History of the diocese

St Francis Xavier Church Wollongong in 1908, following its extension.
We are a community of communities, drawn from many languages and cultures who—through Baptism and the Holy Spirit—are committed to knowing, loving and serving Jesus Christ in the modern world.

Led by our local bishop, Brian Mascord, we are today some 191,000 baptised Catholics in the Illawarra, Macarthur, Shoalhaven and Southern Highlands regions of NSW. Our diocese has been blessed with a rich diversity—traditional Aboriginal custodians, old settlers and newly-arrived migrants; rural, urban and industrial environments; coastal and highland settings; established townships and some of the fastest growing suburbs in Australia.

Our diocese was established in 1952 from elements of the Archdiocese of Sydney and Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn. Bishop Thomas McCabe was transferred from Port Pirie to become its first bishop and the historic church of St Francis Xavier, Wollongong, became the Cathedral. At the time of establishment, there was a Catholic population of approximately 22,000 in 18 parishes in the Illawarra, Shoalhaven and Southern Highlands regions. In 1954 it was expanded to include Camden and Campbelltown and in 1975 the parishes of Batemans Bay, Moruya and Narooma reverted to the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn.

Whilst the diocese is still relatively young, the churches of Campbelltown (1835), Appin (1837), Wollongong (1838), Picton (1847), Kiama (1852), Camden (1859), Shellharbour (1861), Nowra (1863), The Oaks (1865), Albion Park (1867), Bulli (1886), Berrima (1889) and Milton (1890) date back to the early days of European settlement and to the era of Archbishop John Bede Polding—Australia’s first bishop.

There are now 29 parishes in the diocese, with the newest parishes being Lumen Christi Catholic Parish Wollongong (2022), Corpus Christi Catholic Parish Mittagong-Bowral (2021), and St Mary of the Cross MacKillop Catholic Parish Oran Park (2015).

Together, we are one in Christ, seeking to be bearers of his saving love.