The Bishops of Lismore
The history of the Catholic Church in the mid-north and far north coast regions of New South Wales commences with the arrival of Bishop John Bede Polding in 1834 and the progressive creation of new dioceses up to that of Armidale in 1871. In the next fifteen years the Catholic population and coastal communities had grown to the extent that another diocese was needed to provide for them. In 1887 the area was divided off from Armidale and became initially the new Diocese of Grafton until the title was changed to the Diocese of Lismore in 1900.
The First Bishop, Jeremiah Joseph Doyle 1849-1909
Born in County Cork, Ireland, the young Father Doyle studied at All Hallows Missionary College in Dublin and was ordained there in 1874 for service in the Diocese of Armidale. He arrived in Australia early in the following year and served at the Cathedral in Armidale until in 1878 he was appointed to the Richmond, Brunswick and Tweed river districts on the coast. Before long he had adopted Lismore as his base, and a church and presbytery were constructed.
In May 1887 the now Dean Doyle, at the age of 38, was appointed by Pope Leo XIII as the first bishop of the new Diocese of Grafton, and he was consecrated in St Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney, on 28 August 1887. After a brief stay in Grafton, the new bishop was convinced that the centre of his See would best be in Lismore because of its position and larger Catholic population. The Sisters of Mercy in Grafton were joined by the Presentation Sisters in Lismore to enable the establishment of more parish schools. By 1892 plans were advanced for the building of a Cathedral. Although the foundation stone was soon laid, the general financial crisis of the 1890’s delayed the construction of the present St Carthage’s until 1904 and its opening in 1907.
Bishop Doyle was a much respected civic leader who promoted the development of many public amenities for the growing town, such as the coming of the railway and the building of the Rocky Creek dam, as well as being a much-loved pastor to the Catholic people. The fine Cathedral became an object of pride for the townspeople and to this day remains Lismore’s most notable building.
Only two years after the opening of the Cathedral, a heart attack claimed the life of Bishop Doyle. After 34 years of strenuous pioneering labours and travel on horseback and river steamer, surrounded by a devoted clergy and people, with great courage and against many odds, the faith had been securely planted. He was buried in the Lady Chapel of his new Cathedral on 6 June, 1909, and the tower and peal of bells were completed in his memory by public subscription in 1911.
The Second Bishop, John Joseph Carroll 1865-1949
Born in County Kilkenny, Ireland, John Carroll was ordained in 1890 at St Patrick’s College, Carlow, for the service of the Archdiocese of Sydney. Arriving in Australia soon after, he served at St Mary’s Cathedral, St Benedict’s, Broadway, and then as parish priest of Moss Vale. Appointed Bishop of Lismore by Pope St Pius X, he received episcopal consecration in St Carthage’s Cathedral on 6 March 1910. He was to be bishop of the diocese for the next 39 years, a time of extraordinary expansion in the number of the Catholic population, parishes, priests, religious brothers and sisters, and schools.
He further added to the beauty of the cathedral with its pipe organ in 1912, its fine altars of Australian marble in 1919, and in that year saw to its solemn consecration. Bishop Carroll established the Cowper Orphanage in 1914 under the care of the Sisters of Mercy, and invited more religious congregations to establish apostolic works in the diocese: the Marist Brothers in 1911, the Sisters of Charity in 1921 to establish St Vincent’s Hospital in Lismore, and the Marist Fathers in 1930 to establish St John’s College, Woodlawn. The diocesan clergy grew by over 50 priests, those from Ireland being joined by equal numbers of those born and trained in Australia.
Bishop Carroll died on 8 May 1949 and his funeral cortege moved through the streets of the city before returning to the Cathedral where his body was laid to rest in the Lady Chapel next to his predecessor.
The Third Bishop, Patrick Joseph Farrelly 1895-1974
Feeling the weight of his years, in the era before bishops submitted their resignation from office at the age of 75, Bishop Carroll asked Pope Pius XI to send him a coadjutor (“helper”) to share the growing demands of the diocese. Father Patrick Farrelly was born in Lismore in 1895, baptised in St Carthage’s Cathedral, ordained priest by Bishop Carroll in the Cathedral in 1918, and consecrated as Bishop Coadjutor before the same altar on 30 August 1931. At a time when most bishops were still from Ireland, Bishop Farrelly was one of the first Australian priests to be chosen for episcopal office.
For the next 18 years Bishop Farrelly exercised his ministry from Grafton. Having known two bishops whose mode of transport was the horse, Bishop Farrelly had enthusiastically adopted the motor car, in the days when roads were still poor and the rivers had to be crossed by ferry. In 1947 Bishop Carroll’s illness made it necessary for the administration of the diocese in the two years before his death to be completely assumed by his Coadjutor. On 8 May 1949 the office of Bishop of Lismore passed automatically to Bishop Farrelly.
A man of tremendous energy and a gifted speaker in great demand, Bishop Farrelly maintained the momentum of his predecessors as the record of new church organisations, church and school building and the ordination of new priests bears witness. By the 1950’s the Catholic population had risen to 45,000 parishioners in 28 parishes, and the number of priests and religious reached its height.
Bishop Farrelly’s resignation from office was accepted by Pope St Paul VI on 14 March, 1971. He died in Lismore on 25 May 1974, and was buried in front of the Cathedral, at the foot of the statue of Our Lady of Lourdes, to whom he had a particular devotion. The editorial in the Northern Star paid this tribute: “He had become a legend in his own lifetime, not only by more than fifty years of direct participation in the rôle of the Catholic Church in his birthplace diocese, but by the influence and support he always directed to worthy causes in the interests of the community as a whole.”
The Fourth Bishop, John Steven Satterthwaite 1928-2016
Approaching retirement, Bishop Farrelly requested Pope St Paul VI to provide the diocese with a Coadjutor. The sending of a priest of the Diocese of Armidale in 1969 saw history repeating itself in the appointment of Bishop Doyle from Armidale in 1887.
Father John Satterthwaite was born in Sydney in 1928, shortly before his family moved to Inverell where his father was appointed shire engineer. Educated at St Joseph’s College, Hunters Hill, John Satterthwaite proceeded to the University of Sydney and graduated with the degree of Bachelor of Engineering. After two years in the workforce at Port Kembla, he responded to a call to the priesthood and received his further education at St Columba’s College, Springwood and in Rome at the Lateran University. There he was ordained priest on 16 March 1957. Returning to Armidale Father Satterthwaite served various pastoral appointments as well as secretary to Bishop Doody and Diocesan Chancellor.
Appointed Coadjutor of Lismore, Bishop Satterthwaite was consecrated in St Carthage’s Cathedral on 1 May 1969. On Bishop Farrelly’s retirement on 31 August 1971 he succeeded as the diocese’s fourth bishop.
The thirty years of Bishop Satterthwaite’s episcopate followed upon the social turmoil of the 1960’s as well as being a time of considerable change following the Second Vatican Council. He soon initiated a reassessment of the pastoral needs of the diocese, whose population in 30 parishes now exceeded 72,000 Catholics. He established a Diocesan Pastoral Council and the Council of Priests. The work of the Catholic Schools Office was reorganised under lay leadership and the Catholic mission and identity of the schools strengthened through close cooperation between parish priests, school principals and key lay staff. In 1977 he supervised a rearrangement and extension of the Cathedral sanctuary to better accommodate the celebration of Mass in accordance with the Church’s liturgical reforms. Bishop Satterthwaite greatly loved the Cathedral, spending early hours of prayer there each day before the Blessed Sacrament, and making it the centre of his pastoral ministry. During his time in office he ordained 45 new priests.
The first four Bishops of Lismore held office for an average of 28 years each. Bishop Satterthwaite sought a Bishop Coadjutor somewhat earlier so that he could retire, which he did on 1 December 2001. Over the next 15 years he quietly assisted in the pastoral work of St Agnes’ parish Port Macquarie, where he died on 23 April 2016. His Requiem Mass was celebrated in St Carthage’s Cathedral, after which he was laid to rest among the priests in the East Lismore Cemetery.
The Fifth Bishop, Geoffrey Hylton Jarrett 1937-
It was southwards to Tasmania that Pope St John Paul II looked to seek the next bishop for Lismore. Father Jarrett had been a priest of the Archdiocese of Hobart for 30 years when he was appointed Bishop Coadjutor
Bishop Geoffrey Jarrett was born in Kyneton, Victoria, on 1st December, 1937, on his father’s side of an English pioneer family in the district, and on his mother’s side of German Lutheran families from Prussia who had migrated to Melbourne in the 1840’s. The Bishop grew up in Papua New Guinea where his father was a mining engineer and later a copra and coffee producer.
He was educated at Trinity Grammar School in Melbourne. Shortly after matriculating, then with university in view, the opportunity to travel opened wider horizons in London pursuing his interest in documentary film-making. He worked for several years in the Film Unit of BBC Television at Ealing Studios until he finally responded to a long-felt vocation to the Anglican ministry. Remaining in England he studied for five years at the Theological College of the Society of the Sacred Mission at Kelham, Nottinghamshire. On return to Australia he worked as an Anglican priest in Queensland until he was received into the Catholic Church in November 1965.
Archbishop Young accepted him for the priesthood of the Archdiocese of Hobart and his further studies were entrusted to the Marist Fathers at their seminary at Toongabbie, NSW. Bishop Jarrett was ordained priest by Archbishop Young in Sydney on 14 May, 1970.
After thirty years as a parish priest and Administrator of St Mary’s Cathedral, Hobart, on 9 December he was appointed by Pope St John Paul II as Bishop Coadjutor of Lismore. His episcopal ordination took place in St Carthage’s Cathedral on 22nd February, 2001.
Upon the retirement of Bishop Satterthwaite on 1 December 2001, Bishop Jarrett became the fifth Bishop of Lismore.
The Catholic population of the diocese had now passed 100,000. Into the new millennium the greatly changed attitude to religion and belief of the past 40 years was everywhere more evident, marriage and family life was less secure, and the old Irish solidarity underpinning the Catholic community had almost vanished. This was reflected in a much diminished religious practice, most notably in the number of Catholics regularly at Sunday Mass and the sacraments.
The popularity of Catholic schools however continued to rise, with increasing non-Catholic enrolments, requiring enhancement of their value as places of Christian influence and evangelisation. The formation of teachers and principals, new and continuing, was a special focus, one aspect of which was the series of ‘Pilgrimages into the Apostolic Foundations of the Church’ in Greece, Turkey and Rome, led by the bishop and priest chaplains. The bishop’s responsibility to ensure future priests for the diocese saw the seeking of vocations from international sources to train for ordination in Australia, and led to an increased number of ordinations of both Australians and seminarians from overseas. The liturgy as the source and summit of Christian life, and the Church’s tradition of ‘worship in the beauty of holiness’ to sustain and strengthen the spiritual life was an ideal upheld and given expression especially by way of diocesan example in the exterior repair and interior restoration of St Carthage’s Cathedral between 2010-2015.
Bishop Jarrett was finally retired with the appointment of his successor, Father Gregory Homeming OCD, by Pope Francis in December 2016, and the new bishop’s assumption of office in the following February.
The Sixth Bishop, Gregory Paul Homeming, OCD 1958-
Bishop Gregory Homeming is an Australian Chinese born in Sydney on 30 May 1958. He completed his primary education in Shepperton, Victoria, and high school at St Aloysius College. Milsons Point in Sydney.
Having taken the degrees of Bachelor of Economics and Bachelor of Laws at the University of Sydney, he was admitted as a solicitor in 1981 and worked as a lawyer in Sydney from 1981-1985.
At the end of 1985 the Bishop joined the Order of Discalced Carmelites, making first profession on 1 February 1987. He then completed his priestly studies at the Yarra Theological Union, Melbourne, taking the further degrees of Bachelor of Theology and Master of Arts in Philosophy.
The Bishop was ordained priest on 20 July 1991 and has held within his Order the positions of Major Superior, Novice Master, Director of Retreats and Regional Vicar of the Discalced Carmelites in Australia.
Bishop Homeming received episcopal ordination in St Carthage’s Cathedral and was placed in the Chair as Sixth Bishop of Lismore on 22 February 2017.