29 February, 2020

Churches and clergy in 1837

Father Bede Sumner OSB
Ordained in old Saint Mary's Cathedral
9th May 1836,
being the first priestly ordination in Australia.
In March of 1837, when Bishop Polding wrote the Lenten Pastoral to his Flock, quoted in our previous posts, the white settlement of Australia had taken place less  than 50 years previously.  In 1837, the British Government was still sending convicts to the Colony of New South Wales.  In 1837, the settlement of Melbourne and Adelaide had only taken place a year or two previously.  A settlement had existed in Perth for some years, but it might well have been on another planet.  White settlement in Australia was mainly confined to what we now know as NSW and Tasmania.  The indigenous peoples of Australia continued to live in and around white settlement, on land they had occupied for thousands of years.  Much of what we know now as urban Australia was bushland, undisturbed by European civilisation.

In March of 1837, there were but eight (8) priests actively serving on the Australia Mission; these are their names and where they were stationed :

Father John McENCROE, Chaplain at Sydney; arrived in Australia 1832

Father Henry GREGORY OSB, S' Mary's Seminary; ordained in Sydney 1837

Father Bede SUMNER OSB, Chaplain at Parramatta; ordained in Sydney 1836

Father John Joseph THERRY, Chaplain at Campbelltown; arrived in Australia 1820

Father James Vincent CORCORAN OSB, Chaplain at Windsor; arrived in Australia 1835

Father Christopher Vincent DOWLING OP Chaplain at East Maitland; arrived in Australia 1831

Father Ambrose COTHAM OSB Chaplain at Hobarton; arrived in Australia 1835

Father James WATKINS Chaplain at Hobarton; arrived in Australia circa 1835


The Very Reverend William Bernard ULLATHORNE OSB Vicar-General (visiting Europe 1836-38)

Father Philip CONNOLY, arrived in Australia 1820; resident in Hobarton.

There were also a small number of ecclesiastical students at the Sydney seminary, some of whom in the few years following were ordained at Saint Mary's.

It might be noted from the above that what is now South Australia, Western Australia, Queensland, Victoria and the Northern Territory did not have a resident Catholic priest; in some of these places, a Catholic priest had never visited.


In 1837, although there were quite a number of temporary places of Catholic worship, there were only a handful of permanent churches in the settled areas of Australia, as follows :

Sydney : S' Mary's Cathedral (no longer in existence);

Sydney : S' Joseph's chapel (adjacent to the Cathedral, no longer in existence);

Parramatta : S' Patrick's Church (original church no longer in existence);

Campbelltown : S' John's Church (still existing, but no longer a church);

Maitland : S' Joseph's Church (East Maitland, no longer in existence);

Wollongong : a temporary church (subsequently replaced);

Windsor : Saint Matthew's church (in the process of being built);

Richmond TAS : Saint John's church (still existing and in use);

Hobart TAS : a temporary church (subsequently replaced);


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