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Archdiocese of Hobart

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Hobart comprises Tasmania, Bruni Island, and the Cape Barren, Flinders, King, and other islands in Bass Straits. Tasmania was originally under the jurisdiction of the vicar Apostolic of Capetown, Mauritius and New Holland, and afterwards under that of New Holland, when it was made a separate vicariate. Hobart was made a diocese in 1842. On the establishment of the Australian hierarchy the Bishop of Hobart was suffragan of the Archbishop of Sydney. When in 1874 Melbourne became the archdiocese of the new province of Melbourne, Hobart was named one of its suffragan sees. It remained part of the province of Melbourne until 1888, when Hobart was made an archdiocese and Tasmania became an independent ecclesiastical province. Though Tasmania was discovered in 1642 by the Dutch, no attempt at settlement seems to have been made by them. Towards the end of the eighteenth century, the presence of French exploring expeditions aroused the suspicions of the British, who had already established a colony in New South Wales, and led to the permanent occupation of Tasmania by Britain. The first settlement was made in 1803 at Risdon, but in 1804 it was removed to Sullivan's Cove, the site of the present city of Hobart. The population of Tasmania was about 183,000 on 31 December, 1908 (Catholics, 32,000). The circumstances of the early settlement of the island did not tend to religious progress. It was made the dumping-ground for the refractory prisoners of Botany Bay.

There was no Catholic chaplain to administer to the prison population and the first few free settlers until 1821, when Rev. Philip Connolly was appointed; he was vicar-general to the Vicar Apostolic of Mauritius for Van Diemen's Land and New Holland. His first church, a small wooden structure, was named after St. Virgilius; in 1835 Father Cotham, O.S.B., was appointed to help him. Connolly died in 1839, and Bishop Polding appointed Father Therry as his vicar-general in Tasmania. The account of his struggles in those early days, when as in other British colonies an attempt was made to make the settlement as Protestant as possible, is very interesting. Therry and his colleagues did wonders among their flock. They had a parish of 26,215 square miles, with a number of scattered settlements, without roads to make passage easy, and with hostile blacks to endanger their lives. When in 1842 Bishop Willson took possession of the See of Hobart, he found a land well prepared for his labours.

It was mainly through his efforts in directing attention to the inhumanity of the prison system that the penal settlement at Norfolk Island, then under his jurisdiction, was broken up, the lot of the prisoners in Tasmania made much more tolerable, and the system itself finally abandoned. His successor, Most Rev. Daniel Murphy, who arrived in 1866, had laboured in India previously. He died on 27 Dec., 1907. While Dr. Wilson's episcopate was chiefly noted for his labours in the cause of humanity, Dr. Murphy laboured for the training of the young. The Sisters of Charity had long worked in Hobart under Bishop Willson. Under Bishop Murphy their work was extended, and the Presentation Sisters, the Sisters of St. Joseph, the Sisters of Mercy, and the Sisters of the Sacred Heart all opened schools. Dr. Murphy's last work was the erection of the College of St. Virgilius for the young boys of his flock. The present archbishop, Most Rev. Patrick Delany, has arranged with the Irish Christian Brothers to take charge of St. Virgilius's College. At the request of the archbishop, the Catholic schools of the island are subject to inspection and examination by the State School inspectors, but they receive nothing from the public funds. The State schools have Scripture lessons in their curriculum. The teacher, whether a believer or an unbeliever, is bound to give them. If Catholic parents object, their children are exempt from attendance at these lessons. The Catholics strongly protest against the injustice of being forced to contribute to a system which teaches a kind of mild Protestantism to the children.

The State offers a number of scholarships to be competed for by the pupils of all schools, whether public or "private". But as both schools and teachers have now by law to be registered and licensed by the School Registration Board, there is, strictly speaking, no longer any "private" school in the State. Education is now free in the public primary schools. There is a Tasmanian university, on the board of which a Catholic priest has a place, just as a priest holds a seat on the school registration board. The personal influence and example of the Bishops and Archbishops of Hobart and of the pioneer priests succeeded in removing almost altogether the religious acerbities by which other British dependencies are often troubled. There are at present in the archdiocese, the archbishop, 26 priests, 135 nuns, 4 superior day schools, 25 primary schools, 1 orphanage, 1 Magdalen home (under the Good Shepherd nuns), and 3280 children in Catholic schools. Like every Australian province, Tasmania has its Catholic paper, the "Monitor". During the early days the clergy were paid by the State as chaplains to the prison population. The endowment continued after the State had received the right of representative government. In 1869 State endowments to religion were withdrawn, but certain sums of money were voted, according to the number of their adherents, to the hitherto endowed churches. The sum granted to the Catholics is held in State bonds and returns to the archdiocese about £700 a year. The aborigines are extinct, having been "civilized" out of existence. The last survivor died in 1876. There are some half-castes who are forced by the Government to reside on the islands in Bass Straits. They, too, are dying out.


KNIBBS, Commonwealth Statistics; MORAN, History of the Catholic Church in Australasia (Sydney, s. d.); Government Handbook of Tasmania; Australian Catholic Directory, 1909.

About this page

APA citation. O'Mahoney, J. (1910). Archdiocese of Hobart. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. O'Mahoney, John. "Archdiocese of Hobart." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 7. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Douglas J. Potter. Dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. June 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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