Dean John Grant, D.D. (1816-1864)
On 25th February 2014, it was 150 years since the death of Dean John Grant, the man most responsible for the building of the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. John in Bathurst. Bishop Michael McKenna celebrated Mass in the Cathedral the previous evening, to mark this occasion in our Diocese's history. (Read the Bishop's Homily here)
Born on 7th August 1816 in Kilkenny into an educated and established family in Ireland, Grant evenutally gave his considerable energy and talents to the Catholic Church in Australia and undoubtedly his ‘great work’ was the building of the church that became our Cathedral.
John was just 19 and studying at St. Kieran's College when Dr Ullathorne arrived, making an appeal for volunteers for the pioneering land of Australia. He took up the challenge and arrived in Sydney on 21st September 1836, just 20 years old. He entered St. Mary's Seminary under Fr Charles Lovatt. He was ordained Sub-deacon in 1840, then Deacon an was ordained to the priesthood on 20th August 1843.
He was appointed Chaplain to Darlinghurst Gaol for a while, then sent to Appin, Picton and Berima, where he submitted plans and collected for a Church. Moved to Windsor in 1851, his health failed, and on obtaining leave, he went with Abbot Gregory to Europe. When he visited Rome, Pope Pius IX bestowed on him the title of Doctor of Divinity.
Returning to Australia in 1853, Father Grant was appointed to Bathurst Catholic schools here had a roll call of 90 boys and 130 girls and Fr Grant brought Mr George O'Byrne from Ireland to take charge of the Schools. He was to devote the next eight years of his life to the building and development of the Catholic Church in Bathurst. He gathered a notable choir, organised a young men's society and formed a library; and of course, raised the funds needed to build his great work and legacy - the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. John. The first stone was laid on 30th November 1857 and the church opened in April 1861.
It is said the Dean "was the most respected and influential man in The West". "He was a man of great holiness and boundless hospitality; was not a good speaker, but his acts were a constant and abiding sermon". (Salt of the Earth - A Bathurst Necrology - Vol 1 - L. Grant)
Dean Grant died suddenly of diphtheria on 25th February 1862 and was buried in the Cathedral.