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Located in Western Australia, suffragan to Adelaide; bounded on the north by parallel 31º 20' S. lat. (the Moore River), east to 120º E. long., and thence by parallel 29º S. lat. to the border of South Australia, its eastern boundary, on the south and west by the ocean. The first Catholics, Irish emigrants, settled about seventy-five years ago near the present city of Perth. As they had no priest, Archbishop Polding of Sydney appointed Rev. John Brady his vicar-general for the western portion of Australia. A native of Cavan, Father Brady had laboured for twelve years in Mauritius, before going to Australia in February, 1838. With Fr. John Joostens a former Dutch chaplain in Napoleon's forces, and Patrick O'Reilly, a catechist, he reached Albany, 4 November, 1843, and Perth, 13 December, 1843. Land for a church, presbytery, and school was donated by Governor Hutt, and the foundation stone of the church laid, 27 December, 1843. Shortly afterwards Fr. Brady went to Europe to procure aid, and was ordained bishop at Rome, 18 May, 1845. He returned with some missionaries, including six Sisters of Mercy from Carlow, Ireland, under Mother Ursula Frayne, reaching Fremantle in January, 1846.

The early days of the mission were days of suffering and poverty. In 1848 the scattered Catholic population, which was extremely poor, numbered only 306 out of 4600 whites. The bishop soon sent Fr. Confalonieri with two catechists, James Fagan and Nicholas Hogan, to Port Essington to convert the native northern blacks. The catechists were drowned in a shipwreck on the voyage, but Fr. Confalonieri was spared to labour for two years, till his death by fever at Victoria, Melville Island, when he had converted over 400 blacks. An attempt to found a southern native mission failed for want of resources. A central mission was confided to two Spanish Benedictines, Dom Serra and Dom Salvado. In March, 1847, they established a monastery, now New Norcia, 84 miles from Perth. The first diocesan synod was held there, 13 March, 1848, attended by the bishop and his three priests. The mission sinking heavily in debt, Dom Salvado was sent to Europe for funds. He returned January, 1849, but his resources were applied to New Norcia alone. Dom Serra, who had also gone to Europe, had while there been made Bishop of Port Victoria. Worn out by toil and anxiety, Dr. Brady applied for a coadjutor, and Dom Serra was transferred from Port Victoria to the titular See of Daulia and appointed to administer the temporalities of Perth. He arrived there from Europe with a large contingent of Benedictines in 1849. Dissension broke out between the laity and the Spanish monks, and Dr. Brady, unable to bear the strain, returned to Ireland in 1852; he died in France, 2 December, 1871. While he was in Perth, Dr. R. R. Madden, the historian, was appointed colonial secretary, the first Catholic to hold that office in the colonies. On Corpus Christi, 10 June, 1854, the first two black children received Holy Communion at Perth. In 1859 Fr. Martin Griver was made administrator of the diocese. In 1862 Dom Serra returned to Spain, where he died in 1886.

On 10 October, 1869, Fr. Griver was named Bishop of Tloa and Administrator Apostolic of Perth. In July, 1873, he became Bishop of Perth. In 1863 churches were erected at Fremantle, Guildford, and York. The cathedral of Perth, begun in that year, was dedicated on 29 January, 1865. In 1867 the Sisters of Mercy established an orphanage at Perth. In 1882 the diocese contained 8500 Catholics with 1300 children in the parochial schools. Bishop Griver died on 1 November, 1886. Born at Granollers in Spain. 11 November, 1810, he studied medicine, but later joined the priesthood and went out with Dom Serra in 1849. He laboured strenuously in building up the diocese, and was a man of wonderful asceticism; after his death a wooden cross twelve inches long was found attached to his shoulders, fastened permanently into his flesh by five iron spikes. Dr. Matthew Gibney, who had been appointed Bishop of Scythopolis and Coadjutor of Perth cum jure successionis, was consecrated at Perth, 23 January, 1887. Under his guidance the diocese made rapid progress, as in his earlier days, so during his episcopate, he was an ardent apostle of religious education for children. He introduced all the religious congregations mentioned below, except the Sisters of Mercy and the Sisters of St. Joseph. In 1889, with two Vincentians, he gave a mission throughout the whole of his diocese. In 1890 he set out for Beagle Bay, where he established a successful native mission, under the care of the Trappists, who were later replaced by the Pallotine Fathers and the Sisters of St. John of God from Subiaco, Perth. Owing to advanced years, Dr. Gibney resigned his see and has been succeeded by Most Reverend P. J. Clune, C.SS.R. (1911). Dr. Clune, born in Clare, Ireland, 1863, was ordained for the Diocese of Goulbourn 24 June, 1886. In 1892 he returned to Ireland, and became a Redemptorist. After being stationed at Dundalk and Limerick, he was sent to Wellington, New Zealand, as rector of the Redemptorist monastery; after which he was superior at North Perth till his election as bishop. From the original Diocese of Perth, three additional ecclesiastical districts have been formed: New Norcia (1847); the Vicariate Apostolic of Kimberley (1887); and the Diocese of Geraldton (1898).

Statistics of religious congregations. — Men: Oblates of Mary Immaculate (1894), 2 houses, 11 members; Redemptorists (1894), 1 monastery, 8 members; Irish Christian Brothers (1894), 4 houses, 18 members. Women: Sisters of Mercy (1846), 12 houses, 153 nuns; Sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition (1855), 6 houses, 46 nuns; Sisters of St. John of God (1885), 4 houses, 43 nuns; Sisters of Notre-Dame des Missions (1887), 4 houses, 22 nuns; Presentation Sisters (1900), 3 houses, 12 nuns; Sisters of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart (1890), 5 houses, 16 nuns; Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, or Loreto Nuns (1897), 2 houses, 26 professed sisters. There are 22 high schools (3 boys', 19 girls'), with 1238 pupils; 43 primary schools with 5230 pupils; teachers engaged, 408; 1 boys' orphanage; 1 girls' orphanage; 1 boys' industrial school; 1 girls' reformatory; 1 Magdalene Asylum; 2 hospitals (these charitable institutes contain 413 inmates); 26 ecclesiastical districts; 51 churches; 44 secular and 13 regular priests; 27 brothers; 366 nuns; 54 lay teachers and a Catholic population of 45,000.


MORAN, Hist. of the Catholic Church in Australasia (Sydney, S. d.), 553-91; 969-79; Australasian Catholic Directory (Sydney, 1910).

About this page

APA citation. MacErlean, A. (1911). Perth. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. MacErlean, Andrew. "Perth." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 11. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. <>.

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. February 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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