10 August, 2020

Bi-centenary 1820 - 2020

In the midst of tribulations that have spanned several months here in Australia, in this year of 2020 we commemorate a most important bi-centenary : the arrival of the first Government-appointed Catholic Chaplains to the Colony of New South Wales.  These were Father John Joseph Therry and Father Philip Connolly, both Irishmen, who arrived in Sydney on 6th May 1820.

The name of Father Therry (pronounced Terry) is still known to Australian Catholics.  If any one person could be said to be the Church's first Apostle in Australia, it was Father Therry.  When the settlement of Australia was almost entirely confined to what is now New South Wales, Father Therry travelled to all areas of settlement, ministering to Catholics and others who sought the consolation of Religion.  Father Connolly's ministry, however, was confined to Tasmania.

Father John Joseph Therry, Apostle of Australia
circa 1815.

Engulfed as the world and the Church has been by the COVID-19 virus, the commemoration of this important occasion has been very minor.  We will try to add something to the story with posts on this blog.  Since a number of books and many learned studies have been published about Father Therry, we can only hope to give an outline of his ministry here in Australia.  The story of Father Connolly was more chequered.

It was Father Therry also, who founded the first Catholic church in Sydney, which came to be Bishop Polding's Cathedral in 1835.

Over the next several months, we will be continuing to outline on this blog the history of the Catholicism in Australia from the founding of the colony in 1788 to the arrival of Bishop Polding in 1835.  There are some interesting tales to be told.

We will describe the construction of our first churches, in particular old Saint Mary's Cathedral, which celebrates its own bi-centenary next year, 2021.



The miniature watercolour of Father Therry was painted in about the year 1815 and is in the possession of the Archdiocese of Sydney.  Before the clergyman's collar which is more familiar to us, ministers of Religion (and other gentlemen, for that matter) commonly wore an ordinary shirt with an unstarched standing collar.  Around this was wrapped a long white cravat, usually tied in a bow.  This ornament frequently concealed the entire neck of the wearer.  In this miniature, Father Therry is shewn wearing such an ornament.

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