Wilcannia, Diocese of (WILCANNAENSIS), in New South Wales, one of the six suffragan sees of Sydney, consists for the most part of the western portions of the older dioceses of Bathurst, Armidale, and Goulburn. It is composed of nearly one-half of the State of New South Wales, its area being 150,000 sq. miles. Its sparsely scattered population is engaged principally in pastoral pursuits, though of late years a couple of important and flourishing mining centers have sprung up. When formed, in 1887, its Catholic population was estimated at about 7000, with 8 priests, and an average attendance of 800 children in Catholic schools. The official return for 1912 shows a population of 19,000 Catholics, including 19 secular priests, and 2960 children in Catholic schools under the care of 146 religious teachers. Owing to various causes, namely, the dry climate, the form of land tenure (which favors vast areas of pastoral holdings or “Squattages”), and the uncertainty of the mining industry, the material progress of the diocese has not been such as was anticipated on its establishment. But, with increased railway facilities, scientific wheat growing, and irrigation farming along the great rivers of the western plains, the possibilities of development are very great. Within this vast area are contained mineral deposits of great value which only await the advance of settlement and population for their successful development. The chief mining districts at present are Broken Hill, in Western Corner, and Cobar, in the center of the diocese. The silver and lead mines of Broken Hill are famous and support the largest purely mining population in Australia. Broken Hill has a population of 40,000 and is a well laid out and thoroughly equipped city. At Cabar, Cambelego, and Wymagee there are gold and copper mines of importance and well-established permanency.
The Very Rev. John Dunne, parish priest of Albury and Vicar-General of the Diocese of Goulburn, was chosen in 1887 to administer this newly formed and vast diocese. He was born in King’s Co., Ireland, in 1846; educated at Carlow College; and ordained priest in 1870. After his arrival in Australia he labored in the Diocese of Goulburn for sixteen years, and was consecrated Bishop of Wilcannia by Cardinal Moran, on August 14, 1887. As there was no residence for a bishop in the town of Wilcannia, from which the diocese was named, nor means to support one, Bishop Dunne resided for a short time at Hay. Seeing, however, the prospects of the new mining city of Broken Hill, he took up his residence there in 1889, and since has administered the diocese from this center. The city has a handsome cathedral, two convents, an orphanage, and three suburban schools and churches.