Seven generations ...
By Dr Joe Morley
My granddaughter, my daughter and I (representing seven generations of the Morley family in Australia) joined 3000 or more others in St Mary’s Basilica to mark the bicentenary of the first publicly sanctioned Mass.
Our ancestor, Joseph Morley, who arrived as a convict in the Second Fleet in 1790, would most certainly have been present at that historic Mass. Joseph’s cousin, also a Joseph Morley, who lived at Prospect, outside Parramatta, had arrived as a convict in the First Fleet in 1788 and would have been at
Fr Dixon’s second Mass, at Parramatta on May 22, 1803.
He was one of the five Catholics who presented Governor Arthur Phillip with a petition on November 30, 1792, asking him to use his good offices in England to secure permission for a Catholic priest to be sent to the colony.
The petition was ignored by the authorities in London.
When Frs Dixon, Harold and O’Neil arrived in Sydney as convicts in 1800 and 1801, the Catholic community, predominantly convicts and ex-convicts, must have been overjoyed.
What a contrast, then, between the motley Catholic congregation of bond and free people celebrating that first Mass at a makeshift venue in 1803 with the anniversary Mass with a congregation of free people in the majestic St Mary’s Basilica.
One wonders how Joseph Morley and his fellow Catholics would have reacted if they had been told that in 200 years’ time more than 3000 people - led by the hierarchy of the Church in Australia - would commemorate the Mass they attended on May 15, 1803.