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The Catholic Church began in Australia with the arrival of the First Fleet in  1788. Of the 1044 convicts who arrived, 316 were Catholics. For some years there
were no priests or religious in the settlement, so the laity assumed  responsibility for keeping the faith alive. 

Fr Dixon, a convict, celebrated the first Mass in Australia on May 15, 1803  after being pardoned and permitted to say Mass and celebrate baptisms and marriages. 

In 1820 Father John Therry and Fr Philip Conolly arrived in Australia as the first official priests to minister to Catholics in the colony. 

Father Therry dedicated the first Catholic Church in the Colony to Our Lady  Help of Christians. 

In 1835 John Bede Polding was appointed as Australia‟s first Catholic bishop.  He set out to establish a Benedictine Monastery, to provide efficient
administrators to set up dioceses and respond to the pastoral needs of the  community.

The Pope, in consultation, appoints bishops to lead dioceses. Bishops succeed  the apostles through the Holy Spirit who is given to them. They are the
constituted pastors in the Church and are to be teachers of doctrine and the  priests of sacred worship
(Code of Canon Law, #372) 

The pastor leads the parish community in the name of the bishop by:  
– ensuring that the Word of God is proclaimed; 
– fostering works which promote the Spirit of the gospel; 
– caring for the Catholic education of children and young people; 
– bringing the Gospel message to those who have given up religious practice; 
  – ensuring the Blessed Eucharist is the centre of the parish assembly of the faithful; 
– encouraging all to pray and to take a lively and active part in sacred  liturgy  (Code of Canon Law #528)

 In 1838 the Sisters of Charity were the first religious order from overseas  to be invited to set up communities to work with the Catholic people. Caroline  Chisholm also arrived in this year. She is well known in our history for her  work with the immigrant poor and wayward girls.

Through the 1800s local Religious Orders were established in Australia to  respond to the pastoral needs of the community. During this time, many religious  congregations from overseas established foundations to help the Church‟s work. 

Catholic schools in Australia were established and largely staffed by lay  people until the Public Institution Act in 1880. With government assistance  withdrawn, the Church had to establish its own Catholic education system. Religious sisters and brothers  were encouraged to come to Australia to help staff the schools and Australian  Catholics had to support the schools financially.

The Catholic Church community consists of people from many countries  throughout the world. 

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