Deepdene Parish (Our Lady of Good Counsel Church)
The first parish priest of Deepdene, Fr T B Walsh, was appointed in 1922. At that time, there was no church or school. The Masses were celebrated in the chapel of Genazzano FCJ College in Cotham Road, Kew, and marriages and baptisms took place in the surrounding parish churches.
Fr Walsh purchased the residence that was to become the presbytery, followed by the six building blocks to be used for the school and church. The first building, on the Whitehorse Rd site, which is now part of the school, was used by the parish as both a church and school. The foundation stone was blessed by Archbishop Mannix on 26 November 1922.
The new parish started with about 80 families, which meant there was a heavy burden of debt for the parishioners to carry. In order to raise the funds to build the school and church, the parishioners held many functions – dances, fetes and raffles – and it required a concerted effort and the good will and hard work of these families. Monsignor J F Kelly’s brief history of the parish, Past and Present, published in 1982, attests to the hardships of the pioneer parish and also to its many joys:
The numbers were small and did not grow as rapidly as the Archbishop hoped. The parishioners were not affluent (not many Catholics were in those days). The debt, which in terms of our day seems small, was a very heavy burden. A large number of functions, necessarily small, raised small amounts to meet the interest, if the capital, of the debt… [However] To speak of the pioneer parish only in terms of finance would be to ignore its real value and the joy in Christian community life.
Church Construction and Architecture
The construction of the current church began in the 1950s, when Fr Godwin was the parish priest. It was completed in 1955. The long narrow shape of the church was dictated by the land that was available between the presbytery and the school. The architect was Mr L Sam Miguel and the builder were Simmie & Co. The church was officially opened and blessed by the Archbishop of Melbourne, Dr Daniel Mannix DD, on 3 July 1959.
At the time of the opening, the parish magazine, ‘Good Counsel’, included a description of the church architecture, noting that it utilised:
…the traditional basilica type plan, with a prominent central tower dominating the front of the building. The tower covering the whole of the narthex is 66 feet high, terminating with an aluminium cross, rising 76 feet above the ground. External walls are carried out in oatmeal tone brickwork, set off and relieved with ivory white architectural terra cotta motifs and trimmings.
The wooden statues of Our Lord and Our Lady, which stood either side of the altar, were carved by Hans Knorr and were added to the church at a later time, whereas the large painting Our Lady of Good Counsel was probably placed in the church around the time of its construction. The Stations of the Cross were replaced in the 1970s with carvings made from Queensland Beech by Leopoldine Mimovich.
The Church has undergone several refurbishments over the years, the most recent being to the internal structure throughout 2016 –2017 and the addition of a gathering space adjoined to the church. The new internal layout respects the original architecture of the building and reflects current liturgical norms and celebrations. There is now increased internal and external areas for parishioners and visitors ‘to gather and connect, to sit and talk, to reflect, to celebrate, to be, and to see the Church as a space of welcome’ (Brendan Reed).
Our Lady of Good Counsel School was officially opened on 29 January, 1924 and was staffed by the Sisters of the Faithful Companions of Jesus (FCJ), with Mother Evangeline as Principal. The enrolment for that year was 62 pupils. The school numbers increased to 100 in 1927 and reached 150 in 1938.
In its early years, especially during the Depression period and for years afterwards, the parish school was not affluent. A number of families in the school had no link with the parish, and the daughters and sons of many parishioners attended either convent schools or the junior schools of boys’ secondary colleges.
In 1951, lay teachers joined the staff and grew in numbers over successive years. By the mid-1960s, three more classrooms were needed to accommodate the growing school population. It was in the 1950s and 60s that the Mothers Club developed into a powerful force Their support of the sisters and lay teaching staff was multi-faceted and their fundraising efforts resourced the school with essential teaching aids, amenities and equipment.
The FCJs’ association with the school ended in 1981. Over their years of service, 20 sisters had taught at OLGC in conditions and with class loads that would now be considered intolerable. The first lay principal of OLGC was Mrs Maureen Burke, herself a devoted FCJ past pupil who understood the traditions established by the sisters. During her 14-year tenure (1981–1994), enrolments increased by 30 per cent (360 in 1993) and there was a long waiting list of applicants.
Currently the school is a vibrant learning environment and community for 225 students and their families (2019 enrolment). Its facilities are well equipped for contemporary learning and the school continues to be enriched by the partnerships between the parish and parents.
Our Lady of Good Counsel is a title given to Mary, Mother of God.
Devotion to Lady of Good Counsel is associated with the story of a miraculous icon. On the Feast of Saint Mark, April 25 1467, the people of Genazzano, Italy, witnessed a cloud descending upon an ancient church dedicated to Our Lady of Good Counsel. When the cloud disappeared, an image of Our Lady and the Child Jesus was revealed which had not been there before. The image, on a paper-thin sheet, was suspended miraculously. Soon after the image’s appearance, many miracles were attributed to the intercession of Our Lady of Good Counsel. For more than 500 years, the image has continued to attract countless pilgrims. Although much of the church was destroyed during World War II, the image has remained intact.
Over the centuries, devotions to Our Lady of Good Counsel grew among saints, popes and Catholics worldwide, and many institutions were named in honour of Mary under the title of Our Lady of Good Counsel. Pope Pius V, for example, credited victory in the Battle of Lepanto (1569) to her intercession. As a sea battle between the Christians and Turks loomed, Pope Pius asked Christians throughout Europe to pray the Rosary, seeking the intercession of the Blessed Mother with her Son for a Christian victory. The victory at Lepanto and the intercession of the Blessed Mother, garnered from the faithful praying the rosary, would thus be perpetuated in Catholic memory.
In 1884, a special Mass and Office of the Feast of Our Lady of Good Counsel was approved by Pope Leo XIII. Later, Pope Pius XII dedicated his term of office (1939–1958) to Our Lady of Good Counsel, and Pope John XXIII visited her shrine to pray for the success of the Second Vatican Council. Our Lady of Good Counsel’s feast day is 26 April.
Parish Priests at OLGC
|1922 – 1938||Fr J B Walsh|
|1938 – 1947||Fr Denis P Murphy|
|1948 – 1965||Fr Lawrence Godwin|
|1966 – 1967||Bishop Arthur Fox,
assisted by Fr C McCann
|1968 – 1985||Monsignor John Kelly|
|1985 – 2001||Fr Pat Duggan|
|2001 – 2006||Fr Maurie Cooney|
|2006 – continuing||Fr Brendan Reed|