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Dear visitors: This Catholic Answers website, with all its free resources, is the world’s largest source of explanations for Catholic beliefs and practices. We receive no funding from the institutional Church and rely entirely on your generosity to sustain this website with trustworthy, accessible content. If every visitor this month donated $1, would be fully funded for an entire year. If you’ve never made a gift, now is the time. Your donation will be matched dollar for dollar this week only. Thanks and God bless.

Archdiocese of Sydney

Diocese in Australia

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Sydney, Archdiocese of (SYDNEYENSIS). The vast territories formerly known as New Holland and Van Diemen’s Land and since 1900 as The Commonwealth of Australia were erected into the Vicariate Apostolic of New Holland in 1834. John Bede Polding (q.v.), a Benedictine, was appointed vicar Apostolic. He was consecrated bishop in London on June 29, 1834. Dr. Polding visited Rome in 1841-2, and at his suggestion new sees were erected in Hobart and Adelaide. A few years later Melbourne and Brisbane were also detached from the archdiocese. In New South Wales dioceses were erected at Maitland, Goulburn, Bathurst, Armidale, Lismore, and Wilcannia; these form at present the suffragan sees of Sydney, which was erected into an archdiocese on February 15, 1842. The archdiocese stretches along the Pacific coast from Red Head on the north to Cape Howe on the south, and inland to the Dividing Range. When Dr. Polding landed at Sydney, there were only four priests in the district; Father Ullathorne, an English Benedictine who had come to Australia in 1833, was vicar general, assisted by Fathers Therry, McEncroe, and Dowling, three Irish priests, the last named a Dominican. The official census of 1833 gave the population of the colony as 60,794, the Protestants of all denominations being 43,095 and the Catholics 17,283. The government allowance in the same year for the maintenance of the Catholic Church was $4000; whilst to the Church of England, exclusive of its rich land endowments, was assigned the sum of $95,355. There were 10 Catholic schools receiving about $2000 from the Government, whilst the Protestant schools were allowed $28,680, in addition to a grant of $16,500 for the building of the Protestant King’s School at Parramatta. In 1836 Dr. Ullathorne sailed for England and Ireland to secure priests and nuns for the increasing demands of the diocese. He availed himself of this opportunity to publish a pamphlet setting forth the sad condition of the convicts, and the maladministration of affairs in official quarters. Seventy-five thousand copies of this pamphlet were circulated in England and throughout the Continent, and its effect was seen in the altered conditions of administration soon after introduced. His mission was successful, and in 1841 Dr. Polding was enabled to report to Propaganda that the diocese had 24 priests, a community of nuns, 9 churches completed and 6 others in course of erection, with several small chapels, and 31 schools.

During a visit to Rome in 1846-47 Dr. Polding secured the appointment of Dr. Davis, O.S.B., titular Bishop of Maitland, as his coadjutor bishop. He, however, died in Sydney in 1854. In 1873 Archbishop Roger Bede Vaughan was appointed coadjutor, and he succeeded Dr. Polding on March 16, 1877. He was remarkable for his eloquence, and upheld with great vigour the Catholic cause in the matter of religious education. On April 19, 1883, he sailed for England via San Francisco, but died two days after his arrival in Liverpool (August 18). Patrick Francis Moran (see below), Bishop of Ossory, Ireland, was appointed to the vacant see, his Brief being dated March 21, 1884. Dr. Higgins was appointed auxiliary bishop in 1888, and in 1899 was translated to the See of Rockhampton in Queensland. Most Rev. Michael Kelly, titular Archbishop of Achrida, was appointed coadjutor in 1901. The cathedral under the invocation of Our Lady Help of Christians, begun as far back as 1820 by Father Therry and completed by Archbishop Polding, was destroyed by fire on June 29, 1865. It was rebuilt according to plans by Wardell, and consecrated by Archbishop Vaughan on September 8, 1882. Archbishop Moran landed at Sydney on September 8, 1884. The following year he was summoned to Rome to be promoted to the cardinalate. He convened and presided at three plenary synods (1885, 1895, 1905), and also presided at the Catholic congresses held in 1900, 1904, and 1909. Conferences of the clergy and diocesan synods have been held every year. St. Patrick’s Ecclesiastical College, for the secular clergy, was erected at Manly on a government grant of eighty acres; the foundations were blessed during the plenary synod of 1885, and dedicated in 1888. It was built and fully equipped at the sole expense of Cardinal Moran, who wished it to be his gift to the Australian Church, as it was intended not for Sydney alone but for all the Australian dioceses. It has in the present year (1911) eighty students, all Australians, and has since its opening furnished one hundred and thirty priests to the Australian mission. A preparatory ecclesiastical college at Springwood, in the Blue Mountains, was opened last year. It is erected on a site of six hundred acres, the purchase of the land and the erection of the building being a further gift of the cardinal to the diocese. There are two Catholic weekly newspapers: “The Catholic Press” and “The Freeman’s Journal”; there is also the quarterly “Australasian Catholic Record”, besides, some minor monthly publications. The Catholic Club, organized in 1810, has a considerable enrolment.

When the Dr. Polding was appointed vicar Apostolic, several English Benedictines volunteered for the Australian mission. Some years later, at Dr. Polding’s petition, St. Mary’s was declared a Benedictine cathedral, the adjoining presbytery was raised to the dignity of a Benedictine priory, and it was hoped by the archbishop that the whole diocese would be efficiently served by an Anglo-Australian Benedictine community. This, however, was soon found to be impracticable. From the first many difficulties beset the Benedictine Order in Sydney. The community was finally dissolved by Archbishop Vaughan, himself a Benedictine, and missions were assigned to its priests in the ranks of the secular clergy. The religious orders of men are at present represented by the Marist Fathers, who entered on their missionary work in 1837, the Jesuits, Franciscans, Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, Vincentians, Passionists, Missionaries of the Divine Word, and Capuchins. In 1883 the members of the religious orders numbered 41; at present they are 79. The Irish Congregation of Sisters of Charity was the first of the orders of nuns to arrive (January 1, 1839) in Australia. For some years their special care was devoted to the female convicts. Later they engaged in the work of education, took charge of St. Vincent’s Hospital, the first Catholic hospital in Australia, and visited the prisons. The congregation now numbers in Australia 320 nuns (in Sydney 235). The Benedictine Nuns arrived in Sydney in 1849, and at their monastery of Subiaco devote themselves to the higher branches of education. The Good Samaritans, a purely Australian order instituted in Sydney in 1857, are spread through other dioceses, and number in Sydney 220. The Sisters of St. Joseph are also an Australian institute spread through several dioceses, numbering in Sydney 255. Other religious orders of nuns are the Sisters of Mercy, Religious of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Poor Clares, Carmelites, Nursing Sisters of the Little Company of Mary, Little Sisters of the Poor, Sisters of St. Brigid, Dominican Nuns, Institute of the Blessed Virgin of Loreto, Sisters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, and Marists. At the close of Archbishop Vaughan’s episcopate the number of nuns in the diocese was 252; at present (1911) they number 1400. St. John’s college is associated with the Sydney University. The Jesuits have the flourishing College of St. Ignatius at Riverview, and the High School of St. Aloysius at Milson’s Point. The Marist Brothers have a novitiate besides the College of St. Joseph, the High School at Darlinghurst, and several parochial schools. The Christian Brothers from Ireland were the first teaching religious order to come to Australia. Three Brothers accompanied Dr. Polding to Sydney in 1843, and within a few months they had three schools; sufficient means for their support were lacking and they returned to Ireland in 1844. They returned to Sydney in 1887, and have now a novitiate, two flourishing high schools, and eight parochial schools. The Patrician Brothers have also a flourishing college and some parochial schools. The total number of teaching Brothers at the close of Dr. Vaughan’s episcopate was 78; they now number 220.

In 1883 there were 10,936 children in the schools of the diocese; there are at present 25,000. Official returns published last year (1910) in connection with the cardinal’s silver jubilee set forth that during those twenty-five years of his administration 160 churches had been erected or enlarged and about as many schools; 45 presbyteries had been provided, and 34 new parochial districts organized. In 1885 there was only one Catholic orphanage and that was maintained by the Government. In 1888 the government aid was withdrawn and the orphanage suppressed. Since then 9 orphanages have been established and 2 Catholic industrial schools. In 1885 there was only one Catholic hospital, St. Vincent’s; it has since then been considerably enlarged, and five other hospitals have been built. A Home for the Aged Poor has also been established, and several other charitable institutions.

In 1911 the Archdiocese of Sydney contained: 175,000 Catholics; churches, 189; districts, 75; priests, secular, 120, regular, 79; religious men, 220, women, 1374; seminaries, 3; colleges, 7; boarding schools (girls) 25; superior day schools (boys), 4; (girls), 47; primary schools, 250; poor schools, 2; night schools (girls), 2; (boys), 1; orphanages, 7; industrial schools, 3; total number of pupils in Catholic schools, 25,000; hospitals, 8; Hospice for the Dying, 1; Foundling Hospital, 1; Home for the Aged Poor, 1; Home for the Blind, 1; Magdalen Retreats, 2; Servants’ Home, 1; Home for Mental Invalids, 1; St. Charles’ Villa for Aged and Infirm Priests, 1.

PATRICK FRANCIS CARDINAL MORAN, third Archbishop of Sydney, b. at Leighlinbridge, Ireland, September 16, 1830; d. at Manly, Sydney, August 16, 1911. He was the only son of Patrick Moran and Alice Cullen, sister of Cardinal Cullen. Of his three sisters two became nuns, one of them offered her life to God for the cholera patients whom she nursed, and died the last victim of the plague in Ireland. Both his parents died before his eleventh year. He left Ireland in 1842 to pursue his studies in Rome. His “Acta Publica” in universal theology was so masterly as to gain for him the doctorate by acclamation. Among the principal objectors was Cardinal Joachim Pecci, afterwards Leo XIII, who was impressed by the genius of this Irish student. He was appointed vice-rector of the Irish College, and also filled the chair of Hebrew at Propaganda, and was some time vice-rector of the Scots College. In 1886 he was appointed secretary to Cardinal Cullen and professor of Scripture at Clonliffe College. He founded the “Irish Ecclesiastical Record”. In 1869 he accompanied Cardinal Cullen to the Vatican Council, and was appointed procurator for one of the absent bishops.

Selected as coadjutor Bishop of Ossory, he was consecrated Bishop of Olba. The diocese was distracted by dissensions between the infirm bishop, Dr. Walsh and some of his priests and people. Dr. Moran ruled with a firm yet benign hand, and his episcopate was fruitful of much spiritual and temporal advancement in the diocese. He established many religious institutions. At Callan was founded the convent of St. Brigid’s Apostolic School, which has blessed with the missionary spirit so many distant lands. He introduced the Sisters of Mercy also into the Irish work-houses, and transformed those dens of misery into homes for the indigent and poor. He established industrial schools for boys and girls, under the guidance of the Sisters of Charity, and was the pioneer in that grand network of child industrial training which has since become the pride of Ireland. He completed the chancel of and adorned the Kilkenny Cathedral, added a new wing to St. Kiernan’s College, and founded the public library and archaeological society. He always defended the rights of the people and championed Home Rule. He knew Ireland and loved her deeply. He was consulted by W. E. Gladstone prior to the introduction of his Home Rule Bills and his knowledge of the commercial, industrial, and economic conditions of the country was a source of wonder to the prime minister, who ever afterwards cherished for him a profound respect and affection. His great diplomatic skill secured for him the confidence of the Irish hierarchy, and he represented them in many of their most delicate negotiations with the Holy See. Though the Benjamin of the episcopate, he was selected as one of the secretaries to the first National Synod of Maynooth. The Brief of Dr. Moran’s translation to Sydney was issued March 21, 1884. In the archbishop’s farewell audience with Leo XIII it was made evident that the intrigues of parties, the interference of government agencies, and the influence of high ecclesiastics had made the matter almost impossible of decision by Propaganda. In the presence of others the Holy Father said clearly, “We took the selection into Our own hands. You are Our personal appointment”. In his first outward journey he drew up that spiritual program which gave such a coloring to his after life. “I must esteem nothing save the service of the Redeemer, everything else is beside my mission; Ich dien [I serve] in its highest meaning must be my motto . To do the will of my Divine Master must be my life, my light, my love, my all.”

In 1886 he travelled 2500 miles over land and sea, and visited all the dioceses of New Zealand. In the following year he traversed 6000 miles to consecrate Dr. Gibney at Perth. In subsequent years he went to Ballarat, Bathurst, Bendigo, Hobart, Goulburn, Lismore, Melbourne, and Rockhampton for the consecration of their respective cathedrals. In 1908 he revisited and dedicated the cathedral of Auckland, and in the last year of his life he again covered 6000 miles to consecrate Dr. Clune Bishop of Perth. He consecrated fourteen bishops, ordained nearly five hundred priests, dedicated more than five hundred churches, and professed five thousand nuns. The thirty-two charities which he founded in the city of Sydney remain as the crowning achievement of his life. As a statesman he forecasted the necessity of Australian federation, an Australian navy, and an Australian citizen soldiery. By sheer force of character he pressed these questions on the public mind, and lived long enough to see a Federal Labor Ministry remodeling the class legislation of past centuries and equitably evolving the rights of the working classes, the first unit of an Australian navy patrolling Australian waters, and the first 100,000 Australian youths called into disciplinary camps. Rt. Rev. Dr. Hoare, Bishop of Ardagh, was first named to assist Cardinal Moran in the administration of the archdiocese. He was unable to leave Ireland, and Rt. Rev. Dr. Higgins was appointed auxiliary bishop March, 1889. He was transferred to the See of Rockhampton on May 4, 1899, and now occupies the See of Ballarat. On July 20, 1901, Dr. Kelly, rector of the Irish College, Rome, was appointed auxiliary, cum jure successionis, and succeeded the cardinal at his death. A quarter of a million people witnessed the funeral procession through the heart of the city of Sydney. By permission of the State Government and of the municipal authorities he was interred with the pioneer priests in his beloved St. Mary’s Cathedral.

Among his works may be named: “Monasticon Hibernicon”; “Spicilegium Ossoriense”, “Memoir of Oliver Plunkett”; “Persecutions of Irish Catholics”; “Lives of the Archbishops of Dublin”; “Life of David Roth”; essays in “Dublin Review”; “Irish Saints in Great Britain”; “Birthplace of St. Patrick”; “St. Bartholomew‘s Massacre”; “Father Mathew”; “Our Primates”; “Civilisation of Ireland“; “Church and Social Progress”; “Acta Sancti Brendan”; “History of the Catholic Church in Australasia”; “Reunion of Christendom“; “Capital and Labor”; “Mission Field in the Nineteenth Century”; “Patron Saints of Ireland: Patrick, Brigid, and Columbkille”; “Lives of Sts. Canice and Carthage”; “Mission of the Catholic Church“; “Divine Credentials of the Church“; “Discourses on Cardinals Newman and Manning”; “The Anglican Reformation“; “Rights and Duties of Labor”; “Blessed Thomas More”; “Catholics and Irishmen”; “Catholic Democracy”; “The Thirteenth Century”; “Infallible Authority of the Church“; “Perpetuity of the Church“; “The Apostolate of St. Patrick”; “Australian Federation”; “Heritage of Blessings in the Catholic Church“; “Christopher Columbus“; “Fruits of Redemption“; “Discovery of Australia“; etc., “The Beginnings of the Catholic Church in the United States”, from unpublished documents.


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