Categories: Prospect, New South Wales | Marsden Park, New South Wales | Clydesdale Monastery, Marsden Park | Lyndhurst College, Glebe | Moruya, New South Wales | Newtown, New South Wales | Notable Australians | Saints | St Joseph's Catholic Church, Newtown | New South Wales Catholic Clergy.
Phillip Cassidy was born on 8 July 1848 at Prospect NSW and christened at St Patrick's Church.
He was the third of nine children born to parents Phillip Cassidy and Bridget Hallaran, being the last of the children to be born at the original pioneer dwelling before moving closer to the Hawkesbury River. The new home was a few miles away at a place called Eastern Creek, Grange Farm (now known as Marsden Park, near Riverstone).
When he was about three years old his sister Catherine saved him from drowning in a backyard water tub. Phillip was said to be very alike in appearance to his sisters Ann and Elizabeth.
Father Peter Klein says in his book Young Phillip grew up in a good environment. His was bodily strong and big. His fair hair, blue eyes, chubby cheeks and obliging, smiling disposition made him a favourite with other members of the family and playmates in the neighbourhood. Sister Cassimer says "He was never up to mischief. He was a saintly boy, but full of fun and never any mischief in him." Phillip always acted with premeditation, when a case of conscience grew up, and as he was not a hasty child he took full responsibility for his actions....he acted with conviction and had good common sense.
At about age 6, Phillip was educated by a travelling Irish teacher Mr Butler. The children were later sent to a small local school, on the homestead of Rev Samuel Marsden, a fairly famous person, known as the 'flogging parson' in the early days of the colony. Later a small school was opened by Marist missionaries and the children were sent there instead, the school being located on the site of the old Clydesdale Stud Farm. It was during this time that he was known to have loved the sound of the indigenous people reciting in their native language the litanies and prayers. Father Klein comments perhaps it was from these early associations that he learned to love the Australian aboriginal, for he was later to become well known on the South Coast for his work among the natives and would be well regarded by all, second only to Saint Peter Claver.
Phillip was later sent for his schooling to Lyndhurst College, a boys' boarding school at Glebe (Blackwattle Bay), which was conducted by the Benedictine Monks. This would have been in the time of Archbishop Polding, an English Benedictine, who was the first Catholic Archbishop of Sydney. Philip thought of becoming a monk himself, but, although he spent some time in the novitiate, he was never actually professed as a Benedictine. Instead, after a spell on the teaching staff at Lyndhurst, he was ordained as a diocesan priest, on 18 September 1875, by Archbishop Roger Bede Vaughan (Archbishop Polding's coadjutor, and later successor).
Phillip was the first Australian educated priest. He worked in Moruya for 32 years and did excellent work with the indigenous people in the area. The district was an extensive one and he was a true country pastor, in the Australian sense of the word. Father Cassidy travelled on horseback for days at a time from Nelligan to Narooma and into the vastness of the bush to visit settlers to attend to his congregation. To his nieces and nephews he was always known as Uncle Mellitus.
As Phillip grew older, he was unable to attend to those that required his services due to his advancing years and thus he moved to a city church. He was the parish priest at Newtown from 1916, six years prior to his death in 1922 at age 74 years of age. At the time of his death he was engaged in building a boys school at a cost of 10,000 pounds.
He died on 22 December 1922, presumably, at Newtown, in Sydney and is buried at Rookwood Cemetery. He was described as a man of great probity, revered by his parishioners. He was also said to have been an inspiration to every young Australian priest. Over a 100 clergy were present at the funeral, which was presided over by Archbishop Kelly at St Joseph's Catholic Church, Newtown.
Regarding the title of Venerable Archdeacon:- In the Catholic Church's Latin rite, venerable is the title of a person who has been posthumously declared "heroic in virtue" during the investigation and process leading to canonization as a saint. Before one is considered venerable, he or she must be declared as such by a proclamation approved by the pope of having lived lives that were "heroic in virtue" -- the virtues being the Theological Virtues of faith, hope and charity and the Cardinal Virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance. The next step is beatification, at which point the person is referred to as Blessed, and then finally canonization, at which point the person is referred to as Saint. 
On 29th May 1927 a foundation stone at the convent at Moruya was laid as a memorial to the late Archdeacon, the Right Rev J Barry (Bishop of Goulburn) performing the ceremony.
The son of an Irish convict transported to Australia in 1830, the story of Phillip Cassidy shows that many convicts went on to lead better lives and to raise well respected families in early colonial Australia.
You can view more images of the Cassidy family at Flickr.
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On 15 May 2015 at 22:38 GMT Kathleen (Mcaleer) Sanger wrote:
have a Cornelius Cassidy, who married Ann Davey in 1879 somewhere in the USm, and had 4 children. I found this info in. Family bible which had been the property of Bernard mcphillips ,who I think was the son inlaw ,but alas, can fin no connection..an Australian one would be exciting but noone is left who might know.
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