30 Year Anniversary of St John Paul II’s opening of Catholic Education Centre
01 December 2016
In 1986, St John Paul II toured Australia, a Papal visit that included the now famous speech to an audience of Aboriginal people at Alice Springs on 29 November.
After the stop in Alice Springs, and another in Adelaide, St John Paul II travelled to Perth, celebrating Mass at Belmont Park.
During his Perth visit the Pope presided over another event, which, while not as famous as his Alice Springs speech, was of unique historical significance – the opening of the Catholic Education Centre in Leederville, which remains the only building ever opened by a Pontiff in Australia.
The Centre in Leederville, commonly known as the Catholic Education Office, had until that year been the Home of the Good Shepherd Convent, the Perth base of the Sisters of the Congregation of the Good Shepherd, who arrived in 1902. The Catholic Education Commission of Western Australia had been established in 1971, and after a number of moves to larger offices with a growing Catholic Education office staff, were looking for a longer-term solution. At that time, the Sisters were looking to sell the Leederville property.
After the sale and purchase of the property, Dr Peter Tannock asked then Archbishop William Foley if an invitation could be extended to the Holy Father; the invitation was extended and accepted, and by the time of St John Paul II’s visit, necessary renovations to the buildings had been made. The Pope opened the Centre in an outdoor ceremony in front of the heritage building’s entrance.
For the last 30 years the Centre has served as a hub for work supporting the improvement and growth of WA’s state-wide Catholic education system, which for many years was the only state-wide Catholic system in Australia.