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Roman Catholic Diocese of Bathurst in Australia

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Title: Roman Catholic Diocese of Bathurst in Australia  
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Roman Catholic Diocese of Bathurst in Australia

Diocese of Bathurst
Dioecesis Bathurstensis
St Michael and St John's Cathedral, Bathurst; consecrated in 1861
Country Australia
Territory Central West and Orana, New South Wales
Metropolitan Archdiocese of Sydney
Area 103,560 km2 (39,980 sq mi)
- Total
- Catholics
(as of 2006)
Decrease 172,982
Decrease 48,342 (Decrease 27.9%)
Parishes Steady 21
Denomination Roman Catholic
Rite Latin Rite
Established 20 June 1865
Cathedral St Michael and St John's Cathedral
Current leadership
Pope Francis
Bishop Michael McKenna
Metropolitan Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP
Catholic Diocese of Bathurst

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Bathurst is a Latin Rite suffragan diocese of the Archdiocese of Sydney, established in 1865, covering the Central West and Orana regions of New South Wales, Australia

The Cathedral of St Michael and St John the Baptist is the seat of the Bishop of Bathurst, presently Michael McKenna.


  • History 1
  • Bishops of Bathurst 2
  • Cathedral 3
  • Parishes 4
  • Controversies 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7


The Diocese of Bathurst was erected by Pope Pius IX on 20 June 1865. Prior to this date, the area was considered within the jurisdiction of the Archdiocese of Sydney.

According to Roman Catholic Church records, the first Mass to be celebrated near Bathurst, was by Father Therry in early November 1830, when he was called from Sydney to attend the execution of a convict. In July 1838, the Reverend Fathers Michael O'Reilly and Thomas Slattery arrived from Ireland and were appointed to Bathurst, now established as a new church district and covered an area of 26 stations from Mt Victoria, Mudgee, Bathurst, through to Wellington and Dubbo. In June 1841, Dean O'Reilly visited Wellington and Dubbo, the first recorded visit of a priest to these districts. The area of the Bathurst mission was broken down in size as new mission centres opened. Hartley/Lithgow was already recognised as a mission centre as far back as 1842; Carcoar (1847), Sofala (1851), Mudgee (1852), Wellington (1856) and Orange (1864).[1]

With a Catholic population of 535, towards the end of 1839 work was commenced on the parish church situated on the corner of George and Keppel Streets – St. Michael's. The Parish of Bathurst was created in 1839 and St. Michael's was opened for worship in the middle of 1841, though its building was not completed for a further two years. After about 10 years, subsidence made it unfit for public worship. By 1853, Catholic schools in Bathurst had a roll call of 90 boys and 130 girls. Arriving that year, Dean Grant was to devote eight years of his life to the building and development of the Catholic Church in the Bathurst district and it was his responsibility to raise the funds needed for the proposed new cathedral. Work was also begun on new churches in Peel and O'Connell at this time.[1]

1865 saw Bathurst become a separate Diocese with the appointment of Dr Matthew Quinn was the first Bishop. The area covered by the Diocese changed little from when it was a mission in 1841, which extended from the River Murray to Queensland, and from the Blue Mountains to the border of South Australia. Today the Diocese covers an area of 103,560 square kilometres (39,980 sq mi) and comprises the territory immediately west of the Great Dividing Range; it extends north to the Barwon River, is bounded on the west by the Macquarie River as far up as Warren and then by a line to the Lachlan River 32 kilometres (20 mi) below Eauabolong.[2]

Bishops of Bathurst

The following individuals have been elected as Roman Catholic Bishop of Bathurst:[3]

Order Name Date enthroned Reign ended Term of office Reason for term end
1 Matthew Quinn 1 November 1866 16 January 1885 18 years, 76 days Died in office
2 Joseph Byrne 9 August 1885 12 January 1901 15 years, 156 days Died in office
3 John Dunne 12 January 1901 22 August 1919 18 years, 222 days Died in office
4 Michael O'Farrell CM 16 June 1920 4 April 1928 7 years, 293 days Died in office
5 John Francis Norton 3 April 1928 20 June 1963 35 years, 78 days Died in office
6 A. R. E. Thomas 29 September 1963 12 April 1983 19 years, 195 days Retired and appointed Bishop Emeritus of Bathurst
7 Patrick Dougherty 1 September 1983 11 November 2008 25 years, 71 days Retired and appointed Bishop Emeritus of Bathurst
8 Michael McKenna 15 April 2009 present 5 years, 302 days n/a


In 1857, the foundation stone of St Michael and St. John's Cathedral was blessed by the Archbishop of Sydney, Dr John Polding OSB, with the blessing and opening in April 1861. The cathedral is located on the corner of Keppel and William Streets in Bathurst and is the sole cathedral church of the Diocese. Commissioned by Fr Dean Grant, the church was erected at a cost of £12,000 under the supervision of local architect, Edward Gell, initially dedicated to St John the Baptist. However, following the erection of the new diocese in 1865, the church was dedicated to dual saints as the Cathedral Church of the Diocese.[1]

The cathedral was built in the early English style, constructed with red brick and locally cut sandstone facings. The aisles are low with an attracting clerestory below. Gell's parish church terminated at the end of the nave with a small temporary chancel until such time as funds would allow for a more suitable sanctuary to be built. Over the next hundred years, the cathedral underwent several expansions. An adjoining convent complex appeared in about 1895. In 1897 the temporary chancel was replaced by a larger one more in keeping with the cathedral's status and it was at this time that the east windows and marble altar were also installed. In addition several structures were erected on the north side between 1897 and 1922. In honour of its centenary, the cathedral was extensively renovated and enlarged during 1960. As the mother church of one of the oldest dioceses in New South Wales, the cathedral has seen many changes over its lifetime making it truly a historical document in stone. In spite of all the changes however the cathedral is today substantially the same imposing building planned and built by Fr Dean Grant as his visionary 'cathedral' for Bathurst over a century ago.[4]

A high nave and a stained glass window by John Hardman & Co. Dominate the west end. The tower, low in comparison to the nave, marks the old west end before a new narthex was added. The crenellated western tower is decorated by a clerestory, a tableau of the crucifixion and a statue of the Sacred Heart. The interior consists of an aisled nave with rounded sandstone piers and pointed Gothic arches which leads up to a distant sanctuary bathed in a mystical gloom. The wooden buttresses spring from corbells high on the walls in support of the open roof. The quasi-moorish arch and strainer beam is a result of the renovation as seen in a comparison with the original archway. The sanctuary is quite plain with the exception of the Sicilian marble altar introduced in 1897, from Dublin . The sanctuary is lit by two slim lancets placed in memory of Bishop Matthew Quinn, which show the Sacred Heart on the left and St Matthew on the right. Above is a trefoil which portrays the Holy Spirit. The marble altar is the focal point of the cathedral. After Vatican II the mensa was moved forward in order to accommodate the novus ordo with the Bishop's throne and celebrant's chairs set behind it. The style of the altar is that of the pre-Vatican II era when the altar served both as the main focal point of the church and as the throne.[4]

The retable with its extravagantly carved canopy and columned tabernacle in the shape of a church door remains in its place but the mensa has been moved forward to allow the bishop's throne and celebrant's chairs to be placed behind to allow the versus populam as prescribed by the new order of Mass. Of interest is the central panel showing one of the Stations of the Cross (Jesus falling). To the left of the chancel is the former nun's chancel now used as the Blessed Sacrament chapel and to the right is the south transept. To either side of the sanctuary proper are two more lancets representing St Joseph and St Mary. Standing before the Joseph window is a statue of Our Lady and before the Lady window is the Sacred Heart.[4]

In 2011, it was reported that the repair work is necessary to restore the fabric of the building, in particular the bell tower, which has become unsafe. Some of the sandstone from the 1800s has not weathered well and shows extensive fretting and disintegration, while early brickwork, decorative stained glass windows and copper and slate roofing also need repairs. In addition there is rising damp in the south-west corner of the cathedral and concerns about sub-floor ventilation. A public appeal was launched with expectations of raising A$2.5million with the work to be completed by 2015 when the diocese celebrates its sesqui-centenary and the city its bicentenary.[5]


St Malachy's church at Gooloogong

The diocese has nineteen parishes with regular liturgical services held in the following locations, with churches dedicated to particular saints:[6]


The Diocese of Bathurst, like many in Australia, has been part of the Catholic sexual abuse scandal, which are a series of convictions, trials and ongoing investigations into allegations of sex crimes committed by Catholic priests and members of religious orders.[7]

The most notable institution in the diocese where convictions for sex crimes have been recorded is St Stanislaus' College in Bathurst. During the 1970s and 80's sex crimes against young boys and men occurred, instigated by religious clergy:[8]

  • In 2011, a conviction was recorded against William Stanley Irwin, a former Catholic brother, on two counts of gross indecency on a male under the age of 18.[9]
  • Kevin Francis Phillips, pleaded guilty in 2010 to four counts of gross indecency with a child under the age of 18; and was later sentenced to a total of 15 months jail.[10][11][12]
  • Brian Joseph Spillane also was convicted during 2010 on nine counts of indecent assault against three girls aged between eight and seventeen while he was based in Sydney in about 1979, a Vincentian priest at that time. During bail proceedings it was heard that Spillaine faces a further 135 charges relating to alleged offences against boys at St Stanislaus' College whilst Spillaine was chaplain. Spillaine was refused bail.[13]

See also


  1. ^ a b c "History: Diocese of Bathurst". Catholic Diocese of Bathurst. 2006. Retrieved 24 September 2011. 
  2. ^ Cleary, Henry (1907). "Bathurst". The Catholic Encyclopedia 2. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved 25 September 2011. 
  3. ^ "Diocese of Bathurst". The Hierarchy of the Catholic Church. 21 May 2011. Retrieved 24 September 2011. 
  4. ^ a b c "Cathedral Church of St Michael and St John the Baptist". Catholic Churches of Australia. Retrieved 25 September 2011. 
  5. ^ Eddy, Louise (28 June 2011). "Cathedral's $2.5m repair bill". Western Adcovate. Retrieved 25 September 2011. 
  6. ^ "Parishes of the Bathurst Diocese". Catholic Diocese of Bathurst. 2006. Retrieved 1 October 2011. 
  7. ^ "Child abuse scandals faced by Roman Catholic Church". The Telegraph (United Kingdom). 12 March 2010. Retrieved 21 September 2011. 
  8. ^ Murphy, Damien (6 September 2008). "Old boy calls school a pedophile paradise". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 22 September 2011. 
  9. ^ Courts, Louise Hall (1 April 2011). "Catholic brother abused boy he was counselling". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 1 April 2011. 
  10. ^ "Sixth teacher charged over sex abuse". The Australian. AAP. 5 May 2009. Retrieved 22 November 2010. 
  11. ^  
  12. ^ "Ex-Stannies priest jailed". Central Western Daily (Australia). 11 May 2011. Retrieved 11 May 2011. 
  13. ^ Marr, David (1 December 2010). "God help me: former priest found guilty of child abuse". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 4 December 2010. 
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