The Archdiocese of Brisbane was established as a diocese on April 12, 1859. This was the same year that Queensland became a colony on June 6; the diocese is about seven weeks older than Queensland colony. At that point, Brisbane diocese covered the whole of Queensland – a vast land with few people in it. Brisbane’s first Bishop James Quinn organised an immigration scheme that brought thousands of Irish to Queensland’s shores, establishing the demographic and style of the Brisbane church for a century.
Brisbane diocese was elevated to an archdiocese in 1887 with Archbishop Robert Dunne the first archbishop. When Archbishop James Duhig entered the role, he went on a campaign of building churches and schools across Brisbane. He even broke ground in 1927 on a cathedral that never got built, called Holy Name Cathedral. After the Second World War, an influx of migrants entered Australia. The diversity of cultures was welcomed but not adequately understood. The predominantly Irish Church was met by Italians, Maltese, Polish, Dutch and many other nationalities. Despite high numbers of ordained and religious vocations in the 1950s, the system of Catholic education was strained to the limit.
In 1949, then-Sale Bishop Patrick Mary O’Donnell came to Brisbane as co-adjutor for Archbishop Duhig. It was he who attended the Second Vatican Council, and after 1965, when Duhig died, had to begin the implementation of the changes in the church. He found ways of introducing the new liturgy and the new diocesan agencies. It was an age when the laity emerged and a new Church appeared.
In 1973, Archbishop Francis Rush was enthroned in Brisbane. He was remembered as a man of the Vatican II Council. His insistent message to clergy and laity, especially the latter, was that they were the Church. It was a time of falling numbers of vocations and of the departure of priests and religious. Archbishop Rush’s emphasis on the laity brought about a Church of apostolic laity. Pastoral councils began and flourished. The involvement of the laity in the liturgy inspired spiritual and pastoral renewal.
In 1989, Archbishop Rush called the Archdiocese into its first Assembly. With the help of Auxiliary Bishop John Gerry, Catholic Social Response (now Centacare) blossomed into a multitude of new caring ministries involving thousands of people across parish communities.
Bishop John Bathersby of Cairns succeeded as Archbishop in 1991. He found a working diocese. He continued and expanded pastoral planning efforts. He added his own emphasis on spirituality, social justice and ecumenism as essential ingredients of being Catholic. He promoted evangelisation as Christian engagement with the world, particularly the world of young people.
Archbishop Mark Coleridge of the Canberra and Goulburn Diocese succeeded Archbishop Bathersby and was installed as Archbishop on May 11, 2012, thus commencing his episcopal ministry in the Archdiocese.
To this day, the Archdiocese of Brisbane remains the metropolitan of the other Queensland dioceses – Cairns, Rockhampton, Toowoomba and Townsville. Brisbane’s cathedral is St Stephen’s Cathedral. St Stephen’s began construction in 1863 and is still the seat of the archbishops, located in Brisbane’s CBD.
Archbishop Mark Coleridge is the seventh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Brisbane. He was ordained a priest in St. Patrick's Cathedral, Melbourne on 18 May 1974. On 2 April 2012, he was named Metropolitan Archbishop of Brisbane.
Archbishop Coleridge’s education was split between South Australia and Victoria, with attendance at primary schools in Tranmere, at St Joseph’s School, and Adelaide, at Rostrevor College, before the completion of his senior years in Melbourne, at St Kevin’s College. He was awarded an Arts degree, majoring in English and French, from Melbourne University.
Initially these studies were undertaken with a view to entering the diplomatic corps, however circumstances changed and he subsequently pursued a vocational call instead. Archbishop Mark’s study for the priesthood was undertaken at Corpus Christi College’s various campuses at Werribee, Glen Waverley and Clayton during the years 1969-74.
After his ordination, he worked as an assistant priest in various Melbourne parishes for a few years before studying Sacred Scripture at the Pontifical Biblical Institute. After four years in Rome and Jerusalem he returned to Melbourne to teach Scripture. Three years later he was again back in Rome for doctoral studies, after which he returned to teach in Melbourne and was eventually made the Master of Catholic Theological College.
In late 1997, he was both greatly surprised and humbled to be invited to work in the Vatican Secretariat of State. Four years later he returned to Australia and was episcopally ordained Auxiliary Bishop for Melbourne.
In 2004, he was appointed a member of the pontifical Council for Culture and Chair of the Roman Missal Editorial Committee of the International Committee for English in the Liturgy. He was subsequently named Chair of the International Commission for the Preparation of an English-language Lectionary.
In 2006, he was appointed as Archbishop of the Canberra and Goulburn Archdiocese upon the retirement of the long serving Archbishop Francis Carroll. In 2011, he was appointed a member of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. And in 2012, he was named Metropolitan Archbishop of Brisbane.
There have been seven bishops and archbishops of Brisbane since 1859. Bishop James Quinn was enthroned in 1859 and died in office in 1881; Archbishop Robert Dunne was enthroned in 1882 and died in office in 1917; Archbishop James Duhig was enthroned in 1912 and died in office in 1965; Archbishop Patrick Mary O’Donnell was enthroned in 1948 and retired in 1973; Archbishop Francis Rush was enthroned in 1973 and retired in 1991; Archbishop John Bathersby was enthroned in 1991 and retired in 2011; and the incumbent Archbishop Mark Coleridge was enthroned in 2012.