Arrival of priests

Following the end of the Second World War, the number of Croatian migrants in Australia grew rapidly.  The Catholic faith is integral to the Croatian people, and the Church in Croatia ensured that those migrants in Australia were not left without pastoral support.  Fr Ivan Mihalic came to Australia from Canada in 1953.  He lived in the Franciscan monastery in Sydney and he occasionally visited Croatians in Wollongong, Mildura, Bonegilli, Wodonga, Melbourne, Adelaide, Berri, Broken Hill and Canberra and Queanbeyan.

rok_romaccFr Rok Romac (known as Osvald Tot) came to Australia from Bolivia in 1955.  He was first active amongst Croatians in Adelaide, Perth, Mildura and Broken Hill, and then moved permanently to Sydney in 1957.  From Sydney, he visited Canberra at least once a month and celebrated masses for the Croatian community.

Fr Lambert Ivancic visited Canberra with Fr Rock Romac from 1966 and provided pastoral care to Croatians during this time.  He began his visits monthly, and then later began visiting Canberra twice a month.  During his visits, he stayed with the families of Stjepan Vuk and Marko Babic.

mak (473x640)Fr Euzebije Peter Mak came to Australia in 1968 and stayed and worked in Sydney.  Later, he began to take care of the pastoral needs of Croatians in Canberra, Wollongong and Queanbeyan.  He shared residence between Canberra and Wollongong, spending alternate weeks in each city.  After the death of Fr Rok Romac in April 1970, Fr Euzebije returned to Sydney.

mato - CopyFr Mato Bonic came to Canberra in 1970 to visit his family.  At the request of the Croatian Franciscans in Sydney, he stayed in Canberra until Christmas of that year. The Croatian Bishops Conference in Zagreb asked Fr Bonic to spiritually care for Croatian migrants in Canberra.  On the 13th March 1971, Fr Bonic was appointed Croatian Migrant Chaplain for Canberra and Queanbeyan, by decree of the Croatian Bishops Conference, Office for Croatian Migration. This date, 13th March 1971, marks the beginning of this Mission and the Croatian Catholic Centre in Canberra. Fr Mato worked hard as an effective missionary to unite the community, making many home visits, and seeking to find an adequate place for the community to celebrate mass, as well as suitable accommodation for himself as chaplain.

drago In 1977, due to the increased workload on Fr Mato, Fr Drago Prgomet came to Canberra to provide additional help to the Centre. To begin with, the two priests lived in a small home in the suburb of O’Connor.  In 1978, the Croatian Community bought a bigger and more suitable house in Doonkuna Street in Braddon, which was later extended.  Many members of the Croatian Community contributed through financial donations and free labour. At the request of the Croatian Community in Brisbane who was without a priest, Fr Drago Prgomet moved to Brisbane in 1978.  Fr Mato was once again the sole priest for the Canberra community.  Because of his ill health, and due to the fact that he was getting older, he requested help in the form of an assistant priest.

tvrtkoAnother Franciscan priest from Sarajevo, Fr Tvrtko Gujic, arrived in Canberra on the 26th April 1980.  In 1985, Fr Mato retired, and Fr Tvrtko was appointed the Migrant Chaplain for the Croatian Catholic Community in Canberra and Queanbeyan.  Fr Mato continued to assist Fr Tvrtko during this time.  Another priest, Fr Mato Martic, also came from overseas to assist Fr Tvrtko at various times.

In 1971, Fr Nikica Zlatunic took leadership of the Brisbane mission, and Fr Drago returned to Canberra, where he stayed until 1993.  In 1995, due to the ill health of Fr Stjepan Seselja, who was the Croatian priest for the Wollongong mission, Fr Drago was appointed to lead the Croatian Catholic Community in Wollongong.  Fr Mato Bonic passed away in Canberra on the 29th May 1995.

Fr Vjeko Tomic came to Canberra to replace Fr Tvrtko Gujic, but stayed for only one year, before returning to Croatia in 2000 to take up the appointment of Guardian of the Franciscan monastery in Kraljeva Sutjeska.

ante_simunovic

Fr Anto Simunovic arrived in Canberra on the 23 November 2001, and a year later was appointed Migrant Chaplain for the Croatian Community of Canberra and Queanbeyan.  Fr Tvrtko returned to his monastery in Fojnic, Bosna and Hercegovina.  In 2002, there was a change of priests in Wollongong.  Fr Ivo Tadic became Migrant Chaplain, and Fr Drago Prgomet returned to Canberra to assist Fr Anto Simunovic.

mandicOn the 27th August 2009, Fr Miroslav Mandic arrived in Canberra to replace Fr Anto Simunovic who (at his own wish) returned to his birthplace, Kotor Varos (Province of Bosna Srebrena, Bosna and Hercegovina) to take up the position of parish priest.

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