Brief History


A Snapshot of the History of our Diocese

The following historical highlights are an extract from 'Handing on the Faith-History of the Diocese of Port Pirie':

  • The northern part of the Diocese of Adelaide had been handed over by Bishop Geoghehan to the care of the Austrian Jesuits who had come to the Clare Valley in 1851.  One of the priests, Fr Pallhuber was entrusted the care of all the Catholics in the ever expanding pioneer settlements in the north and west of the state.
  • The Bishops of Australia petitioned Rome in 1885 to establish a second diocese in the northern and western part of Australia.
  • In response to the request by the Australian Bishops, on May 13, 1887, Fr John O'Reily was appointed Bishop of the new Diocese of Port Augusta.
  • The new Bishop-Elect was to encounter many issues-a heavy debt that the Church in Adelaide had struggled with, a small Catholic population that was scattered over a vast area, a few stone churches, and a small number of schools conducted in conditions of extreme poverty by the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart.  The southern boundary of the diocese was proposed to be the Goyder's Line, where it was expected that there would be insufficient rainfall for consistent crop production thus the expected population of the area would reduced.
  • the Bishop-Elect discussed these matters with Fr Reynolds, the now Archbishop of Adelaide.  As these discussions failed to resolve matters, Fr O'Reily declined the appointment.
  • An enquiry was held and the boundary of the southern edge of the diocese was adjusted to south of the Goyder Line.  Other financial matters were also resolved.  Bishop O'Reily accepted his appointment and was consecrated the first Bishop of Port Augusta in St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney, on May 1 1888.
  • When he took possession of his diocese in the town of Port Augusta on July 15 1888, he undertook the pastoral care of 11,000 Catholics scattered over 370,438 square miles.
  • It was during this time that Port Pirie became very important as a coastal port for the lead and zinc mines in Broken Hill.
  • Bishop O'Reily became Archbishop of Adelaide in 1895.  His successor Fr James Maher, seldom left the parish of Pekina, where he was Parish priest, when he was appointed the Bishop of Port Augusta in 1896.  Monsignor John Norton, Parish Priest of Peterborough and Vicar General, was regularly called on to deputise for the Bishop.
  • When Bishop Maher died in 1905, Fr Norton succeeded him and was consecrated in 1906.  He continued to be based in Peterborough.
  • Whyalla as a port and then ship building centre grew during the ensuing years.
  • Bishop Norton died in 1923 and was succeeded in the following year by Bishop Andrew Killian.  From the time of Bishop Norton, all bishops of the Diocese of Port Augusta lived in Peterborough.
  • Bishop Norman Gilroy remained only two years as Bishop before going on to become the Cardinal Archbishop of Sydney.  His successor Bishop Elect John Lonergan died before his Episcopal Ordination.
  • Bishop Thomas McCabe, who governed the diocese from 1938-1951, was the last Bishop of Port Augusta.
  • Fr Bryan Gallagher become the first Bishop of Port Pirie when the seat of the diocese was moved to that city in 1952.
  • St Mark's Church, in Port Pirie, which had been severely damaged by fire in the early 1950's was rebuilt and became St Mark's Cathedral.
  • When Bishop Gallagher retired in 1980, Bishop Peter De Campo became Bishop of the Diocese of Port Pirie.
  • Bishop De Campo died in 1998 and Fr Eugene Hurley, Parish Priest in Whyalla and born and raised in South Australia, became the new Bishop of the diocese.
  • Bishop Hurley was appointed as the Bishop of Darwin in August 2007.
  • Bishop Gregory O'Kelly SJ served as Bishop of the Diocese of Port Pirie from 2009 - 2020
  • Bishop Karol Kulczycki SDS is the current Bishop of Port Pirie.