It is common for schools to choose prominent figures to represent their houses, to inspire the students in each of those houses and to educate the students on important pieces of history. At the College, there are 6 houses, each having a patron who is integral to the early history of the Australian Catholic Church.
Gold House – Cardinal Norman Gilroy
Sir Norman Thomas Cardinal Gilroy was born on 22nd January 1896 at Glebe, Sydney. He died 21st October 1977 at Lewisham, Sydney. Aged 81 years. Cardinal Gilroy was the second of six children.
With the outbreak of WWI he enlisted in the AIF in1915 as a telegraphist. In 1917 he entered St Columba’s Seminary, Springwood to study for the priesthood. Ordained a priest on the 24th December 1923 in Rome. In 1930 appointed Bishop of Port August, South Australia. On the 18th March 1940 appointed Archbishop of Sydney. On the 18th February 1946, Pope Pius XII named him cardinal.
Gilroy was the first Australian-born so elevated. He exercised a senior position at the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). He had a strong commitment to Catholic education. Cardinal Gilroy was appointed K.B.E. in 1969 and welcomed Pope Paul VI to Australia in December 1970.
By 1971 he had 366 schools with 115,704 students with 751 Brothers, 2992 Sisters and increasing lay teachers. He resigned his position as Archbishop of Sydney on 22nd January 1971, aged 75 years. Cardinal Gilroy is buried in the crypt of St Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney.
Blue House – Father John Therry
Father Therry was educated at St Patrick at Carlow. In 1815 he was ordained a priest working in Dublin and Cork. Upon hearing that Catholic convicts in Australia were without a priest he applied for missionary work in Australia. He arrived in Sydney on 3rd May 1820. He was granted a government salary of one hundred pounds a year.
Therry set about his work with great vigour. His chief focus was the need of a church to cater for the growing population of Sydney. It was decided to be on a large scale, St Mary’s Cathedral now stands on this site. Funds were given by government grant, subscriptions and donations. On 29th October 1821, Governor Lachlan Macquarie laid the foundation stone. For the next forty four years Therry would describe his life as, ” one of incessant labour very often accompanied by painful anxiety.”
Fr Therry died after a few hours illness, working to the last day of his life. Today two schools bear his name, one in Balmain and one in Campbelltown, Sydney, NSW.
Black House – Cardinal James Freeman
Sir James Darcy Cardinal Freeman was born on 19th November 1907 in Annandale, Sydney. He died on the 16th March 1991 in St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney. Aged 83 years.
The Sisters of Charity and the Christian Brothers educated Cardinal Freeman. At school he excelled in literature, music and sport. He studied for the priesthood at St Columba’s, Springwood and St Patrick’s College, Manly and was ordained a priest on the 13th July 1930. He served as assistant priest at Grafton, Murwillumbah, Strathfield, Mosman and St Mary’s Cathedral. He served as administrator of Haymarket Parish and Parish Priest of Stanmore. Consecrated auxiliary Bishop of Sydney on the 24th January 1957.
Appointed Bishop of Armidale 18th October 1969 and Archbishop of Sydney on 9th July 1971. He was elevated to Cardinal Priest, 5th March 1973 and received his K.B.E. in 1977. He is the Patron of Freeman Catholic College, Bonnyrigg Heights, Sydney, which opened in 1985. On the 12th February 1983 he retired as Archbishop of Sydney.
Cardinal Freeman is buried in the crypt of St Mary’s cathedral, Sydney. In 1987 the St Vincent de Paul Society established the Cardinal Freeman Centre at Granville for homeless men affected by drug and alcohol related problems. Two retirement villages bear his name at Ashfield and Merrylands both in Sydney.
Green House – Archbishop Bede Polding
John Bede Polding OSB was born 18th October 1794 at Liverpool, England. He died 16th March 1877 in Darlinghurst, Sydney. Aged 83 years.
Polding was a member of the Benedictine Order and was ordained a Benedictine priest in 1819. He fulfilled many positions such as parish priest, prefect, novice master and sub-prior in his monestary. He was consecrated Bishop in London on the 29th June 1834 for the new vicariate which, besides New South Wales, included the rest of New Holland and Van Dieman’s Land.
Bishop Polding reached Sydney in September 1835. For many years, he worked like one of his priests, saying Mass daily in various stations, often in the convict prisons, teaching the Catechism, hearing the confessions of multitudes, and attending the sick and dying. He obtained permission to give retreats in the prison establishments, and between 1836 and 1841 no less than 7000 convicts made at least ten days’ retreat under his guidance. He established refuges for women and abandoned children.
In 1842 Polding was elevated to the position of first Catholic Archbishop of Sydney and primate of Australia. Polding was instrumental in securing more priests, brothers and nuns for Sydney. He founded the University College of St John at Sydney and the College of St Mary at Lyndhurst. He founded the first Australian congregation, the Sisters of the Good Samaritan of the Order of St Benedict in Sydney in 1857 and was responsible for establishing Melbourne as a separate diocese.His hard work and unbounded zeal earned him respect from both Catholics and Protestants. Apart from the many churches he founded, Polding began the construction of the second St Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney in 1868.
White House – St Mary Mackillop
St Mary MacKillop was born on the 15th January 1842 in Fitzroy, Melbourne. She died on the 8th August, 1909 in North Sydney. She was canonised by Pope Benedict XVI in Rome on the 17th October, 2010 under the name St Mary of the Cross. Aged 67 years.
Mary Ellen MacKillop was the eldest of seven children to Alexander MacKillop and Flora MacDonald. Mary started work at the age of fourteen as a clerk in Melbourne and later as a teacher in Portland. To provide for her needy family Mary took up a job as governess in 1860 at her Aunt and Uncle’s place at Penola in South Australia where she would look after them and educate them. Already set on helping the poor, Mary included other children on the estate. Her work introduced her to Father Julian Tenison Woods. Woods was concerned about the lack of Catholic education in South Australia. In 1867 Fr Woods with Mary as the first sister and Mother Superior were co-founders of the Congregation of the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart of Jesus – Josephites. Dedicated to the education of the children of the poor, regardless of religious denomination, it was the first religious congregation to be founded by an Australian. The Sisters were involved with orphanages, neglected children, girls in danger, the aged poor, a reformatory, a home for the aged and incurably ill. The Sisters were prepared to follow farmers, railway workers and miners into the isolated outback and live as they lived. They shared the same hardships while educating their children.
In 1871 Mary was wrongly excommunicated by Bishop Sheil who in 1872 before his death lifted the excommunication order. By 1877 the Sisters operated forty schools in Adelaide, Queensland and New South Wales. In 1883 the Sisters were in New Zealand and by 1889 were in Victoria. In 1902 Mary suffered a stroke paralysing her right side. Pope John Paul II beatified Mary on 19th January 1995.
St Mary of the Cross MacKillop is Australia’s first saint. “Never see a need without doing something about it.” (1867)
Red House – Father James Dixon
Father James Dixon was born in Castlebridge, County Wexford in 1758. He died on the 4th January 1840 and is buried in his parish chapel at Crossabeg, County Wexford. Aged 82 years. Father James Dixon, ‘the convict priest’, was ordained a priest in 1784. Fr Dixon returned to the Diocese of Ferns in 1785 and having assisted in various parishes was appointed to Crossabeg in 1794 to assist Fr Redmond Roche, Parish Priest. In May 1798 Fr Dixon was denounced to the Authorities as “a United Irishman” and he was arrested on the 26th May 1798, summarily tried, convicted and sentenced to transportation, being sent to Duncannon Fort to await transport to Botany Bay.
Following the suppression of the rebellion Fr Dixon was retried but again found guilty and in September 1799 was transported aboard the “Friendship” arriving in Botany Bay on January 16th 1800. Fr Dixon was allowed to remain in Port Jackson (now Sydney) and in 1802 was accorded leave to “afford Spiritual consolation to the Catholic convicts”. He celebrated the first public Mass on Australian soil on 15th May 1803 at Port Jackson, followed by Mass at Parramatta on 22nd May 1803 and at Hawkesbury on 29th May 1803. In 1804 Pope Pius VII appointed Fr Dixon as ‘Prefect Apostolic’ of New Holland (now Australia) and thus Fr Dixon became the founding father of Australian Catholicism and also the first formal Ecclesiastical appointment by the Holy See to Australia. 1804 saw an Irish convicts uprising and Governor King believed attendance at Mass provided a meeting place for sedition. Consequently, convicts were forced to attend Anglican services. Fr Dixon though, continued to practise, baptising and marrying. In the 1806 muster he was described as ‘Roman Catholic Priest, self-employed’. Protestants and Catholics supported his stay in the colony. In 1808 he obtained permission to return to Ireland and to work at Crossabeg, where he became parish priest in 1819 remaining until his death in 1840.