This diocese is a suffragan of Adelaide, South Australia, created in 1887. Its boundaries are: north, the twenty-fifth degree of S. latitude; east, the States of Queensland and New South Wales; west, the State of West Australia ; south, the counties Musgrave, Jervois, Daly, Stanley, Light, Eyre, and the River Murray. As the limits originally fixed were found insufficient, the counties of Victoria and Burra were added. At its inception the diocese was heavily burdened with debt and the Catholic population, numbering about 11,000, became much diminished owing to the periodical droughts to which a large portion of the diocese is subject. The town of Port Augusta commands a splendid position at the head of Spencer's Gulf, overlooking which is the cathedral, a fine stone edifice. Its Catholic population is still small, but is bound to increase when the great overland railways to West Australia and to Port Darwin in the far Northern Territory become linked together.
Right Rev. John O'Reily, D.D. (today Archbishop of Adelaide ), consecrated by Cardinal Moran at Sydney 1 May, 1888, was the first Bishop of Port Augusta. His chief work was liquidating the diocesan debts, especially that of the cathedral. He introduced the Sisters of the Good Samaritan from Sydney to Port Pirie in 1890. On 5 January, 1895, he was transferred to Adelaide as archbishop. The second bishop, Right Rev. James Maher, D.D. (died at Pekina, 20 December, 1905), first vicar-general, then administrator sede vacante , was consecrated at Adelaide, 26 April, 1896. His episcopate was marked by a succession of fully nine years of drought, which extended over the larger portion of the diocese. Owing to this disaster it was impossible to make much material progress, but the finances of the see were kept steadily in view. The third bishop and present occupant of the see, Right Rev. John Henry Norton, D.D. (born at Ballarat, Victoria, 31 Dec., 1855), was consecrated at Adelaide, 9 December, 1906. He is the first native of Ballarat to be ordained priest, the first Victorian, and the third Australian, native to be raised to the episcopate. He received his early education in that city and afterwards engaged in the study and practice of architecture for four years. In 1872 he entered St. Patrick's College, Melbourne, became an undergraduate of Melbourne University, and on 10 June, 1876, received minor orders from Archbishop Goold. Early in 1878 he became affiliated to the then Diocese of Adelaide under Right Rev. C. A. Reynolds, D.D., and was sent by him to Europe to finish his studies. After a year at St. Kieran's College, Kilkenny, Ireland, he was admitted to Propaganda College, Rome, and was ordained by Cardinal Monaco la Valetta in St. John Lateran's, 8 April, 1882. Returning to Adelaide, February, 1883, he was engaged at the cathedral until January, 1884, when he was appointed first resident priest of the new district of Petersburg, where he has resided ever since. He was made diocesan consultor in 1894, vicar-general under Dr. Maher, 2 May, 1896, administrator sede vacante on the latter's death, and appointed bishop, 18 August, 1906. He was consecrated in St. Francis Xavier's Cathedral, Adelaide, by Most Rev. Michael Kelly, D.D., Coadjutor Archbishop of Sydney on 9 December, 1906. As parish priest he erected a church, presbytery, school, and convent at Petersburg, also churches at Dawson, Nackara, Lancelot, Yongala, Teetulpa, Renmark, Farina, and other places. He published three "Reports on the liabilities of the Diocese". He has recently completed a successful campaign for the final liquidation of the cathedral and Kooringa church debts. During his episcopate churches have been erected at Warnertown, Hammond, and Wilmington, and convents at Caltowie, Jamestown, and Georgetown.
The diocese is divided into nine districts (not including the West Coast from Talia to West Australia, which is visited from Port Lincoln in the archdiocese ), namely, Port Augusta, Carrieton, Hawker, Georgetown, Jamestown, Kooringa, Pekina, Petersburg, and Port Pirie. There are 10 diocesan priests, 34 churches, two religious orders of women — the Sisters of St. Joseph, numbering 33, and the Sisters of the Good Samaritan , numbering 9. The former have convents and primary schools in Port Augusta, Gladstone, Jamestown, Caltowie, Kooringa, Pekina, Quorn, Georgetown, and Petersburg; the latter are established at Port Pirie only, where they manage two primary schools, including a boarding and select school. The children in these thirteen schools number 754. The Society of Jesus had resident missionary priests at Port Pirie, Kooringa, Georgetown, and Jamestown, long before the formation of the territory into a new diocese. As circumstances permitted, they relinquished Port Pirie in November, 1890, Kooringa in September, 1899, and Jamestown and Georgetown in September, 1900. Schools are maintained in 24 different places, the aggregate cost of salaries and general maintenance being estimated at £27,500 in the last twenty years, the original cost of the buildings at £18,250, or a total expenditure of £45,750 by the Catholic population, which, according to the census of 1901, is estimated at 11,953.
Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online