« St. Melania (The Younger) Melbourne Paul Melchers »



Archdiocese of Melbourne (Melburnen)

Located in the state of Victoria, Southeastern Australia. Its history is closely interwoven with the rise and progress of the state of Victoria. When the first Catholic Bishop of Melbourne was consecrated in 1848, the present metropolis, from which the see takes its name, was known as the Port Philip Settlement, and was part of the ecclesiastical province of Sydney. Dr. Polding, the newly consecrated bishop of that see, placed the Rev. Patrick Bonaventure Geoghegan in charge of Port Philip in 1839; and the first Mass was celebrated in Melbourne on Pentecost Sunday, 15 May, of that year. The entire population of Port Philip in 1841 was 11,738, and the Catholics numbered 2411.

(1) Most Rev. James Alypius Goold, the first bishop, an Irishman, journeyed overland from Sydney after his consecration, arriving in Melbourne 4 October, 1848. In April, 1850, he laid the foundation of St. Patrick's cathedral, and this event was followed in a few months by a declaration by the imperial authorities which changed the Settlement of Port Philip into the independent colony of Victoria. The discovery of goldfields at Ballarat, Bendigo, and Castlemaine at this period was responsible for a large increase in the population. Ireland found in Victoria a refuge and a home for many of her exiled children. The Catholic population, in 1851 only 18,000, had by 1857 grown to 88,000.

During the next decade and a half large centres of population had sprung up in places so remote from Melbourne that it was utterly impossible for Bishop Goold to attend to the wants of his widely scattered flock. When at Rome in 1874 he placed his difficulties before the Holy See, and had the northern and western portions of Victoria cut off from Melbourne and formed into the dioceses of Sandhurst and Ballarat, and received the pallium as first archbishop of Melbourne and Metropolitan of Victoria. The strain of getting through ecclesiastical work in the pioneering days of Australia demanded a strength and a mental firmness of no ordinary capacity. The work accomplished by Archbishop Goold from 1848 to 1886 proves him a man of wonderful endurance and great organizing ability. He made five voyages to Rome, and introduced several religious orders devoted to education and works of charity, the Jesuit fathers, the Christian Brothers, Sisters of Mercy, Good Shepherd Nuns, Presentation Order, Faithful Companions of Jesus, and Little Sisters of the Poor. The most important action of Dr. Goold and most far-reaching in its consequences was the determined and consistent fight he made against the state system of purely secular education. The zeal he displayed in the erection of Catholic schools, and the sacrifice he demanded of his people in maintaining them, show how fully convinced he was that religious instruction can never be separated from education. When the denominational system in 1872 gave way to a system from which the name of God was banished, the bishop proclaimed that no matter what the cost, or what the sacrifice involved, the Catholic children of Victoria should be provided with a Catholic education. When Archbishop Goold died, 11 June, 1886, there were 11,661 children receiving Catholic education without costing a penny to the state, while their parents were contributing their share as taxpayers to the state system.

(2) Most Rev. Thomas Joseph Carr, on the solid foundation laid by his predecessor, the first Bishop of Melbourne, has raised a stately and imposing edifice. The present Archbishop was transferred from the ancient see of Galway, and arrived in Melbourne on the first anniversary of Dr. Goold's death, 11 June, 1887. The years after his arrival he undertook the great task of completing St. Patrick's cathedral. For over forty years the building of this magnificent temple absorbed every thought of the first Vicar-General, the Right Rev. John Fitzpatrick, D. D. Yet a sum of one hundred thousand pounds was requested to carry out the original design, exclusive of the towers which are still unfinished. On the death of Dr. Fitzpatrick in 1889 the archbishop enlisted the practical sympathy and hearty co-operation of the clergy and laity of the archdiocese in this large undertaking. On 31 October, 1897, the cathedral was consecrated, entirely free from debt. The total cost from the day the foundation stone was laid in April, 1850, to the day of dedication was two hundred thirty thousand pounds. No modern cathedral in Ireland approaches the Melbourne fane, and even the two ancient cathedrals, Christ's church and St. Patrick's, Dublin, fall far short in seating accommodation and massive beauty. The episcopal silver jubilee of the archbishop was celebrated 26 August, 1907, with unbounded enthusiasm, while 10,000 found standing or sitting room with the walls of the cathedral. The clergy and laity took occasion of this celebration to mark their appreciation of Archbishop Carr's great services to the Church in Australia during the twenty years of his rule. Because of his deeply rooted objection to a personal testimonial, a debt of eight thousand pounds was cleared off the cathedral hall and a thousand pounds over-subscribed handed him for educational purposes. In connection with that event, a review was made, and official statistics compiled, of the growth and progress of the Church in that period. The number of clergy had increased from 66 to 142, 30 new churches had been built, old churches had been replaced by substantial and stately edifices, and the existing ones improved in ornamentation and equipment, and the number of parishes had risen from 26 to 56. The total cost of the erection of the churches, schools, presbyteries, halls, educational and charitable institutions amounted to the enormous sum (considering the population) of £1,272,874.

The development of Catholic education and the increase in the number of schools not only kept pace with the general growth, but led the van of progress. The archbishop adhered religiously to the principles of his predecessor in his endeavour to provide, as far as possible, Catholic education for every Catholic child. To make effective and permanent provision in the department of education, new teaching orders were introduced. In addition to those already fighting the educational battle, the archbishop, within a few years, had the Marist Brothers, the Sisters of Charity, the Sacred Heart Sisters, the Sisters of Loretto, the Sisters of St. Joseph, and the Sisters of the Good Samaritan. £500,679 was expended during these twenty years on school buildings and residence for religious engaged in Catholic education. In 1887 the number of pupils attending the Catholic schools of the archdiocese was 11,661, as compared with 25,369 at the close of 1908. The building and maintaining of a separate school system means a double tax on the Catholic community; as rate payers they contribute their share of State education, and as Catholics they pay for their own; and count the cost as nothing compared with the eternal interests at stake. When the purely secular system of education was introduced into Victoria in 1872, some anti-Catholics leagued together, and declared that the new system would "rend the Catholic church asunder". The opposite had been the result. The very sufferings and disabilities associated with the maintenance of their own schools have united solidly the Catholic body; while the absence of religion from the state schools has "rent asunder" Protestantism in producing a generation of non-believers. No review of the Archdiocese of Melbourne would be complete without reference to the growth of Catholic literature, particularly in recent years. To stem the tide of irreligious reading, splendid efforts have been made in Melbourne to provide Catholic homes with Catholic literature. When the Archbishop came to Melbourne (1887), there was only one Catholic paper, "The Advocate", in Victoria. Since then a monthly magazine, the "Austral Light", under his direction (1892), and the Australian Catholic Truth Society (1904), have come into existence and are doing great apostolic work in diffusing Catholic truth. The Catholics of the archdiocese are almost all Irish or of Irish origin. The priesthood was exclusively Irish till recent years, when vocations among the native born are rapidly on the increase. The religious, teaching in the school or conducting the charitable institutions, were in the early days Irish, but are now largely Australian.


Districts, 57; Churches, 168; Secular Clergy, 113; Regular Clergy, 38; Religious Brothers, 54; Nuns, 851; Superior Schools, for Boys, 8; for Girls, 28; number of pupils, 3443; Parochial Primary Schools, 107; number of pupils, 21,926; Total number of pupils in Parochial and High Schools, 25,369; Orphanages, 4; Industrial Schools for Boys, 1; for Girls, 1; Reformatory School for Girls, 1; Magdalene Asylums for Penitent Women, 2; Home for Neglected Children, 1; Home for the Poor, 1; Home for Women and Girls Out of Employment, 1; Foundling Hospital, 1; Receiving Home in Connection with Foundling Hospital, 1; Catholic population of the archdiocese according to Government census returns of 1901, 145,333.


« St. Melania (The Younger) Melbourne Paul Melchers »
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