About Us

Key Dates in Our History


1788 First Fleet lands Sydney Cove

1788 La Perouse enters Botany Bay and his chaplain, Abbe Mones, celebrates the first Mass within Australian territory

1791 First Irish convicts transported to Botany Bay

1792 Catholic settlers in Parramatta petition Governor Phillip for a chaplin

1800 Fr James Dixon and two other priests arrested as part of the 1798 Irish Rebellion are transported to New South Wales as convicts

1803 First official public Mass is held under strict Government supervision and is celebrated by prisoner priest, Fr Dixon

1804 Castle Hill Rebellion results in Fr Dixon's permit to conduct Mass being withdrawn

1817 Fr Jeremiah Flynn arrives to minister to convict Catholics but he does not have the official sanction of the church or state. The following year after ignoring Governor Macquarie's instructions not to carry out any of the functions of a priest, he is arrested and deported despite protests from the colony's Catholics and several Protestant leaders

1819 Fr John Therry and Fr Philip Conolly, Australia's first official priests, arrive in Sydney. Fr Therry opens the first Catholic school in Parramatta and lobbies Governor Macquarie for land on which to build the settlement's first Catholic church

1820 Father Conolly leaves for Hobart leaving Fr John Therry the only priest on mainland Australia

1821 The foundation stone of St Mary's Chapel is laid by Governor Macquarie and blessed by Fr Therry. The site is near a barren brickfield and Sydney's convict barracks on land  considered undesirable and without value. Father Connolly builds the first Catholic church in Tasmania

1822 Fr Therry founds the first Catholic school on Hunter Street, Parramatta

1825 Fr Therry is misquoted in the Sydney Gazette triggering a furore among the Anglican Establishment. An outraged Governor Macquarie, now Earl of Bathurst removes Therry from his role as the colony's official chaplain.

1826 Fr Daniel Power lands in Sydney to replace Fr Therry as official chaplain to the growing colony. Hardworking Fr Therry moves to Parramatta and remains a chief influence among Sydney's Catholics

1828 Australia's first census is held and reveals a white population of 36,598 which includes both free settlers and convicts. Among these, 25,248 are Protestants and 11,236 Catholics

1829 Penal laws preventing Catholics holding Government positions ends

1830 Fr Power dies

1832 Fr John McEncroe appointed official chaplain to the Catholics of Australia. In a letter to Dublin's Archbishop James Murray that "There are 16,000 or 18,000 Catholics in this colony, not one half of whom hardly ever see a Priest"

1833 St Mary's Chapel finally completed. Fr Therry celebrates the first Mass there. Fr William Ullalthorne arrives in Sydney to take over as the colony's first Vicar General

1834 Benedictine priest, John Bede Polding is consecrated (ordained as Bishop) in London and appointed Vicar Apostolic with jurisdiction over what is now the Commonwealth of Australia.

1835 Bishop Polding arrives in Hobart and a short time later sails for Sydney. His Vicariate covers the whole of Australia including Tasmania. The newly-completed St Mary's Chapel is consecrated as St Mary's Cathedral.

1836 Bishop Polding takes control of schools and by1836 has 13 primary schools in operation. Seven are for boys, six for girls and all have government support. He lays the foundation stone for a church at Parramatta

1837 Governor Bourke reinstates Fr Therry as the colony's official chaplain. Catholic centres are established in Wollongong, Maitland, Parramatta and Windsor  St Mary's Seminary opened at Bishop's House. St Patrick's Church at Parramatta is completed


1838 Five Sisters of Charity arrive in Sydney with a mission to help the poor and disadvantaged in response to a request from Archbishop Polding for a community of sisters in the colony. English-born philanthropist Caroline Chisholm also arrives in Sydney as does a large contingent of secular Irish clergy including Fr John Brady who is appointed to Windsor with a parish that extends from Penrith to the Hawkesbury and Broken Bay.

1839 The weekly Catholic newspaper, Australasian Chronicle is launched with former schoolteacher turned journalist William as founding editor. The journal champions rights not only of the church but of small farmers, working men and the dispossessed

1840 Transportation of convicts to New South Wales is suspended

1842 Sydney made a metropolitan and archiepiscopal see and Polding becomes Archbishop of Sydney and Metropolitan of Australia, Van Diemen's Land, and the Gambier Islands. Adelaide and Hobart are separated from the original vicariate and made episcopal sees. Transportation  of convicts to NSW officially ends

1843 Polding launches the first Catholic Mission to Aborigines on Stradbroke Island.  Queensland. Queensland is part of the Archdiocese which encompasses an area now covered by NSW, Victoria and Queensland.

1844 Archbishop Polding consecrates Fr Francis Murphy as Bishop of Adelaide in the first episcopal conscration to take place in Australia.

1845 Fr John Brady consecrated as Bishop of Perth and moves from Windsor to Western Australia

1848 Archbishop Polding consecrates Fr James Goold as the first bishop of Melbourne in the second Episcopal consecration to take place at Sydney's St Mary's Cathedral

1850 Fr John McEncroe, now Archdeacon McEncroe, founds the Freeman's Journal in 1850 continuing the tradition of a weekly informative Catholic newspaper

1851 St Mary's Cathedral is modified to the designs of renowned British architect, Augustus Pugin. The Archdiocese now has 33 parishes, 30 churches and 35 priests who minister to 55,000 Catholics, most of whom are either Irish born or of Irish descent. In addition according to a report sent to Rome, the Archdiocese has about 50 monks, nuns and religious students

1856 St Benedict's Church on Broadway is consecrated. Like the Cathedral, it is designed by Pugin

1857 The Sisters of Charity establish St Vincent's Hospital in the centre of Sydney and offer its services free to all people, but especially to the poor

1859 Fr James Quinn is consecrated in Ireland and sails for Australia to become the first Bishop of Brisbane

1862 The NSW Government passes a bill to abolish State aid to religion

1865 Fire destroys St Mary's Cathedral. Although much of the edifice is stone, the flames raze the building to the ground. Archdeacon McEncroe begins fundraising efforts for a new cathedral designed by William Wardell, the architect responsible for St John's College at the University of Sydney and St Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne.

1866 Mary MacKillop and Fr Julian Tenison Woods found the Sisters of St. Joseph. Daniel Murphy appointed second Archbishop of Hobart  A temporary St Mary's Cathedral begins construction until a brandnew cathedral can be built

1867 Mary MacKillop becomes the first Sister and Mother Superior of the Sisters of St Joseph

1868 Archbishop Polding lays the foundation stone for a new St Mary's Cathedral.

1869 The temporary structure that serves as St Mary's Cathedral burns down but construction on the third and permanent St Mary's is now well underway

1871 Mother Mary MacKillop excommunicated by Laurence Sheil, Bishop of Adelaide who alleges she incites her sisters to disobedience and defiance.

1872 An Episcopal Commission exonerates Mother Mary MacKillop. She is recommunicated into the church and the Sisters of Joseph permitted to continue their work. Colonial governments end state-aid to church schools. The Marist Brothers open St Patrick's Primary School on Harrington Street in the Rocks, Sydney

1873 English-born Benedictine scholar, Roger Bede Vaughan is appointed titular archbishop in partibus and eventual successor to Archbishop Polding. Consecrated in Liverpool he sails for Sydney to take up his new position

1877 Archbishop Polding dies at Sacred Heart Presbytery in Sydney aged 85. Roger Bede Vaughan becomes Archbishop of Sydney


1878 Arrival of the Jesuits in Sydney

1879 NSW Catholic Bishops issue a Joint Pastoral Letter stating that Catholics must send their children to Catholic schools unless given special dispensation by their parish priest

1880 Archbishop Vaughan buys the Catholic Times. He also raises £30,000 for the rebuilding of St Mary's Cathedral by writing 3000 personal letters over a period of two years. St Ignatius College, Riverview is established by the Jesuits Brothers who arrived in the Colony two years before.

1881 First St Vincent de Paul Society established in Sydney. Marist Brothers found St Joseph's College, a boarding school for boys, at Hunter's Hill

1882 St Mary's Cathedral is dedicated at a special Mass celebrated by Archbishop Vaughan. Its bells are heard for the first time but the building itself is far from complete and only the northern section is opened. It will be many more years until the nave is finished and more than a century before the spires from the original design are finally erected

1883 Archbishop Vaughan dies during a trip to England. A scholar and education advocate one of his legacies is the upsurge in teaching orders and schools. Of the 15,200 Catholic children in Sydney, more than 12,500 now attend Archdiocese schools

1884 Francis Patrick Moran, consecrated as Bishop of Olba In Partibus by Dublin's Cardinal Cullen is promoted to Archbishop of Sydney and arrives in Australia to take over the Archdiocese.

1885 The first-ever Plenary Council of the Australian Catholic Church is held in Sydney. The foundation stone for St Patrick's Seminary is also laid. Archbishop Moran is created Cardinal Priest.

1886 The Archbishop's Official Residence at Manly is completed

1887 A decree from Rome constitutes the Mary MacKillop founded Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart as an approved Regular Congregation with the Mother House in Sydney.

1889 St Patrick's Seminary College opens in Manly and initially is intended to provide priests not only for Australia but for all British colonies. The seminary is the initiative of Cardinal Moran and he contributes a library of several hundred books, a collection of medieval manuscripts, as well as items for a museum.

1895 Catholic Press prints and distributes its first issue

1900 Cardinal Moran convenes the first Australasian Catholic Congress at St Mary's Cathedral on September 10. The central tower of St Mary's Cathedral is finally finished and a dedication follows

1901 Irish-born Michael Kelly, former rector of the Irish College, Rome, is proconized coadjutor archbishop with right of succession to Cardinal Moran

1905 Australian Catechism inaugurated

1909 Death of Mother Mary MacKillop

1910 St Columba's College, seminary, opens at Springwood, NSW

1911 Cardinal Moran dies and is succeeded by Archbishop Kelly. The Archdiocese now has 189 churches, eight hospitals and three seminaries. Of Sydney's 175,000 Catholics, more than 25,000 children are enrolled at Archdiocese schools.  

1912 The Australian Catholic Federation is established in Victoria. Set up to advocate the political interests of the Catholic Church in Australia, the Federation is part of a world-wide movement and is endorsed by Archbishop of Melbourne, Thomas Carr

1913  Formation of the Australian Catholic Federation in NSW. The inaugural meeting is held at St Mary's Cathedral
The NSW branch of the Catholic Women's Association is founded by Esther Cannon and endorsed by Archbishop Kelly. Later it will change its name to the Catholic Women's League

1914 World War I declared. Catholics become influential in the Australian Labor Party with the rise of figures such as Ben Chiffley and James Scullin. St Patrick's College seminary at Manly celebrates its Silver Jubilee. An Act of Parliament permits the subdivision of 21 acres of land above Shelly Beach and Fairy Bower to help meet the cost of the college's upkeep

1916 The Formation of the Manly Union, an association of priests from St Patrick's College seminary who demand the 'Australianisation' of the Australian Church. Ex St Patrick's student, Matthew Brodie is made Bishop of Christchurch  

1919 Founding of the Knights of the Southern Cross. Committed to promoting a Christian way of life, the Late Mother Mary MacKillop is appointed patron of the order which is open to Catholic men over the age of 18

1922 Formation of the Catholic Teachers' Federation

1928 The International Eucharistic Congress is held in Sydney under Archbishop Kelly with Cardinal Ceretti appointed the delegate for Pope Pius XI. The nave of St Mary's Cathedral is finished and bar its spires, the Cathedral is now virtually complete

1929 James Scullin becomes Australia's first Catholic prime minister

1931 Sydney Catholic owned commercial radio station 2SM begins operating. The SM call sign is taken from the initials of St Mark's church not as popularly believed, St Mary's Cathedral.

1932 Rules of St Patrick's published This meeting formed the St. Patrick's Society "for the encouragement of national feeling, for the relief of the destitute, the promotion of education, whatever may be considered by the members best calculated to promote the happiness, honour and prosperity of their native and adopted land"

1937 Sydney-born Norman Thomas Gilroy, former Bishop of Port Augusta and a veteran of the Gallipoli campaign during World War I is created Archbishop in partibus and successor to Archbishop Kelly and the Sydney Archdiocese

1940 Archbishop Michael Kelly dies. Archbishop Gilroy becomes Archbishop of Sydney

1942 Catholic Weekly prints its first issue

1945  The Aquinas Academy for the adult study of theology and philosophy opens on premises behind St Patrick's Church at the Rocks

1946 Archbishop Gilroy is created Cardinal and becomes the first Australian-born member of the Sacred College

1950 Foundation of the Catholic Immigration Office to welcome and assist new immigrants

1955 Post World War II with the upsurge in births, Catholic schools are under pressure and overwhelmed by demand

1956 Sydney born, James Darcy Freeman is elected bishop in partibus to Sydney.

1957 Bishop Freeman is consecrated by Cardinal Gilroy

1963 Death of Pope John XXIII who is succeeded by Pope Paul VI. The Second Vatican Council commences and appoints Cardinal Gilroy to the Council of Presidency. The Mass changes from Latin to English

1963 Catholic Overseas Relief Committee, now known as Caritas, is established to respond to poverty, hunger and disasters and sponsoring longterm education, development and self reliance among people in need

1965 With the crisis in schools as a result of the post World War II baby boom, 27 percent of teachers in Archdiocese schools are now lay people

1969 Cardinal Gilroy is receives a KBE, a knighthood of the British Empire for his services to Sydney and the community Bishop Freeman becomes Bishop of Armidale

1970 Pope Paul VI makes the first-ever Papal visit to Australia

1971 The Archdiocese of Sydney now has 366 Catholic schools with 115,704 pupils. Cardinal Gilroy dies and is succeeded by Archbishop James Darcy Freeman

1972 More than half, or 52%, of teachers in Archdiocese schools are now lay people

1973 Archbishop Freeman becomes Cardinal Freeman. With his wide popularity and work for the poor or downtrodden, the press dub him The People's Cardinal. The public know him better simply as Cardinal Jimmy

1976 Rome declares that Australia is no longer a mission country

1980 First Catholic lay people graduate in theology

1983 Cardinal Freeman dies. Thousands of Catholics and non Catholics mourn his passing.   Archbishop Edward Bede Clancy, formerly Archbishop of Goulburn and Canberra becomes Archbishop of Sydney

1986 Pope John Paul II visits Australia.  

1988 Archbishop Clancy is created a Cardinal

1991 Foundation of Notre Dame University and the Australian Catholic University

1993 A Public Notice states that most of the clerical training for the Archdiocese will move to Strathfield.

1995 Pope John Paul II makes his second visit to Australia. Mother Masry of the Cross, Mary MacKillop os beatified. St Patrick's College seminary at Manly closes and a new modern seminary, the Seminary of the Good Shepherd is built at Homebush to replace it

1996 Catholic Institute of Sydney for Theology and Ministry opens at Strathfield. The Seminary of the Good Shepherd is also official opened

1997 Restoration of the St Mary's Cathedral begins.

1998 Work on the spires following William Wardell's original designs is started.

1999 A new pipe organ is built by Orgues Letourneau of Montreal, Quebec

2000 The two spires of St Mary's Cathedral are finally completed

2001 - St Mary's Cathedral is the location for the celebration of the Ninth World Day of the Sick. Cardinal retires and Archbishop George Pell, formerly the Archbishop of Melbourne, becomes the eight Archbishop of the Sydney Archdiocese

2003 Archdiocesan offices move to impressive new building, the Polding Centre on Liverpool St in the CBD. Archbishop George Pell is created Cardinal by Pope  

2005 Death of much loved, Pope John Paul II. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger is elected Pope Benedict XVI

2008 Pope Benedict XVI makes his first visit to Australia when the Archdiocese of Sydney hosts World Youth Day 2008. WYD08 is a huge success and as a result the social networking website, Xt3 is created for young people not onl;y in Sydney but worldwide. It quickly becomes the fastest growing Catholic website worldwide.

2009 Restoration and renovation begins on the former Marist Fathers students' home in Rome for what will become a pilgrim's haven for Australians in the city offering accommodation and a home away from home

2014 The Holy Father Pope Francis appoints George Cardinal Pell as Prefect of the new Secretariat for the Economy. The Most Rev Anthony Fisher is appointed as the ninth Archbishop of Sydney.