The first priest associated with St Patrick’s was Fr Francis Murphy, who was soon appointed first Catholic bishop of Adelaide; his episcopal ordination, the first ordination of a bishop to take place in Australia, occurred at St Mary’s cathedral on 8 September, 1844. For the early years of its life St Patrick’s did not have a resident parish priest, and visiting clergy attended for Sunday Masses.
Archdeacon John McEncroe, first parish priest of St Patrick’s
In 1861 Archdeacon John McEncroe was appointed parish priest. McEncroe, an Irishman, was one of the great pioneer priests in Australia, to which he came in 1832 after some years in Carolina in the United States. He was the major force in helping establish an Australian Catholic newspaper – initially under various names in the early 1840s, and then as the famous Freeman’s Journal which appeared weekly for almost a century from 1849.
The Davis home was still standing when McEncroe was appointed. He later purchased the house and adjoining land, and used the site to build two stone terrace cottages extending up to the Grosvenor Street corner. Completing them in 1863, he leased the one on the corner as a shop, and lived in the second, which faced Harrington Street. Basement rooms from these buildings still survive below street level, and can be inspected on an escorted tour. The Davis cottage was demolished in the 1860s, but recent archaeological investigation has uncovered the footings of the building, and these can likewise be inspected.
McEncroe died in 1868. It was his wish that the Marist Fathers, a French missionary order established in Sydney since 1845, should succeed him in the parish. At McEncroe’s funeral, the archdiocesan vicar general, Austin Sheehy, took Marist superior Victor Poupinel aside and offered the care of the parish to the Marists. Poupinel readily accepted, subject to permission from Marist administrators in France; this was soon given, and the Marist Fathers have been responsible for St Patrick’s from that time.