In 1912, it was realised by the Parish Priest of Guildford, Father Morris, that the number of practicing Catholics in West Guildford (Bassendean) required the celebration of their own Mass in their area. He was originally doubtful that the infant suburb of Bassendean would continue to grow and prosper. However, due to the demand and the fact that land between Hamilton St and James St had been acquired in 1907 it was decided a school/church would be built on this site.
In May 1914 the building was blessed and opened by His Grace Archbishop Clune. In the course of his address, the Archbishop drew attention to the dual role of the building and he emphasised the mutual relationship and inter-dependence that existed between a Catholic school and a Catholic Church. With a dedicated group of Mercy nuns at the helm, St Joseph’s Catholic School opened its doors on Monday the 19th July 1914. Initial enrolment was 19 children. However by January 1915 there was in excess of 100 students.
In 1915 a Parish busy bee completed jarrah verandah floors, a gravel square and a path from the convent to the school. The weekly Catholic paper, “The Record”, reported, “West Guildford School is at the present time one of the best ventilated and most commodious buildings of its kind in the state”. In 1921 the open verandahs were enclosed and in 1922 windows were installed, enclosing all of the classrooms. These remained in existence until the present school was built in 1953.
The sisters were required to be as self-supporting as possible and to assist their finances, music lessons were offered to local children and fundraising functions were organised by leading Catholic lay people. So great was the pressure for music education that a full time music teacher was appointed. Many young people who were not students of St Michael’s received music tuition at the school.
In 1922 a student of the school was the co-winner of a competition to rename the suburbs. West Guildford was now known as Bassendean. However, St Joseph’s Church/School continued to be part of the Guildford parish until 1948.
Father Thomas McCaul was Parish Priest in 1948 when the parish was established in its own right. Father McCaul had a great devotion to St Michael and decided to change the name of the school from St Joseph’s to St Michael’s. As the Parish Priest had absolute power in those days, no objection was raised. So today we have the dual identity of St Michael’s School, as the school serving the Parish of St Joseph’s Bassendean.
St Michael’s School, as it exists today, stems from a decision made in 1973 to provide education for boys from grades 4-7. Previously they had left to attend other schools, mainly Christian Brothers. In 1982 the Sr Joan Kelleher Library, a new administration block and new classrooms in the former convent building were blessed and opened by His Grace Archbishop Goody. The last Mercy Sister to teach at the school left in 1982 and today the school staff is made up entirely of lay teachers.
In 1998 the old Presbytery, which served as the Parish centre, was demolished. The removal of this building made way for the new Father Alex Morahan Kindergarten and Parish Centre.
Sadly, the original Church/School building, which had become the Parish Hall, burnt down in December 2000. The remainder of the building was demolished and a new Community Centre has been built on the site.
The above is only a brief outline of our past. If you would like to know more, the school has copies of the St Joseph’s/St Michael’s 75th year celebration record, that you will find interesting reading.
Over the many years there have been wonderful stories and memories created within our walls. It is important to remember the Sisters, Priests, Teachers, Parents and Students that have supported the school and assisted in the building, financing and maintaining the structures of our School and Parish since 1914.
It is the People who form the character of this community. Some families have remained part of the active history through many generations attending the school. For some families the stay is brief. All add to the community. Each one of us is now a part of our School’s history, and we provide the stories and memories for the future.
Be with us always and guide us to live as followers of Christ.
Help us to show a kind heart and a helping hand to those in need.
Unite our school community in faith, compassion, truth and service as we live our Mercy values.
Pray for us.
Live Jesus in our heart, Forever.