History and religion release

Record: Boolarra author Patrick Morgan has released a new book detailing the history of Gippsland Catholics. Photograph supplied

RENOWNED local historian Patrick Morgan has published a new book that unites two key themes of his writing career – the history of Gippsland and the history of the Catholic Church in Australia.

A MASS-KIT IN THE SADDLE BAG: The Gippsland Catholic Church and Community, published by Connor Court, follows the story of Catholics, mainly of Irish background, who were settling in Gippsland from 1837 for a half century before the diocese of Sale was set up in 1887.

During this pioneering period, priests sent out from Melbourne ‘on the Gippsland mission’ built a small number of churches on the main highways.

Using these as their base, priests foraged out into the bush identifying already established Catholic families whom they served, intermittently at first, on their circuits, gradually forming these communities into embryonic parishes.

The first two bishops, James Corbet and Patrick Phelan, established a basic but coherent network of schools, presbyteries, halls and Catholic organisations, giving the diocese a shape it has retained, much embellished, to this day.

After the disruptions caused by the Great Split of the 1950s, Bishops Eric D’Arcy and Jeremiah Coffey, re-established the diocese’s equilibrium in order to successfully cope with new issues such as increasing secularisation and modernist attitudes, which threatened a new round of disarray.

Patrick Morgan has published more than a dozen books, including a two-volume history of the Melbourne Catholic archdiocese, an award-winning history of Gippsland, a history of Gippsland literature and anthologies of Gippsland literature. He has also written extensively on Eastern Europe and the role of writers in society, particularly under dictatorships and totalitarian regimes.

Patrick and his wife Ann live in the South Gippsland hills near Boolarra.

This diocesan history can be purchased for $25 plus $5 postage, from Patrick Morgan, 610 Limonite Rd, Boolarra, Victoria 3870; email: morganps@iprimus.com.au; phone 5169 6216.