic Orthodox, St Simon’s Anglican and All Saints Greek Orthodox. In addition to these buildings there are other places of formal worship in the suburb.


In 1977, Sunday Masses started with the 6 pm vigil, and 8:30 and 10:00. Mass was also celebrated every day of the week. A Sunday evening Mass was introduced by Father Bernie Patterson in 1986, and later a 7:15pm Saturday Charismatic Mass. In 1996, Sunday Masses were the 6pm vigil, and 9am and 5:30. The Monday Mass was discontinued. With the appointment in 2012 of a Parish Administrator based at St Monica’s, changes to Mass times were necessary. St Monica’s had the 6pm Vigil while St Michael’s retained the Sunday evening 5:30pm Mass. The 9am Sunday Mass became 8am. Weekday Masses were celebrated on Tuesdays and Thursdays. In 2015, Saturday morning Mass was added.


Among the tasks facing the newly created Parish in 1976 was the construction of a parish school. As early as March 1978, 87 children were being bussed to Holy Rosary school in Watson. That task was pursued successfully, and St Michael’s school opened in February 1982 (the official opening was in 2

June 1983). In its first year, the school had 250 pupils. The parish’s annual return to the Archdiocese reported enrolments at St Michael’s school as 440 in 1987, 365 in 1997, and 185 in 2017.

The School of Religion had 40 students in 1978 rising to 94 in 1991 but falling to 22 by 2001. In 2010, no school of religion figures were reported. The parish’s final annual report in 2016-17 showed no school of religion.

Not the first St Michael’s to the north of Civic.

St Michael’s School in Lyneham opened on 19 September 1961. The school, near St Ninian’s, was also to be used as a church. This St Michael’s was not a parish, however, as it existed primarily to provide additional classrooms for an overflowing St Joseph’s O’Connor. The school closed in December 1973, when there was no longer sufficient demand in O’Connor/Lyneham.

St Michael’s Lyneham had been staffed by Sisters of the Ursuline Order, which also provided Sister Ita Maher and Sister Anne Cougle as the first two principals of St Michael’s Kaleen.


The first Mass in the new parish was concelebrated at the Powlett Street presbytery by Archbishop Cahill and the first Parish Priest, Father Hilton Roberts in November 1976. In April 1986, Father Bernie Patterson was appointed Parish Priest, serving the area to May 1996. Father Steve Tynan MGL assisted for a short period in 1993.

Fathers Chris Irwin (from May 1996 ), Lachlan Coll (July 2002) and Peter Ha, Doai (August 2008) followed. In October 2012 Father Warwick Tonkin, then Parish Priest of St Monica’s Evatt, was appointed Administrator for St Michael’s. Father Luis Viovicente (Father Loi) took over from Father Warwick in July 2015. He became the first Parish Priest of the newly created North Belconnen parish of Our Lady of Perpetual Help on its creation at the beginning of 2018. Father Johny Abraham became the Assistant Priest in the new parish, having supported Father Loi when he was Administrator prior to amalgamation.

Our Parish Priests have had valuable support in their pastoral work from other religious and from the parish community including, in order, Sister Anne Fitzpatrick (mid to late 1980s), Sisters Anne Cougle and Genny Ryan (late 1980s to the mid-1990s). Sister Kate McMahon who commenced at St Michael’s in July 2013, has continued with the new Parish, extending her work beyond Kaleen and Giralang into McKellar, Spence, Melba, Evatt and Lawson.


The parish prospered as a living community from its inception. The St Vincent de Paul Society and the Catholic Women’s League were active as Parish-based organisations from the beginning. Members of the parish from older suburbs of Canberra provided valuable guidance to the many eager young families moving to their first Canberra home and sometimes from interstate.

As the parish grew in population so did its support for its own and in outreach. While by no means extraordinary in Catholic communities throughout Australia, St Michael’s did live the mission of the Church through the pastoral care provided. By 1997, the four Pastoral Council committees were co-ordinating over 40 separate groups and activities.

After 5 years as principal of St Michael’s School, Sister Anne Cougle together with Sister Genny Ryan and Father Bernie Patterson formed the Pastoral Planning Team.

No single event defined St Michael’s. It was a place of worship and community for the suburbs’ Catholic population, and some non-Catholics too who enjoyed both our worship and community. Like its neighbours, the priestly and lay leadership changed regularly, each turnover bringing 3

different talents. Many parishioners have been and continue to be active members of the many Catholic and other Christian prayer and support groups that are Canberra or national rather than parish-based.

Community activities have included:

? Strong acolyte and Mass co-ordination participation by parishioners. Altar decoration and church cleaning.

? Community-based choirs. The choir composition and hymn and song selection have reflected the changing demographics of Kaleen and Giralang.

? Care group, providing meals to families in short term need.

? Prayer trees and chains – members circulated urgent prayer requests

? Morning teas held mid-week in parishioners’ homes for young families and newcomers throughout the 1980s and ‘90s.

? Morning tea after the Sunday morning Mass, since mid-1999 (excluding January!)

? Parish commitment to building and supporting the school from 1976 to today. Combined school and parish fetes and trivia nights, and working bees.

? Active support for World Youth Day in July 2008. In February 2008 St Michael’s (with St Monica’s) had hosted the WYD Cross on its journey to Sydney. For the Days in the Diocese which preceded the formal Sydney WYD, St Michael’s Parish through our many parishioners hosted overseas pilgrims from Papua New Guinea, France and Germany. A number of parishioners attended WYD.

? Youth groups thrived in the peak school years of ‘first settler’ families. By 1990, a Year 6-7 group and a Year 8 – 10 youth group made good use of the school hall and provided fun excursions. A primary-school-aged youth group ran from 2001 to 2010, and formed the drive for the parish participation in World Youth Day in 2008.


On his arrival as Parish Priest in 1986, Father Bernie was greeted with the news that the parish wanted its own church building. And adjoining presbytery! The Powlett Street presbytery was a handy walk to the Tyrrell Street school, but not ideally placed for busy pastors.

A church building committee was established in 1988. It prepared a detailed design brief for a field of architects, and selected Canberra firm Munns, Sly and Associates. The architect’s statement on the dedication of the church explained the design as follows:

St Michael’s church and presbytery have been sited next to St Michael’s School in order to create a parish centre. The church has been designed as a symbol of that community and as a physical sign of the commitment of its members. ……………….

The form of the church consists of a series of simple pitched roofs with a clerestory light which reflects the spatial and symbolic intentions of the interior. The roofs hover over very firm masonry walls.

The interior of the building is organised around a central axis which concludes with a huge cross carved through the northern wall. The cross is flanked by the tabernacle and baptismal pool. Together the three elements are powerful symbols of the sacraments and suggest the Trinity. ……."

Construction of the church building was undertaken by Caesar Defranceschi. The Master Builders’ Association of the ACT awarded his company D & F Enterprises Pty Ltd an Excellence in Building Award in 1991 for its work on the church.

As at June 2019, the building fabric is unchanged from its original construction. 4

Stained glass windows installed to the side and rear of the altar were designed by Sister Genny Ryan. The blue and green glass windows near the Baptistery symbolise water; the church design had included an immersion baptismal pool in the front right corner of the altar (which has now been covered). The windows near the tabernacle are a deep red wine colour surrounded by glass with salmon and other pink hues. All four windows were made by Canberra glass artist Alois Mikula. The ceiling-suspended sanctuary lamp was designed and fabricated by glass artist Velta Vilmanis.

The furniture: All major items of altar furniture were designed and made by Donald Fortescue and Anteon Merman of Murrumbateman, from silky oak and jarrah timber. The architect’s statement noted that "…the furniture and art works …have been thoroughly integrated into the design and add to the ambience and serenity of the Church." The pews, made from silky oak and Tasmanian oak, were also designed by this firm, and constructed by Canberra firm Fine Design.

The large wooden crucifix mounted over the main doors were crafted by Peter von Rack from Western Australia at the same time as he crafted an altar for the Seafarers’ Mission in Dampier; the timber came from the demolished Point Samson jetty. It was installed in the school hall in 1982, and was moved to the new church building in 1990.

A traditional crucifix is framed by the glass and steel cross integrated into the wall behind the altar. That crucifix – without the wooden cross - was obtained from the deconsecrated St Peter’s Church in Coolac (near Gundagai). A suitable timber crucifix, made by parishioner Bill Jones, bears a small plaque from the original Coolac cross and reads: ‘Pray for Patrick John Sullivan Died 11th July 1964 R I P’. The retention of the plaque symbolically acknowledges the role of so many families in the Catholic Church’s history in country New South Wales, while forming a link within the Archdiocese between the old (St Peter’s was consecrated in 1925) and the new.

The gardens: The tree-based garden layout was undertaken by parishioners as was subsequent garden maintenance. Later tree plantings marked World Youth Day (2008) on the front corner and behind the church. The rear planting for this celebration included five birches in the formation of the Southern Cross has been slightly more successful, with four trees surviving. A rejuvenation of the front garden by parishioners in the late 2000s added year-round colour.

Later furniture: Additional items of altar furniture were added in the 2000’s. Most were made by parishioner Bill Jones, at the request of the Parish Priests. These included the cover for the immersion baptismal pool (Tasmanian Oak, with a merbau cross inlay), a stand for a traditional baptismal font (Tasmanian Oak and merbau), an altar of repose (mountain ash and merbau), a matching stand for the Paschal candle. The Stations of the Cross were added by Father Coll. The timber bowls used for the first collection at weekend Masses were turned from solid timber (Brazilian teak) by parishioner Helen Heindl’s father, Mr J Boulding, in 1993.

Intellectual, labour, skill and monetary contributions by so many parishioners and visitors to the building are recognised by the simple ‘Make your home in me" (John 15:3) plate affixed to the exterior of the church.


In 2019 St Michael’s church is filled with a rich mix of people from many parts of the globe. The future leaders of the new parish will come from this mix and from St Monica’s, bringing with them interpretations of parish and community relevant for them and their children.


This brief history has been prepared from primary documents held in the records of St Michael’s church. Additional detail has been sought from other sources in those few instances where the records are incomplete. A more detailed history is held in the parish archives.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish, North Belconnen

Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish, North Belconnen was created in 2018 from an amalgamation of two former parishes: St Monica’s Evatt (1974) and St Michael the Archangel, Kaleen (1976). The Inauguration of the new Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish, North Belconnen was celebrated in a special liturgy held at St Francis Xavier College Florey on 18 February 2018. During the celebration, Icons of Our Lady of Perpetual Help for the Parish Centre, and St Monica’s and St Michael’s Churches and Primary Schools were blessed and distributed.

Parish Centre Icon

St Monica’s Parish Evatt

Establishment of Parishes in Belconnen

Parishes were founded across the satellite city of Belconnen as the population grew in the late 1960s and 1970s: St Vincent de Paul, Aranda was founded in 1969, St Matthew’s ,Page 1970, St John the Apostle, Kippax 1972 and St Monica’s Evatt and St Thomas Aquinas Charnwood in 1974 followed by St Michael the Archangel, Kaleen in 1976.

Until churches were built, Sunday Mass was often celebrated in school halls, initially in the local government primary schools and then in the local Catholic primary schools when they were built.

Establishment of St Monica’s Parish

St Monica’s Parish takes in the suburbs of Evatt, Mackellar, Melba and Spence and, for the period mid 2007- December 2012, the township of Hall. Until the parish was founded, many parishioners had attended Mass in the halls of Latham and Flynn Primary Schools.

The Parish of St Monica’s was opened in 1974 with the first Mass celebrated by its founding pastor, Fr Adrian Cork in the library of Evatt Primary School on 4th November 1974.

The first presbytery at 19 Clancy Street, Evatt was the centre of the parish for many years. Baptisms were conducted in the lounge room and many significant meetings took place at the dining room table.

The rapid growth of Belconnen determined that the establishment of St Monica’s School was an important focus for the new parish. Many students from the parish area were attending the existing heavily populated Catholic schools of St Vincent’s Aranda and St Matthew’s Page. So, with some urgency, the great deal of energy, commitment and enthusiasm on the part of the Catholic Education System, Father Cork and the pioneer parishioners came to fruition with the opening of St Monica’s Catholic Primary School in 1977.

Parish sacraments and liturgical celebrations were now celebrated on school premises. Reconciliation, weekday and class Masses were celebrated in the school chapel. Sunday Mass was celebrated in the school hall for the first time on 15th May 1977 and for the last time on 29th November 1987.

Early Days of the Parish

Building community was naturally the focus of the new parish. Given the desire, the shared venue and the involvement of a large number of the same personnel, close cooperation between the school and parish wasn’t surprising. Lay people played a particularly significant role in this parish as St Monica’s was the first Catholic Primary School in Belconnen to be founded by lay staff and, under the guidance of the foundation principal Mr Michael Hogan, was the first Catholic Primary School in Canberra to set up a school board.

Many groups were formed to meet the diverse physical, practical, theological, welfare, and social needs of the rapidly growing school and parish. Many of these remain in some form today. These include those associated with the liturgical aspects of the Church; acolytes, special ministers, choirs, readers and altar servers and those involved with the practical aspects such as the Altar Society, cleaners, florists, counters, maintenance and gardeners. Other examples include the parish council, the finance and building committees, the Parish School of Religion, Lenten study and prayer groups, a St Vincent de Paul Conference and other outreach groups, RCIA, family groups, Third Age Group (Tags), cricket team, golf group, book clubs, family groups, and a craft group.

Parish social events such as bush dances, fundraising dinners and progressive dinners were great occasions in this newly settled area. The social dimension of parish life continues. Parishioners enjoy gathering together to celebrate St Monica’s Feast Day in August and regular Sunday morning teas and the monthly Tags lunch.


On 5 December 1987 Most Reverend Francis Carroll consecrated and opened St Monica’s Parish Church.

The Canberra Times of January 6 1988 describes the occasion:

"The congregation of about 500, including ministers from other Christian churches in the area, gathered first in the St Monica’s Primary School hall where Sunday Masses had been held for the past 10 years. From there the bishop and priest in red chasubles, acolytes, readers and choirboys, led a colourful procession to the new church.

The Chairman of the Building Committee, Mr John Mills, welcomed the Archbishop. Representatives of the architect, Darryl Jackson Pty Ltd, and the builder, Westlands Pty Ltd, handed over the plans and key to the Archbishop who asked Father Cork to open the doors."

Mr Graham Connor, Chair of the Parish Council elaborated on the realisation of the St Monica’s Church; "By the grace of God we have had in Father Cork and our parishioners a deep reservoir of commitment and generosity which is the wellspring of the strong community feeling at St Monica’s. This strong spirit, building on itself, has led to the building of our fine church…. We, as parishioners of all ages, now have a wonderful building in which we can suitably offer praise and glory."

The architect’s statement on the design of the church explained that "the materials of the building have been chosen to provide a familiar connection to St Monica’s School. So the red brick of the school has been carried through into the walls of the church and the white brick banding and off-white roof allude to the white upperworks of the school."

The altar, ambo, font and font table were created by Fine Design Furniture.


The CRUCIFIX on the wall of the sanctuary was made by artist Maria Kuczynska.

"The Crucifixion is the most powerful, self-contained symbol of our physical end, our spiritual beginning’.

The sculpture of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament to the left side of the altar was created by the same artist and was a gift to the parish from Fr Cork.


1. The Jubilee Creation Window

Fr Dermid McDermott was a key initiator of a special window to mark the Year of the Jubilee 2000. With parish financial support, the window was commissioned. It was designed by Gerry Cummins and Jill Stehn from Eumundi in Queensland.

The window represents the Tree of Life against the Canberra landscape.

The symbolism of the Tree of Life is multi- layered with references to the Crucifixion, Pentecost, Baptism, Communion and God’s Covenant in Christ

2. Holy Spirit Window 2013

The Holy Spirit window in St Monica’s Church draws inspiration for its design from the more elaborate window of the same name in St Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Working with a sketch provided by parishioner, Mr Gavan Smith, in consultation with Fr Warrick, ACT Stained Glass played with the design and positioning of coloured glass to depict the current arrangement of radiating rays of light.

The placement of the Holy Spirit window in the sanctuary reinforces the theological message of the link between the Holy Spirit, the death and resurrection of Christ, as indicated in this particular crucifix, and the Eucharist celebrated at the altar. The back wall of the altar has been painted to illustrate the radiating light projecting from the window.

A unique feature of its construction was the provision of an external light which illuminates the window at night for the congregation. This feature has been replicated for the Creation Window



Although the original concept for the church included the eventual construction of a presbytery on the same grounds, the timely sale in 1998/99 of a nearby residence at 1 Sharwood Crescent presented the opportunity for the provision of a presbytery in a convenient location and shorter time frame.

While large parish gatherings were held on school premises for many years, the smaller parish meetings and gatherings continued to be held in the living rooms of the new presbytery, until an extension ,designed by Gavstec Services, provided a meeting room, parish office, kitchenette and ensuite.


There have been two additions to the original church since its dedication in 1987: a covered entrance portico and entrance foyer in 2005 and a meeting room in 2011. Both projects were designed and project managed by Gavstec Services and built by BTE Constructions (trading as Connor Building Group) in 2011.


Fr Adrian Cork PP 1974-1988

Fr Paul Stack Adm Oct 1988-Feb 1989

Fr Michael Mullen PP 1989-1997

Fr Dermid McDermott PP 1997-2000

Fr Paul Huthnance PP 2000-2008

Fr Warrick Tonkin PP 2008-2015

Fr Luis Viovicente (Fr Loi) Administrator 2015-until amalgamation

Fr Loi

DEACON at St Monica’s

Fr Allan Crowe was the longest serving deacon at St Monica’s and a large contingent of parishioners attended his Ordination in Young and first Mass at Marengo in 1994.


Sr Tricia Johnston RSM was the longest serving Pastoral Associate at St Monica’s working in the community from January 1991 until April 1998.


The creation of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish, North Belconnen in 2018 has seen the same faith and spirit of the communities of the two former parishes of St Monica’s and St Michael’s come together in liturgical, pastoral and social settings, striving to live out the Gospel message of love and hope .

The linked information

Detailed Explanation of the Jubilee Window

This window was designed by Gerry Cummins and Jill Steyn from Eumundi in Queensland and commemorates the Jubilee Year of 2000.

The window represents the Tree of Life against the Canberra landscape. You can see the colours of the sky, the mauve of the Brindabellas, the blue of Lake Burley Griffin (or perhaps Lake Ginninderra) rising above the greens of the land.

But the Tree of Life is also the sign of the Crucifix – the red represents both the wounds of the crucifixion and the falling of the autumn leaves.

The roots of the tree are in the shape of a double helix and are embedded deeply in the earth to remind us of our birth in the Cross of Christ.

The leaves are multi-coloured to remind us of the rainbow of the first covenant and God’s hope and promise.

But, they are also shaped like the flames of Pentecost through which the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles and remind us of the words of St Paul who tells us that "God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us".

At the top of the window the branches of the Tree of Life spread like the wings of a dove to make the shape of the chalice, the sign of our communion and God’s covenant in Christ.

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