Wagga Diocese created in push for ‘important’ region

HISTORICAL GROUP: A gathering of prelates and priests in Albury on August 18, 1918. The first bishop of Wagga Diocese, J.W Dwyer, is seated front right.
HISTORICAL GROUP: A gathering of prelates and priests in Albury on August 18, 1918. The first bishop of Wagga Diocese, J.W Dwyer, is seated front right.

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THE Catholic Diocese of Wagga Wagga was created on July 28, 1917 and it was not without initial opposition by some ecclesiastical authorities.

The Riverina region had been part of the Catholic Diocese of Goulburn since 1862, but an Apostolic Delegate recommended that the creation of the new diocese would be an “important development of the church in the southern area”.

Catholic priests had been known to travel and minister through the region that would be the Wagga Diocese from the 1830s.

The first parish in the region had been established at Albury in 1854, with the appointment of the first resident priest. Wagga became the second parish in 1871.

The reconstruction of the Sydney and Goulburn dioceses resulted in 15 parishes being calved from Goulburn that were annexed to create the new Wagga Diocese. Goulburn received the same number of parishes from Sydney.

Wagga Diocese would cover 24,000 miles (62,160km) and included an area marked out for an irrigation scheme that would become the MIA.

The Wagga Diocese officially separated from Goulburn in 1918, upon the inauguration of the first Catholic Bishop of Wagga Wagga, Joseph Wilfrid Dwyer. His first act was to appoint Monsignor Buckley as Vicar-General of the diocese.

The bishop was held in high esteem having served as parish priest at nearby Temora from 1912 to 1916.

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Fr Justin Darlow

Fr Justin Darlow

The Murray and Murrumbidgee Rivers are significant geographical features of the diocese, which is bordered on the east by the mountains of the Great Dividing Range.

The area has large and small towns and some of Australia's richest and most picturesque countryside.

The diocese has a rich faith tradition administered and accessed through 31 parishes.

With a base in Wagga, where there are four parishes, Albury (also with four parishes) is the other large centre within the diocese.

The southern border runs along the Murray river, through Corowa and Mulwala to Tocumwal. It takes in Finley and then Griffith and Yenda-Yoogali-Hanwood in the north-west.

Coolamon, Junee, Tarcutta and Tumbarumba form the northern and north-eastern border, to Khancoban in the south-east.

Parish priest Fr Justin Darlow has written a book on the history of the diocese, which will be launched during centenary celebrations.

Six bishops in 100 years of service

IN ITS 100-year history, the diocese has had six bishops.

  • Joseph Wilfrid Dwyer: March 14, 1918 – October 11, 1939; passed away
  • Francis Augustin Henschke: November 16, 1939- 24 February 1968; passed away
  • Francis Patrick Carroll: February 24, 1968 – June 25, 1983; elevated to Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn
  • William John Brennan: Jan 16, 1984 – February 5, 2002; resigned, appointed Bishop Emeritus
  • Gerard Joseph Hanna: February 5, 2002 – September 12, 2016; retired, appointed Bishop Emeritus
  • Archbishop of Canberra-Goulburn Diocese Christopher Prowse: named Apostolic Administrator sede vacante on September 12, 2006.


The parishes within the Diocese of Wagga Wagga are:

  • Wagga Wagga (Cathedral, Kooringal, South Wagga, West Wagga), 
  • Albury (plus North Albury, Lavington, Thurgoona)
  • Berrigan
  • Coolamon
  • Corowa
  • Culcairn
  • Darlington Point
  • Finley
  • Ganmain
  • Griffith
  • Holbrook
  • Howlong
  • Jerilderie
  • Junee
  • Khancoban
  • Leeton
  • Lockhart
  • Mulwala
  • Narrandera
  • Tarcutta
  • The Rock
  • Tocumwal
  • Tumbarumba
  • Urana
  • Yenda-Yoogali-Hanwood