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Catholic Community at Badgingarra

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Our History


- Article by Sara Kenny and Pauline Engelke

I guess you could say the beginning was in a small faithful group who attended Mass in Dandaragan in the early 60s. The family of Jim and Frances Kenny, descendants of good Irish Catholic immigrants to South Australia, came from Tammin to farm at Badgingarra. There was no Church or Mass said, so their adult children, daughter Leonie with her husband Terry Hughan and son Mike joined the Dandaragan congregation in the old hall. Jim and Frances now lived in Perth and their daughter Pauline was teaching in Katanning, but in 1965 moved to Dandaragan.


By 1966 Mike had married Sara, more Catholics were living in Badgingarra and Monseigneur Cameron, our Parish Priest based in Moora, decided it was time for a Mass Centre there. On March 20th 1966 the first Mass was held in the old hall near the Midland Bus Depot. The building had once been an army hut so had no frills, but there was plenty of space for the crowd. There were Norma Taylor and children, Terry and Leonie and children, Mike and Sara and children, Bob and Rene Mazza and children, Val Carter and children, Pauline (nee Kenny) who had married Bob Engelke and a big family of Cattalinis. The land had recently been opened for farming and everyone who came to Badgingarra were young people starting their families. Lighting the kero heater was the first job on cold winter mornings. The Hall Cat, a stray which had adopted the hall as home, came to every social function, including Mass.


The first tragedy to strike the area was the terrible accident on Cowalla Road when the Cattalinis car rolled, killing two of their children. The family left the district soon after.

With so many children there were lots of baptisms celebrated. Morning tea after 8 am Mass was a big occasion on the first and third Sunday of the month. The Catholic family was a close knit one and happy to go to a Christmas Mass at a farm, a home baptism or just share the ups and downs of new land farming.  Father Basil used to say, ”God writes straight in crooked lines.” That went down in his legend sayings. Another was that you should always treat everyone as if it was the last time you would see them.


Lots of families came to Mass and were always welcomed. There were McConnells from Mungedar, Cathy Palmer, Ray and Lyn Keeffe, John and Jan Spencer, Anne Taylor, Meg and Claude Mills, Dick and Verna Panizza and Mrs Calvert. Everyone brought their children, and romance blossomed when Aubrey Panizza met Lisa Mills.


By the late 70s and into the 80s the farms were becoming more developed, there were more First Communions than Baptisms and Mass had moved to a new venue. Badgingarra residents had dismantled an unwanted Police Boys Hall from Fremantle and rebuilt it as a Community Centre. Mass was now celebrated in the mezzanine area up a flight of stairs closer to Heaven. Leonie brought along a tape recorder and we sang from hymn books trying to match impossibly high voices. Perhaps that’s when the Badgy Catholics developed a reputation for being non singers.


Now Terry and Leonie Hughan, who had given up farming for shopkeeping, built the Badgy Tavern and offered to hold Mass there. This was a welcome offer as the mezzanine area was too hot in summer. Some people had moved away and other families came. Jan and John Spencer,  Shane Love and Ann Taylor joined the Catholic family. Ann, the sister in law of Norma Taylor, had adopted two children, Tanya and Derek, who had previously been at the Warramia Child Welfare. Sadly for Anne her husband died and Derek was killed in a quad bike accident. Anne and Tanya left the district. The little congregation enjoyed the novelty of having Mass in the Tavern, but when the Function Room was added to the Community Centre, that was an even better venue.


There was a piano which Pauline played so that there could be a better attempt at hymn singing. Pauline and Sara even compiled a list of hymns suitable for our limited singers. The Scotney family came along and a second generation of Catholics swelled the numbers. David and Carol Hughan brought their four boys, Lisa and Aubrey’s family grew to four boys and John and Emma Scotneys added three more boys. Francine Hughan married Jim Raven, ran the Badgy shop and brought her two children. With so many children to entertain Sara began a little percussion band which added heaps of volume and enthusiasm to hymn singing. If we had a priest who enjoyed singing, Pauline’s music and the band’s din made our hymns a real feature.

During the 90s Father Basil decided that the Moora Parish could help show trainee priests what they would be in for if they were sent to a rural parish. Two young men from Vietnam, Huy Nguyen and   … stayed for some weeks with the Kenny and Panizza families, beginning a long connection.


During Lent there was often a discussion and Lent preparation at a parishioner’s home. The priest would come from Moora to lead the group, going to whichever house was offered for the evening. 


We celebrated lots more Baptisms, First Communions and Confirmations and Mass was quite a social occasion. John and Judy Browne, now coming an impressive distance from the north, brought a sensational flower arrangement each Mass day. Judy’s talent for creating beauty with any type of flower and particularly with local wildflowers, brought an extra spiritual dimension to our lively Masses. Geoff and Geraldine Davies brought their son Hedley, Philip and Geraldine Panizza came with fostered children, the Carmody family attended during their time in the community, while Andrew Kenny and family, Matt Taylor and family, Larissa Curley and family were sometimes seen at Mass. At Christmas time a Carol Service began at Badgingarra and the Catholic priest of the day came to take a part in the service. The singing was much improved when Catholics joined with other church goers! I think the 1990s and 2000s were the most vibrant time for our congregation in Badgy.


With encouragement from Judy Browne a Church Banner was created to hide the golf or bowls notices on the board behind out table altar. Sara Kenny drew the design featuring local wildflowers with a stained glass look and Verna Panizza skillfully crafted the applique banner. It is now a permanent feature of Mass and has been used as a feature at local funerals.


When Lisa and Aubrey’s children were grown Lisa began to bring the most delicious morning teas to Mass. Gradually the other ladies gave up bringing a plate for morning tea, and everyone looked forward to what Lisa would bring. Through every family drama and celebration Lisa has risen to the occasion with something special and delectable. Morning tea from Lisa still is a very special part of Mass at Badgy.


By the 2010s the congregation had shrunk. Francine had breast cancer and moved away with her family, sadly dying too young. Other families stopped coming to Mass or left the district. There was a hopeful flurry of First Communions with Andrew’s daughter Brooke, Matt Taylor’s sons Liam and Drew and the Curley twins Lucas and Sophia all together. The band disbanded and even Pauline’s piano playing wasn’t enough to keep the hymn singing alive.


By 2020 Judy and John Browne moved to their Greenhead home, too far altogether to come to the still twice a month Mass at Badgy. Verna Panizza, having grown frail, left Badgy to live her last year with Philip and Geraldine. Pauline Engelke and Mike and Sara Kenny are faithful regulars, but it is Aubrey and Lisa Panizza who hold Mass together. They set up the banner and altar each Mass Sunday, get out the chairs, bring the morning tea, pay the annual rent for the function area and often bring their extended family to increase the numbers. A church picnic for the whole of the Parish was held at the Panizza farm with Mass in the front garden, a huge garden to explore, a donkey, motor bike and assorted other animals as entertainment. Mark and Emma Panizza come to Mass with their three children, Gary and Noc with their two and sometimes Philip’s son Matthew. They organize readings, supply children to take the collection or ring the bell and help at Communion. Christmas is the only time when there is a large crowd, scattered family members come along and even people from Moora and Dandaragan.  


We have had a lot of memorable priests over this time, all holding a special place in our hearts and memories. We really appreciate the fact that a priest is willing to hold Mass for such a little congregation, and are really glad that Badgingarra is on the route a priest must take to reach Jurien Bay. The Catholic Church has nourished our spirits for nearly sixty years with its dedicated priests and made an important contribution to the Badgingarra district.

August 2023

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