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Diocese of Rockhampton

Located in Queensland, Australia

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Rockhampton, Diocese of, in Queensland, Australia. In 1862 Father Duhig visited the infant settlement on the banks of the Fitzroy River and celebrated the first Mass there. Father Scully came from Brisbane to attend to the spiritual needs of the little congregation and in 1863 Dean Murlay was appointed first resident pastor of Rockhampton, his parish extending as far north as Cooktown and south to Maryborough. He built the first Catholic church in Rockhampton, a wooden edifice still standing, and for many years was the only priest to look after the Catholics scattered over the vast territory. A foundation of the Sisters of Mercy from All-Hallows Convent, Brisbane, was established in 1873, and Sister Mary de Sales Gorry, the first Queensland-born nun, was appointed Superioress. Rockhampton remained part of the Diocese of Brisbane until 1882. In 1876 the Holy See erected the northern portion of the colony into a pro-vicariate, and in 1882 made Rockhampton a see with a territory of some 350,000 square miles. Right Rev. Dr. Cani, a native of the papal states, who had had a distinguished scholastic career at Rome, and former pro-vicar Apostolic of North Queensland, was appointed first bishop of the new diocese. Bishop Cani, who was then administering the Diocese of Brisbane, was consecrated by Archbishop Vaughan in St. Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney, May 21, 1882, and was installed in his temporary cathedral at Rockhampton on June 11 following.

In the new diocese there were about 10,000 Catholics, 6 or 7 priests, 8 Catholic schools, and 1 orphanage. Bishop Cani added to the small number of priests, purchased sites for new churches, and acquired 3000 acres of fertile land near Rockhampton for a central orphanage which he had built and placed under the care of the Sisters of Mercy. His great work was the erection of St. Joseph‘s Cathedral, a magnificent stone edifice which he did not live to see dedicated, After a strenuous episcopate of sixteen years Dr. Cani died, March 3, 1898. His great virtues were recognized even by those outside the Church. Humility and simplicity of life, love of the poor and orphans were his special characteristics. He was succeeded in Rockhampton by Right Rev. Dr. Higgins, a native of Co. Meath, Ireland, and now Bishop of Ballarat. Dr. Higgins studied in Maynooth, was subsequently President of the Diocesan Seminary at Navan, and in 1888 was chosen auxiliary bishop to the Cardinal Archbishop of Sydney with the title of titular Bishop of Antifelle. He had zealously labored in the Archdiocese of Sydney for over ten years, when appointed to Rockhampton. He traversed his new diocese from end to end, gauged its wants, attracted priests to his aid, placed students for the mission in various ecclesiastical colleges, introduced new religious teaching orders, built and dedicated churches, convents, and schools in several centers, bringing the blessings of religion and Christian education to the children of the backblocks.

On October 15, 1899, the beautiful new cathedral was dedicated by the Cardinal Archbishop of Sydney assisted by several other distinguished Australian prelates in the presence of a great concourse of people. The remains of Dr. Cani were transferred thither. Dr. Higgins visited Rome and Ireland in 1904, and returned with renewed energy to carry on his great work. On the death of Dr. Moore, Bishop of Ballarat, Victoria, he was translated to that important See, where he has ever since labored with characteristic zeal and devotedness. The present Bishop of Rockhampton is Right Rev. Dr. James Duhig, born at Broadford, Co. Limerick, Ireland, 1870. Dr. Duhig emigrated from Ireland with his family at the age of thirteen, studied with the Christian Brothers at Brisbane and at the Irish College, Rome, was ordained priest, September 19, 1896, and, returning to Queensland in the following year, was appointed to a curacy in the parish of Ipswich. In 1905 he was appointed administrator of St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Brisbane, and received the briefs of his appointment to the See of Rockhampton. At present (1911) there are in the Diocese of Rockhampton: about 28,000 Catholics; 19 missions or districts; 30 priests (4 of whom belong to the Marist Congregation, who have 1 house in the diocese); 12 Christian Brothers; 150 nuns; and 26 Catholic schools, attended by about 5000 children.


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