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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Gomez, Gregory (Dom) (1904–1995)

by Clement Mulcahy

This article was published online in 2020

Gregory Gregory Gomez (1904–1995), Benedictine abbot, was born on 9 May 1904 at Villoruebo, Burgos, Spain, younger son of Marcos Gomez and his wife Claudia, née Cubillo. While a student at the local school, Gregory met Anselm Catalan, the abbot of the Benedictine Abbey Nullius of New Norcia, Western Australia, and volunteered to join the Benedictine mission. After secondary education at the monastery of El Pueyo, he entered the novitiate in 1919. He continued his education at the Abbey of Montserrat, where he made his simple profession of vows in 1920, and his superiors recognised his intellectual abilities.

Moving to Australia, in 1922 and 1923 Gomez continued his studies at New Norcia, and then attended (1924–28) St Patrick’s College, Manly, Sydney. On 18 August 1928 he was ordained by Archbishop Patrick Clune at St Mary’s Cathedral, Perth. He obtained a doctorate in theology (1931) from the Pontifical College of Sant’Anselmo, Rome, and undertook two further years of study at the Benedictine abbey at Maria Laach, Germany. Returning to New Norcia, Dom Gregory taught (1933–50) the dogmatic theology courses at the monastery and performed weekend parish work in the Bindoon-Gingin district (1934–48). Between 1948 and 1951 he was master of clerics and, after Catalan’s retirement in 1950, acting superior. In September 1951 he was enthroned as abbot.

In addition to New Norcia, Gomez was responsible for nine parishes, and the mission at Kalumburu in the north Kimberley. His term as abbot was marked by an openness to new ideas and readiness to consult widely. After reviewing the accommodation used by Aboriginal employees, he obtained government financial support to relocate them into modern bungalows on the hillside overlooking the monastic town. Maintaining the system of institutional care developed by his predecessors, he obtained further grants to refurbish and extend boarding and classroom facilities for Aboriginal children at St Joseph’s Orphanage for girls and St Mary’s Orphanage for boys.

At the diocesan level, Gomez appointed a rural dean, Father James Cameron, who was also director of missions and inspector of Christian doctrine. The wheat and wool growing districts, as well as the mining industry, underwent a period of postwar prosperity, and Gomez encouraged parishes to construct churches, schools, and convent buildings in wheatbelt towns, including Bullfinch, Southern Cross, Wyalkatchem, and Miling. Intent on offering wider opportunities for lay people to be associated with the monastery and the writings of St Benedict, in 1958 he won the approval of Archbishop Prendiville to establish an oblate chapter in Perth. He also encouraged members of the public to learn about New Norcia, its work with Aboriginal people, its role in education, and the liturgy.

Within the abbey Gomez provided monks with opportunities for further study and pastoral experience elsewhere in Australia and in Europe and the United States of America. He approved the transfer to overseas communities of those who sought a more traditional monastic routine than the one required by the diversified needs of New Norcia. Participating in four autumnal sessions (1962–65) of the Second Vatican Council, he implemented the new directions in missiology, education, and the liturgy, including the publication of English versions of traditional Latin hymns. More dramatically, he authorised the renovation of the pro-cathedral to meet the liturgical reforms, although he encountered resistance from some who had enjoyed the romanticism of earlier ecclesiastical ornamentation. An ambitious plan to build a modern abbey church and monastery from designs by the international architects Carlo Vannone and Pier Luigi Nervi did not proceed because of a lack of funds. During the 1960s he oversaw changes in the staffing of the secondary colleges at New Norcia and other centres, including at St Ildephonsus College, New Norcia, where the Benedictines replaced the Marist Brothers. In 1958 he welcomed the profession as an oblate nun of Veronica Willaway, a Yuat Nyungar woman whose forebears had met the founder of New Norcia, Rosendo Salvado, in 1846.

Having retired as abbot in 1971, Gomez resumed teaching divinity and lived quietly, ‘faithfully observing the … routines of the monastery’ (Benedictine Oblate 1995, 2). His successor, Bernard Rooney, recalled his light-heartedness of character in failure and disappointment, and that he never lost ‘a wink of sleep through worry’ (Benedictine Oblate 1995, 2). On 31 May 1995, returning to New Norcia from Perth, he died in a motor accident at Bindoon. He was interred in the cemetery at New Norcia after a requiem mass. In 2017 the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse reported that the Benedictine Community of New Norcia had paid a total of $869,000 compensation to settle sixty-five claims of child sexual abuse; many of these had occurred during Gomez’s tenure as abbot.

Research edited by Malcolm Allbrook

Select Bibliography

  • Archives of the Benedictine Community of New Norcia. Accessions Register. ‘Gomez, Gregory’
  • Bell, Susan. ‘Abbot Dies in Car Crash.’ West Australian, 26 June 1995, 7
  • Benedictine Oblate. ‘May He Rest in Peace.’ July 1995, 2–3
  • Australia. Royal Commission. Analysis of Claims of Child Sexual Abuse Made with Respect to Catholic Church Institutions in Australia. Sydney: The Commission, June 2017
  • Friends of New Norcia Newsletter. ‘Vale Abbot Gregory Gomez.’ no. 10 (July 1995): 1
  • Pendal, Phillip. Continuity in Change: The Journey of Catholic Education in Western Australia from 1843-2008. Inglewood, WA: Victor Publishing, 2008
  • Spillman, Ken. Hands to the Plough: The Shire of Victoria Plains since 1945. Calingiri, WA: Shire of Victoria Plains, 2005
  • West Australian. ‘Church History at New Norcia.’ 8 October 1951, 2

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Citation details

Clement Mulcahy, 'Gomez, Gregory (Dom) (1904–1995)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/gomez-gregory-dom-29919/text37039, published online 2020, accessed online 2 October 2020.

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