13 February, 2019

John O'Brien on Archbishop Polding

Here are a few lines by John O'Brien (Monsignor Patrick Hartigan) in appreciation of Archbishop Polding:

Archbishop JB Polding OSB
A photograph of the 1860s.
Australia was fortunate in its first bishop.  What settlement there was at the time of his arrival [1835] was scattered over hundreds of miles - from Moreton Bay to Melbourne, with a something around Adelaide and something at the Swan River [Perth].  In his own words "Little could be done except to keep from entire decay so much of the form and spirit of religion as had been preserved by our zealous predecessors."  There were few churches and the call was for a journeyman-shepherd who would follow the straying sheep across a continent.  None could have done this better than he.  Blessed with health and great powers of physical endurance, before roads were formed or bridges built, he went in his heyday on horseback by bridle track or guess, from Sydney to Wollongong, Goulburn, Albury, Maitland, Singleton, Armidale, Bathurst, Deniliquin to Melbourne, to Brisbane, wherever there was anyone - be it settler or shepherd, ticket-of-leave man or convict - in need of pastoral care.  He accepted with gratitude whatever they had to offer by way of hospitality, the shake-down on the floor, and the rough fare "some damper and a bite of beef, a pannikin of tea." ...

At the same time, he was administering the most unwieldly diocese in the world, and doing well in trying circumstances, but it was as a Missionary that he came to Australia, and a Missionary he remained.  In that sphere he has been styled the greatest of modern times.  As a Missionary he walks among the Immortals.

On Darlinghurst Hill, Sydney, 1952, pp 70-71.

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