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Diocese of Armidale

Situated in New South Wales (Australia)

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Armidale, the Diocese of, situated in New South Wales (Australia), with its cathedral at Armidale, 335 miles north of Sydney. It is one of the six suffragan sees of the province of Sydney. Its boundary on the north is the Queensland border, on the east, the Diocese of Lismore, on the west, the Diocese of Wilcannia, ten miles beyond Walgett, and on the south, the Dioceses of Maitland and Bathurst. Area of Armidale Diocese, about 85,000 square miles. Armidale was not proclaimed a municipality till 1863. Ten years before that date (in 1853) the Rev. Timothy McCarthy was appointed its first resident priest. It was then a sparsely populated agricultural and pastoral district, where Catholics were few and far apart. Father McCarthy made Armidale his headquarters, and (says Cardinal Moran) “his missionary district embraced all the territory as far as the Queensland border, and extended to the Pacific Ocean. His periodical excursions lasted for three months. From the Tweed to the Richmond, thence to the Clarence and on to Walcha, then across the Liverpool Plains to the Gwydir. and back by way of Glen Inns and Tenterfield to Armidale. Such was the route which he traversed in the discharge of his ordinary duties.” He was afterwards transferred to the Carcoar district at a time when it was “in a ferment from the violence and lawlessness of the bushrangers. He rendered a great service alike to the State and to those unhappy outlaws, many of whom he succeeded in withdrawing from their life of sin and crime.” He died in Ireland in 1879. Till 1864 all New South Wales was under the spiritual charge of the Bishop of Sydney. In that and the following years were created the present Dioceses of Goulburn (1864), Bathurst (1865), and Maitland (1867). Armidale (says Cardinal Moran) “was also marked out for an episcopal see”, but it was not till 1869 that its first Bishop, the Right Rev. Timothy O’Mahony, was appointed. Till 1887 the diocese had a vast and unwieldy area, and at the time that the new Bishop entered into possession it had no railroad running through it, “and even the ordinary roads were few”. The first cathedral was a little wooden church 25 feet by 18, replaced by a brick and stone structure, opened in 1872, and measuring 102 feet by 32. Bishop O’Mahony’s stay in Armidale was embittered by grave accusations that were fomented by a false clerical friend and given to the press and public by open enemies. He resigned his see in 1878 and was appointed auxiliary bishop to the Archbishop of Toronto, where he died in 1892. He was succeeded by the Right Rev. Elzear Torreggiani (1879-1904), an Italian Capuchin who had been on the mission in England and Wales. In Australia, as in Great Britain and Italy, Dr. Torreggiani always wore the habit of his order. His first visitation of his straggling and difficult diocese occupied three years. The coast district was, in 1887, erected into the Diocese of Grafton (now known as the Diocese of Lismore). A portion of the Maitland diocese was at the same time added to that of Armidale. Dr. Torreggiani died, January 28:1904. He was succeeded by the Right Rev. Patrick Joseph O’Connor, who had been his coadjutor from May 3, 1903.

STATISTICS (towards the close of 1905).—Parochial districts, 15; churches, 52; secular priests, 22; regulars, 2; nuns, 144; secular teachers, 4; boarding schools for girls, 4; primary schools, 19; children in Catholic schools, 2;510; Catholic population, 25,540.


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