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St Patrick's Roman Catholic Church Roman Catholic Presbytery - Cooma

The first Roman Catholic Church that was erected on Manaro was that at Nimmitabel, dating back to 1856. Before then the spiritual needs of those district settlers who belonged to the Roman Catholic faith were cared for by Father M. Kavanagh, who was stationed at Queanbeyan, who, in his ministrations, regularly undertook long journeys, which only ended on the far side of the Snowy River. The intrepid priest took many risks and braved many dangers. It is recorded that on Whit-Sunday, 18th January 1851, Archbishop Polding visited Manaro. Father Kavanagh was at the time at Jindabyne, holding a station. The only means of crossing the Snowy River, in addition to swimming, was to take a seat in a hollow log, and rely upon steadiness to reach the other side in safety. Father Kavenagh, who was expecting his spiritual chief, hastened back to meet him, and was rowed over in the hollow log by Tom Campbell, known as "Tom the Devil." When the boatman and passenger were perceived, the announcement was made, "Here comes the Priest and the Devil."

In 1858 Father Kavanagh was interesting himself in the establishment of a church building at Coma. Up till then Cooma services appear to have been held at the house of Mr. Alexander Montague.

On Ist December, 1858, Father Kavanagh wrote from Queanbeyan:
"My Dear Mr. Montague,
I will feel very much obliged if you will send me the plans and specifications of the Cooma Church by the next mail, as there are some tradesmen here who wish to tender for the work.
Please tell the stonemasons to send me their tenders as soon as possible. Tell the mailman to take every possible care of the plans, etc., etc., and to deliver them at my house. "

The proposed building was to be erected on land having a frontage to Sharp, Bombala and Commissioner Streets, containing an aggregate area of two acres, which on 8th August, 1850, was dedicated as a site for a Roman Catholic Church, Presbytery and School.

A church was built of stone on the Commissioner Street frontage, and was used for Divine Service in 1861. Subsequently an additional area of 9 acres 1 rood 30 perches, with a frontage to Vale, Egan, Soho and Murray Streets was acquired in the name of Very Rev. E. O'Brien, Very Rev. S. J. A. Sheehy, and Mr. Alexander Montague. Here the present Church of St. Patrick was built in 1877 by Dean O'Brien, who also built the Presbytery in 1878. The old Church and the small Presbytery in connection therewith, and attached thereto, were left for the larger buildings which the needs of the congregation called for. The building was ultimately purchased by Mr. B. Asprey after it had for some years been used as a bulk store. On the site where once the Roman Catholic community worshipped, Mr. Asprey has erected two stone cottages, built partly of the stone in the old church walls. On the Bombala Street frontage a school was erected, and where this stood, Mr. Hibbard purposes erecting a motor garage. The balance of the land was acquired by Major T. W. Faulkner, who for many years conducted a general store thereon.

Until towards the close of 1868, Father Kavanagh, who was stationed at Queanbeyan, attended to the spiritual wants of the Roman Catholics of Manaro. From that year the Priests in charge from time to time have been:- Dean White, 1869; Dean O'Brien.1870-1878: Dean Slattery, 1878-1892; Father Michael O'Brien, 1892-3; Father P. Byrne, 1893-8; Father Dan. Harnett, 1898, to his death in 1900. Father Gunning (now Dean of Bega), 1898-1905. Dean Norris, who was made the first Parish Priest of Cooma, and later the first Vicar Forane for the Southern Districts of the Archdiocese of Sydney, and now Dean of the same districts in the Diocese of Goulburn, and is still at Cooma, took charge in 1905.

This photo supplied by Michael Povey



Gathering for Mass on Mt Kosciusko - 1913

During February, 1913, a number of distinguished prelates of the Roman Catholic Church were spending a holiday at Kosciusko. The Very Rev. J. J. Norris, P.P., V.F. (now Dean Norris), of Cooma, conceived the idea of arranging for a solemnisation of Mass on the summit of Mt. Kosciusko, the highest point in Australia, and 7,328 feet above sea level. The visiting clerics gave their approval, and all necessary arrangements and details of organisation were made and supervised by Very Rev. Father Norris. .

The date fixed for the function was Sunday, 23rd February, 1913. A marquee was erected on the summit of the mount, and in it a temporary altar, which was beautifully decorated, was placed.
The proposed ceremony aroused intense interest. People made for the Mount as to a pilgrimage. On the, night of the 22nd February, parties camped at various points along the road between Hotel Kosciusko and the summit.

Fifteen motor-cars, from two service companies, had been secured, and many private motors were making the trip. Though a start was made from Cooma at 4 a.m., the car containing Very Rev. J. J. Norris was the first to reach the appointed spot at 6.15 a.m. Later on a car containing His Grace Archbishop Kelly, Dr. Dwyer, Bishop of Maitland, Very Rev. Father McDermott, President of the Manly College, and Very Rev. Father O'Reilly, President of St. Stanislaus College, Bathurst, arrived to find over 200 people, including visitors from every part of Manaro, from Sydney, Queensland, and even England, gathered to witness the ceremony.

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was celebrated by Dr. Dwyer, Bishop of Maitland, and the first native-born Australian to be raised to the Episcopate. After Mass the Archbishop delivered a memorable sermon. The Bishop of Maitland also addressed the gathering, as did the Very Rev. Father Norris.


That portion of the Manaro District of which Nimmitabel forms part, is included in the Roman Catholic Church Parish of Bombala, controlled at the present time by Rev. J. A. Roche, P.P. The Church of St. Andrew's at Nimmitabel is 69 years old, the foundation-stone having been laid by the Most Rev. Archbishop Polding, of Sydney, in 1856, before a church for adherents of the Roman Catholic religion was in existence at Cooma. In 1916, following upon the efforts of Father Roche, it was renovated at a cost of 12,100 pounds.

St. Andrew's Roman Catholic Church at Nimmitabel is credited with being built on land having a higher elevation than that of any other sacred edifice in the State, if not the Commonwealth.

For more information go to the Nimmitabel site

Brigidine Convent - Cooma


The most imposing private building in Cooma is that of the Brigidine Convent. The order was introduced in New South Wales in May, 1863, by the Rev. Mother Mary John Syrian, who was born at Limerick Ireland, on 26th January, 1837. As a young girl she entered the Brigidine Convent of Mountrath, Ireland. She came to New South Wales in response to the invitation of Dr. Murray, then Bishop of Maitland, and was accompanied by Sister M. Catherine Bergin (who died at Cowra in 1901), Mother M. Ignatius Fitzpatrick (now at Mountrath Convent, Ireland), Mother M. de Sales Maher (at present in New Zealand), Mother M Gertrude Banahan (at present Superioress in New Zealand), and Mother M. Stanialaus Hayden (at present Superioress at Randwick). Upon arrival in this State, they proceeded to Coonamble, and introduced the order there. Mother John then established a foundation in Cooma in 1887. A block of land, fronting that on which the Roman Catholic Church and Presbytery were built, was acquired, and on it Dean Slattery, then in charge of the Parish, caused to be erected at a cost of approximately 6,000 pounds the noble edifice of which to-day Cooma is justly proud. Additions have been made from time to time, and the building is now entirely self-contained. It has its own septic sewage system, and is connected with the town water and electric light supply. The order has proved during its existence in Cooma a boon, not only to those of the Roman Catholic faith, but to members of other denominations as well. Its administration and control are in the hands of Mother M. Xaveria, a capable, efficient, and broadminded woman, who commands the respect of the district.

The Convent has a large number of pupils, both daily and resident. Its curriculum, besides covering all the ordinary school subjects, includes educational courses in studies not readily available elsewhere in the district. At the public examinations in music, held from time to time, it has achieved a large measure of success, and in other public examinations it has more than held its own. Art and Needlework are well and capably taught, and scholars from this institution invariably gain a large number of awards at the local shows.


St. Joseph's Convent at Nimmitabel belongs to the Order of The Sisters of St. Joseph of The Sacred Heart, a purely Australian Order founded at South Australia in January, 1880. The present Superior General is Mother M. Laurence.

The Nimmitabel Convent was established in 1902 by the present Dean Norris, of Cooma, the foundation stone being in that year blessed by Rt. Rev. Dr. Higgins Auxiliary Bishop of Sydney.

In 1905 St. Joseph's Convent School was built, the foundation-stone being laid by Dean Gunning, of Bega. Sister M. Evaristus is in charge at Nim-mitabel, where pupils from the Convent School have during the last six years on three occasions secured Bursary Scholarships. The Convent School has an attendance of 115.
For more information go to the Nimmitabel site


A Convent of St. Joseph has also been in existence at Adaminaby since 1918, and is in charge of Sister M. Magdalene. Pupils from this institution have achieved a number of successes in public and private examinations, including a first and third place in 1925 in open competition in the highest grade with all the Convent Schools of the Diocese of Goulburn and Wagga Wagga.

Transcribed from "BACK TO COOMA" Felix Mitchell 1926 pp45-48 by Pattrick Mould 2003


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