Sandhurst Diocese - A Short History

The Diocese was founded in 1874 from the Diocese of Melbourne, consisting of the land bordered by the Murray River to the north and east, the Loddon River to the west and the Great Divide to the south (37th degree latitude). At the time five missions: Sandhurst, Beechworth, Wangaratta, Heathcote and Echuca already existed with numerous Mass stations including several parish and private church schools. 

The early missions were established in response to the rapid movement of people to the gold rush centres in Victoria and later to the opening of rich pastoral areas north of the Great Divide. The Diocese was formed two years after the 1872 Victorian Education Act at which time the Australian Catholic Bishops decided to establish Catholic schools in every parish of Australia. Religious orders were recruited from Ireland and France to augment and train the existing lay staffs of the schools. The Diocese of Sandhurst grew to its present size of 40 parishes, 43 primary schools, 12 secondary schools and 3 specialist schools.

In response to the needs of society and the Catholic People, many educational, health care and human services have been established over time. At one time Sandhurst had more boarding schools than Melbourne, but some of these services became obsolete as new ways to serve educational needs emerged: CatholicCare (counselling services), the Diocesan Development Fund, Catholic Education Sandhurst, School Boards, Pastoral Councils, and Faith Education Sandhurst are some of the service organisations that exist within the Diocese.

Current Information

Today the Sandhurst Diocese covers an area of 45,196 sq km and is home for 93,803 Catholics; 9,277 primary students, 8,707 secondary students, 55 priests, 50 religious sisters and 5 brothers.

The great foundations and achievements in parish and school life are due largely to committed and faithful people of every parish. Catholic education has been a feature of these parishes and often schools were the first buildings with fund raising and social activities to support them so that children of all backgrounds were able to gain a comprehensive Catholic Education.

The Church of Sandhurst continues to build the Kingdom of God in the lives of its people through liturgy, service, education and mission. Faith education, sacramental preparation, parish renewal and ministry and outreach are the new ways to exercise this unchanging commitment to Christ and his Church.

Bishops of Sandhurst

Please click here to view the past bishops of Sandhurst or use the navigation on the right.

The Paderborn Cross

The Paderborn Cross, which was worn as a badge or brooch in earlier times, is Paderborn's oldest Christian symbol. It was discovered recently in a grave more than 1200 years old. Byzantine style can be seen in the rounded edges of the arms and portrays connection between the cross and the tree of life in the book of Genesis. It possibly has both Lombardy and Celtic influences. St Kilian came from Ireland to the district of present day Paderborn, Germany, in the seventh century as a missionary and its first Bishop. Henry Backhaus, the first priest of the Bendigo Goldfields, came from Paderborn. Crosses made from this design were presented by the Archbishop of Paderborn to the Sandhurst Diocese in August 1999.