Bishop Gibney and the Pallottine Priests
In 1892, Bishop Gibney, purchased a 100,000 acre pastoral lease named Lombadina approximately 60 kilometres to the north of Beagle Bay Mission. The property included a dwelling and a shearing shed, cattle, sheep, 2 horses and 2 schooners. The latter were important due to the isolation of the property.
The Pallottine priests based at Beagle Bay Mission were finding it difficult to develop Lombadina Mission due to lack of means and staff. The property was sold to a Manilaman, Thomas Puertollano. Thomas Puertollano also met with difficulties as he was classed as “Asiatic” and could not obtain a permit to either employ or exert any authority over the local Aborigines who gathered there.
In 1910, Thomas Puertollano suggested that he run Lombadina as an outpost of the Beagle Bay Mission. Subsequently Fr Nicholas Emo settled at Lombadina taking charge on 1 January 1911 and set to work to build up the mission.
Fr Nicholas and the St John of God Sisters
Fr Nicholas was greatly assisted in his work when three St John of God sisters arrived at Lombadina Mission in 1913. The Puertollano family vacated their small house for the sisters to use until a convent was built for them. Paperbark huts served as a school and dining hall. The early years at Lombadina Mission were hard, with food shortages, no doctor or hospital and constant difficulties in communication with Broome and Beagle Bay, which could only be reached by using a small boat or by donkey cart.
On 8 March 1915 Fr Nicholas died. His health had been severely affected by the strenuous work and travels he undertook. Fr Thomas Bachmair, a Pallottine priest based in Beagle Bay, was placed in charge of the mission at Lomabadina. Thomas Puertollano sold Lombadina to the Pallottines and in 1918 moved to Broome to live.
By 1918, the health of Fr Thomas Bachmair had seriously declined and shortly before his death he returned to Beagle Bay to see the nearly completed church he had designed (Sacred Heart Church).
About this time the Pallottine missionaries were facing some opposition and it appeared they would have to leave . As a result an invitation was extended to the Salesian Order. The Pallottines remained at the Missions and worked with the Salesians. The Salesians stay, however, was shortlived and they returned to Italy in 1928.
The bush church at Lombadina Mission was built in 1932 by Br Joseph Tautz. Br Joseph was affectionately known as ‘Ginger Joe’ and had arrived at Beagle Bay Mission in 1929 from Kunzendorf in Germany.
Timber for the Lombadina church was gathered from the surrounding bush by Fr Augustus Spangenberg and Aboriginal helpers and then sawn by hand.
The Lombadina church was blessed by Monsignor Raible on the feast of Christ the King.
Following the end of World War 11 considerable work was undertaken on the roof of Lombadina church. With Fr John Herold, who had been interned during the war, installing corrugated iron over the paperbark roof which was left in place for insulation purposes.
By the late 1950’s both Beagle Bay and Lombadina Missions were reaching a point of crisis with many of the old priests suffering from failing health and no new missionaries to take their place. In 1959, Father John Jobst succeeded Bishop Raible and Beagle Bay and Lombadina Missions entered a new phase of activity. New schools, hospitals and housing facilities were built while the Lotteries Commission supplied equipment for the missions.
The Sisters of St John of God left Lombadina Mission around 1968. Their role in educating the local Aboriginal children was significant and they are still remembered with great fondness today.
Many changes have taken place over the years. In 1984 the Lombadina Aboriginal Community were granted the grazing lease and assets of many of the Mission enterprises. There are now two separate communities side by side – Lombadina and Djarindjin. Both communities have their own independent administrations. The catholic school, Djarindjin-Lombadina Catholic School, serves both communities.
The connection of the Pallottines with both the Beagle Bay and Lombadina communities finally came to an end in 2002 when the Parish Priest, Fr Eugene San, left to undertake further studies. Fr Bernard Amah,CSSp is now Parish Administrator.