Pastoral Letter - Pentecost 2014


(Romans 8:26)

 A Pastoral Letter to God’s People of the Diocese of Bathurst

Pentecost Sunday 2014

8th June 2014

Dear Friends in Christ,

On 20th June 1865, Pope Blessed Pius IX established the Diocese of Bathurst. So next year, we will mark our Sesquicentenary: 150 years of this local church’s journey of faith. St. Augustine said that we should leave the past to God’s mercy, the present to God’s love and the future to God’s providence. I invite all the Catholics of our Diocese to begin reflecting together on where we have been, where we are now and where we are going.

How we began….

The early Catholics of our region, most of them convicts, lived here for 15 years before the first visit of a priest. That priest was the legendary John Joseph Therry, whose anniversary of death 150 years ago we mark this year.

There were two events in 1815 that are important in our story. That year, Governor Macquarie travelled the new road across the Blue Mountains and proclaimed Bathurst as the first inland town in Australia. And, across the world in Ireland, Father Therry was ordained in his home Diocese of Cork.

Not long afterwards, the young priest was walking down the street and saw a wagon load of prisoners being transported to New South Wales. He raced into the nearest bookshop and bought twenty or thirty prayer books, which he threw into the wagon. He made up his mind on the spot that he would follow them to serve in the Australian mission. He arrived in Sydney on 6th May 1820.

Ten years later, he crossed the Blue Mountains for the first time. He came to Bathurst on All Saints Day 1830 to attend the convict Ralf Entwistle (of Ribbon Gang fame) who was to be executed the following day. At the Golden Fleece Inn, on the Sofala Road in Kelso, Mass was celebrated for the first time west of the Blue Mountains. It was six years before the next Mass was offered here, by Father William Ullathorne.

Then, in 1838, the first resident priests, Michal O’Reilly and Thomas Slattery, arrived in Bathurst. O’Reilly had the care of a vast and vaguely defined area to the south of the Macquarie River; Slattery similarly to the north. They did what they could in the circumstances that they found.

They travelled their territory, finding and visiting Catholics; gathering them for Mass and the other sacraments in homes and halls and pubs; and teaching them. Their people did not have Mass every Sunday, nor always a priest available for their last rites and funerals.

By the time Father John Grant came to Bathurst in 1853, the Gold Rush had begun to transform life in the colonies. The population was growing and it was time for building churches and schools.

We have a great example of that in our Cathedral of St. Michael and St. John. It was completed in 1861 as a parish church. With “his good life, in humility and wisdom”, Dean Grant united his Catholic people, and in fact the whole Bathurst community, in building this place of worship to God. When Bathurst was established as a Diocese, the year after John Grant’s death, it became our Cathedral. Today, we are engaged in restoring and renewing what the toil and wealth of our forebears has bequeathed to us.

Our first Bishop, Matthew Quinn, arrived in 1866 in a time of gathering crisis for the funding of Catholic education. He had limited financial resources, and few priests or religious to work with. However, the history of the first hundred years of the Diocese is dominated by the successful building and growth of a system of Catholic schools. It came about thanks to the sacrifice and commitment of the people, the firm leadership of the bishops and priests and especially the generous service of so many religious women and men.

Next year will be the time to tell in detail the story of our 150 years: and look for lessons from both the successes and failures in understanding and living our mission. 

Where we are now....MORE>

The Pastoral Letter is also available online at HERE



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