Catholic Church Carilla

The Original Our Lady of Grace - Mater Gratiae Catholic Church, Pickering Brook

The Development of the timber industry in the hills in the Darling Ranges of Perth and the subsequent railway line from the Midland Junction through to Pickering Brook and Canning Mills changed the face of the hills. The establishment of Carilla, later known as Pickering Brook, Barton’s Mill and Canning Mills saw an increase in population and the demand for church services in the area.

Various church services were held occasionally in the Carilla Hall, this included the Catholic Church, as the area fell under the Parish of Lesmurdie.  A visiting priest would travel and say mass in the Hall. After the Second World War there was a new influx of Italian immigrants into the area. The catholic community appealed to the Archbishop of Perth to establish an independent Parish and school within the area.

Ursuline Sisters' House

In 1955, a small number of Ursaline Nuns were removed from China and came to St. Brigids convent in Lesmurdie. The catholic community had, since 1950, discussed many ways of building a church at Pickering Brook and it was decided to build a small convent for the nuns and a dual purpose church and school, which was completed in 1955. The Crown granted the lease of a reserve to the Catholic Church to establish a school, church and convent to house the Ursuline sisters who would run the school and attend to the parish needs. A committee formed to raise money for the church included Mr. Travacich of Bickley, Mr. Antonio Mazzardis and Joe Scolaro. The school had about 90 pupils who came from all around the district, including Karragullen. The school fees were two shillings (20 cents) a week per child, the money was used to fund the school. Mick Conti, a later president of the fund raising committee, says fund raising was hard at first but he made sure he visited orchards during the seasonthey were selling most fruit. By 1974 the debt was paid and the church had money in the bank. The church was built by Stan Costello a local builder from Kalamunda at a cost of 11,000 pounds and was completed and opened by His Grace Archbishop Prendiville of Perth in 1955. The Parish fell under the banner of the Parish of Lesmurdie. Present at the opening were Rev. Fr. O’Ryan provincial of the Order of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI), the Italian Vice-Consulate and other religious and guests. Approximately 500 people attended the opening of the church and school. The church was consecrated to Our Lady of Grace – Mater Gratiae.

Pickering Brook Catholic Church School Bus. 1965c

Nuns Left – Right: Mother Fhilamena, Sister Stephanie, Sister Concetta
Second From Left: John Di Marco
Extreme Right Before Nuns: Luisa Di Marco

The original building was used as a Church on Sundays with an imported marble altar and during the week it was used as the classrooms for the school. Partitions were built to separate the church hall into classrooms. Karragullen, a nearby district formed the other part of the parish and a church was built there and opened for service in 1956. The separate convent was built and completed at the same time and four Ursuline sisters from Italy moved into the convent. A small chapel was built in the convent for daily mass and Sunday mass was held in the church/school.

The sisters started the school with 60 students and a small mini bus was donated to the school to collect children from outlying areas and the Karragullen district. The numbers increased to 90 enrolled students and the school ran successfully for 14 years. With the decline in new families moving into the area and the number of children attending the school, the sisters decided to close the school and return to Italy



A feature of most churches in an Italian community is a procession in honour of the protector of the parish church. In Pickering Brook, it was Our Lady of Grace – Mater Gratiae. When the church was completed the nuns bought the community a statue of Our Lady of Graces, for whom the church is named. The statue was imported from Italy and on the first Sunday in March each year is the center of processions and feasts. A colourful procession, carrying Our Lady’s statue high on the men’s shoulders, led by Brass Bands and followed by a praying congregation would wind its way down the roads and back to the church grounds where an open air mass was celebrated with a visiting guest priest who would deliver the sermon. Bus loads of people would arrive from other Italian communities throughout the metropolitan area. Gifts of fruit, flowers and money were donated to the church. The service was followed by a festival with stalls and dancing. This celebration continues today and the festival is held on the long weekend in March of each year.

The site of the Catholic Church and the old convent are noted in the Municipal Heritage register of the Shire of Kalamunda being a significant contributing factor to the development of the social structure in Pickering Brook. The church continues to this day with a visiting priest from the Lesmurdie parish.


Back Row L -r:Robert Scafidi, Geerlings, Tony Giglia, Peter Arasi, Vinnie Arasi

Middle Row L – R: Emilio Furfaro, Nick Muscaro, Frank Furfaro, Mario Giumelli, Amando Giglia

Front Row L – R: Frank Giumelli, Garrie Vincenti, Lawrence Mortimer
Sitting L – R: Walter Furfaro, Fabian Capelli, John Gava


Back Row L – R: Christine Mortimer (holding Flag), Rosie Arasi, Rosemary Petrucci, Carol Della Franca.

Next Row L – R: Arlleen Mortimer, Carol Natta, Ann Petrucci, Nancy Arasi, Josie Motellaro

Front Row L – R: Sherryl Mazzardis, Susan Della Franca, Ivan Perli, Ida Rossi, Winsome Mortimer.

Sitting L – R: Maria Spicca


L – R: Sister Concetta, Mother Fhilamena, (girl in between Maureen Mortimer), Sister Stephanie.

References: Article: Carilla – Karragullen – Day of Thanksgiving – The First 25 Years
Valleys of Solitude by Jenny Keast

Images: 1, 2, 3 Kalamunda & Districts Historical Society
4, 5, 6 Gordon Freegard
7, 8 Valleys of Solitude – J. Keast
9, 10 Silio Di Marco
11 Anna Vincenti