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When Rockhampton was constituted a municipality in December 1860, it had a white population of about 700 among them a sprinkling of Roman Catholics. In 1862 Dr. O'Quinn, Bishop of Brisbane, sent two priests (Father James Scully and Patrick Duhig) on a pastoral visit to Rockhampton and they arrived by the Clarence on May 3. The Police Magistrate (Mr. Jardine) placed the court house at their disposal and the first Mass was attended by less than 50 people.
Fathers Scully and Duhig returned to Brisbane on May 19, but before they left they appointed collectors to raise funds to build a church. The church was blessee and opened on January 4, 1863.
A few weeks later Bishop O'Quinn paid his first pastoral visit. He sent a young French priest, Father Charles Murlay, to take charge of Rockhampton. Combined with his burning zeal and physical strength Father Murlay had an amazing business capacity. The dignity of dean was conferred on him by Bishop O'Quinn.
Among his first achievements was the erection of a school. Later the Kent Street Convent property, the cathedral site and the bishop's residence were secured by him as well as several properties throughout Central Queensland.
Sisters of Mercy arived in 1873 and they were assisted by four young women in teaching at the girl's and infants schools. A boy's school was in charge of a master.
In April 1875, Rev. Mother Bridget, of All Hallows Convent, Brisbane, visited Rockhampton to establish a branch of the Children of Mary Sodality. Five girls were consecrated as Children of Mary.
Dean Murlay severed his connection with Rockhampton in 1883, but about three years before his departure it became known that Rockhampton was to be elevted into a separate diocese. Most Rev John Cani D.D. arrived in Rockhampton on June 10 as first Bishop of the diocese.
Such was the origin of the Roman Catholic Church in Rockhampton. From that small beginning churches have been erected in all suburbs and in country centres. Concents and schools have followed the city's development. An orphanage was established at Neerkol and an old peoples home in Rockhampton.
Dr. Cani died in Rockhampton in 1898. He was succeeded by Most Rev. Joseph Higgins D.D. in May 1889. He remained until 1905 and was then transferred to Ballarat. He died in September 1915.
The third bishop was Most Rev. James Duhig who was consecrated in Rochampton in 1905. He was created Archbishop of ANida and Coadjutor Archbishop of Brisbane with right of succession by Papal Brief on February 26, 1912.
The Most Rev. Joseph Shiel D.D. was the next bishop, coming to Rockhampton 1913. He died in Rockhampton in 1931.
In the following year Most Rev. Romauld Dennis Hayes D.D. took charge of the diocese. He died in Rockhampton on October 25, 1945.
The next bishop was the Most Rev. Andrew Tynan D.D. He was the sixth in the history of the diocese, being consecrated on June 20, 1946 at St Stephen's Cathedral, Brisbane.
ST JOSEPH'S CATHEDRAL
On October 15, 1899 after years of persistent and patient work St Joseph's Cathedral was opened for worship. The movement for the building of the cathedral had its genesis 20 years before 1899, the idea being conceived by Dean Murlay during his pastorate. The cathedral was opened by Cardinal Moran.
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