Shortly after the founding of the Croatian Patriotic Society “Cardinal Stepinac”, Rev. With this association, Josip Kasić begins to look for opportunities to create his own Center, which will be the center of gathering of Croats for liturgical celebrations, but also the venue for meetings of the Croatian emigrant community.
Already in 1962, they were given the opportunity to buy a Methodist church for sale in an attractive location near the city center. According to Kasic’s report, Serbs were also interested in the church because they had already held a council there, but as they could not offer more than £ 12,000 and the Methodists demanded more, the church was still for sale. Kasić found out about it through his channels, so he got in touch with the Archbishop’s Ordinariate in Melbourne and in a conversation with the Vicar General, Msgr. Laurence Moran asked the Archdiocese to give twice, which would break the possibility for Serbs to buy a church, and the Croatian community would thus get its center.
The archdiocese agreed and gave £ 24,000 for the church and £ 8,500 for the building next to the church, which served the Methodist pastor’s family for housing. “He had no believers for years, so we struggled to wipe the dust collected for decades,” writes Rev. Josip Kasic. In September 1962, the Archdiocese signed a purchase agreement, after which Kasić wrote: “We have been working for three full months, remodeling the church to be worthy of Christ and his bloodless sacrifices.” On December 30, the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Melbourne, on behalf of Archbishop Daniel Mannix, came and blessed the Church of Sts. Nikola Tavelić in Clifton Hill. The church was consecrated on June 29, 1979 by the Archbishop of Melbourne Thomas Francis Little, who on that occasion came among the Croatian faithful and served Holy Mass.
“The joy of the entire Croatian community in Victoria reigned. We got not only a religious but also a national center. Not only for Croatian Catholics but also for Croat Muslims and Orthodox. The door is always open to them, and the Center helped them many times, not making We had to sacrifice a lot of money and time while remodeling and training the church, the church hall, the school and the parish apartment for the purpose of religious, cultural, national and social life. was free, then that amount would be more than double.We built a new apartment for the pastor in 1970. In four months we built everything and paid in cash.
In 1978/1979 we cover the church with tiles, and we throw out the slides-roof. In 1980, we renovated the interior of the church. We extended the church choir almost to the middle of the church. It can now accommodate about 250 believers and a choir. Then we move to the lower part, to the church nave, which gets new pews, and also a new look. The artist Milić decorates the temple of God with oil paintings of the four evangelists and an altar painting of St. Nikola Tavelić, which is complemented on two sides by a picture of his native Šibenik and the city of martyrdom – Jerusalem. There is also a Croatian dead guard guarding day and night: a young man and a girl in Croatian national costume, and next to them four Croats – angels, with a mark on them: red-white-blue. We must not forget to mention that in the church we have – as the English say – ‘The Shrine’ of Croatian places of pilgrimage to the Mother of God. We have paintings of the Mother of God of Bistrica, Olovo, Kondžil, Sinj, Trsat, Ilok and Krasno. It is a beautiful ornament of our church, and every believer prays to ‘his’ Our Lady, who is the same for everyone. In addition to these pictures of our pilgrimage sites, we also have pictures of the main 12 Croatian cathedrals, and our small sanctuary with Croatian land and stone. It is not a country from this country, so demagogically called ‘Croatian’, but a country and a stone brought directly from our dear Homeland. What else could we notice significant in our and our church? If you look at it from the outside, you see Gothic – it lifts you all up to God. The tower is adorned, and millions of dollars would not be raised like that today. When you enter, you feel like in some old Croatian church, it has the look of a classic, and immediately reminds us of the Homeland and its churches. It is not a modern church, as it is built today, so it is not known what kind of building you entered to pray, whether it is a circus or a hall for an exhibition of paintings and other things. As we talk about what is outside, what can be seen on it and what is inside, next to it is a beautiful monument of our Cardinal Stepinac, who looks at a passerby, and around him looks at the whole church, so many come to the pastor with a request to look at this magnificent building from within, and when they do, their satisfaction is complete. They are going home full of heart, full of soul … The monument of Cardinal Stepinac is a cast of the work of our Meštrović. The parish apartment is simple but spacious. The church hall can accommodate about 300 people. It’s not big, but it’s lovely. It is used for pastoral work and meetings, for rehearsals of our folklore group ‘Young Croats – Clifton Hill’, which on November 5, 1988 celebrated the tenth anniversary of its founding, existence and work. The group now has 171 dance members, younger, middle-aged and older. It was founded at the request of the Kečenović couple and the pastor. Our pride and pride! You should come and look, so you shouldn’t write anything. “
This is how Rev. Fr. Josip Kasić Church and the Croatian Pastoral Center of St. Nikola Tavelić in Clifton Hill, who built his emigrant life into this Center, as well as into the foundations of Croatian Catholic pastoral care among Croats in Victoria. When he had to stop working in 1993 due to illness, he was succeeded by Rev. Mato Križanac. Kasic does not end his report in an optimistic tone, and the reason is that older people born in the homeland are slowly retiring, and the biological clock has already ticked for many, which can be seen in the cemeteries where their remains rest, and young people born in Australia assimilates into the environment in which they live. However, this is the fate of the Croatian foreign flock on all continents and in all countries where Croatian emigrants live. Let us keep in mind that after the Second World War, a large number of Croatian emigrants came to this continent, there in the 50s and 60s. They were young families with children, then young men and women of productive age, families who gave birth to children, which can be seen by the number of baptized and married at that time. They were people from all provinces of the Croatian-speaking area. These are young people who grew up in Catholic families, and who brought with them the deep roots of their faith and their traditions, so as such the Croatian Catholic Center was not only a place of gathering, but a place of meeting with the “homeland”, something that it symbolically represented Croatia, their birthplace, their parents and everything they left behind with tears in their eyes. There was also their priest who understands them, who helps them in their religious and cultural affirmation in a foreign world, in the country they have chosen as the place of their life and work.
Due to this sense of community that once prevailed among Croats in Australia, despite all attempts to divide and bring unrest to the Croatian community before the Homeland War, a large number of young people come here, meet, make friends, acquaintances and marriages. However, later times change, especially after the 90s, when more and more young people of Croatian origin meet other people through schooling and growing up, and more and more have partners of other roots.
It can be said that the second and third generations of Croatian emigrants are quite good at the Croatian language. The turning point came during the Homeland War. In those years, a fairly large number of new immigrants arrived in Australia from their homeland. They did not have a vision and desire to preserve their identity, probably due to the war, they wanted to forget everything as soon as possible. Maybe that’s why they didn’t even pay much attention to their children learning their parents’ language, as if they had neither the desire nor the will to return to their homeland one day.
Since the founding of the Croatian Catholic Center on Clifton Hill, religious, social, national and charitable work has been held there. For a long time, this center also served for all other forms of accepting Croatian immigrants, as a “Croatian embassy” for all kinds of services to people who needed help. Everyone came here asking for that help. People have been taught that since the first beginnings of the center’s existence, and that habit has remained until our days …
The division of the Croatian flock in Melbourne
Rev. Josip Kasić was for a little over 10 years the only Croatian priest for the whole of Victoria. Every Sunday, St. Mass (wound) in Geelong, in Ballarat one Sunday a month afternoon St. Mass and at Clifton Hill at 10:30 a.m. every Sunday.
In 1971, Rev. Fr. Josip Vidaković (1923 -2005), priest of the Vrhbosna Archdiocese who assists Rev. Kasić to the pastoral care of Croatian Catholics in Victoria.
With the arrival of Rev. Vidaković, additional Sunday Mass celebrations are introduced in the eastern part of Clayton and the western part of St. Albans, and later in Fawkner.
In 1973, the priest of the Split Archdiocese, Rev. Fr. Stjepan Gnječ (1936 – 2013) who took over Geelong, Ballarat and Mindura. In 1974, Rev. Vidaković leaves Melbourne for North Fremantle (Western Australia) with its headquarters in Perth, and from there comes the priest of the Archdiocese of Split, Rev. Većeslav Šupuk as the help of Rev. I’ll cash.
On May 11, 1975, Rev. Fr. Ante Burić and Marko Perković as the help of Rev. Kasić and his assistant, Rev. Asshole. Upon their arrival from the Vrhbosna Archdiocese, the church of St. Mark in Fawkner and thus filled all the important points of Melborune for the spiritual flock of Croats in Melborune.
On the eve of Christmas 1977, the former parish in Melbourne is divided into three parts with the approval of Archbishop Marko Jozinović.
The eastern area with its center in Springvale is taken over by Rev. Marko Perković, the western parts that will later have a center in Sunshine, Rev. Anto Burić and the others remain in the hands of Rev. Josip Kasić.
After Rev. Josip Kasić fell ill, Rev. Mato Križanac took over pastoral care in 1991 until June 2014, when he returned to his homeland.
A time of spiritual and material renewal with Msgr. Rajic
In the Croatian Catholic Center Sv. Nikola Tavelić, Mons. Bosiljko Rajić from the Vrhbosna Archdiocese, who with his dedicated work, both on the spiritual and material level, in a very short time managed to restore the spiritual growth of the Center, which was renamed the Croatian Catholic Community.
With the wholehearted help of their parishioners, the dilapidated buildings within the center underwent major alterations in order to better become the basis for the development of the spiritual life of this Catholic community. The space of the parish apartment has been renovated, in which one part is now intended as a classroom for the lower grades of the Croatian school, whose classes take place every Saturday. The space of the classroom for teaching higher grades of the Croatian school has been renovated; the old toilet was replaced with a new one and the old hall where social life takes place was completely restored under the guidance of spouses Barbara and Josip Luketić who invested their voluntary work and invaluable time in it.
The new hall in which FG Mladi Hrvati was ‘born’ will enable uninterrupted activities that have been going on for more than 40 years now. Members of the Retirement Society, Maranatha Prayer Community gather regularly in the hall, organize parties, seminars, literary evenings…
For the first time, a small bowling alley was built and the premises of the former office space of Hrvatsko vjesnik were renovated. At the same time, alterations are being made to and around the church itself, replacing dilapidated elements such as crosses on church towers, etc. There is still a lot of work to be done, but with God’s help and the strength of this community returning young families, children, as well as strengthening the previous religious life of this Catholic community.
Due to the extraordinary circumstances brought with it by the COVID19 virus, Msgr. Bosiljo Rajić, until further notice, was unable to return to Australia, so the temporary leadership of the mission was taken over by Rev. Velimir Maglica. …….
Sources: “The hand of the Lord was upon them” about 50 years of pastoral care among Melbourne Croats, 2014
Photo credit: Suzana Fantov
HKC Clifton Hill (Saint Nikola Tavelic)
PO Box 157 69 Hodgkinson St.,
CLIFTON HILL, VIC 3068
Tel.: +61 (0) 3 9482 3479
Fax: +61 (0) 3 9489 8569
Priest: Rev. Velimir Maglica