Archbishop John Bede Polding, the first Catholic Bishop of Australia, was a Benedictine monk at Downside Abbey in England when he was made the first Bishop of the colony of NSW in 1834.
His first concern as a pastor was the plight of the convicts.
He showed great compassion to the convicts, as well as the poor, the sick, destitute women, orphans, aboriginal people and those in any kind of need.
His spirit is well expressed in his words to the Good Samaritan Sisters whose institute he founded in 1857.
His tireless missionary zeal kept him in the horse's saddle for weeks on end, as he visited his flock scattered through the Australian colony; his journey on horseback to Perth and back in 1852 being his longest!
From 1834, when Polding inherited a nation-wide church with a handful of priests until his death in 1877, he worked tirelessly to bring priests and many religious orders to Australia, to establish primary and secondary schools, the University College of St John's, the Cathedral of St Mary's (twice gutted by fire), a seminary for priestly training, a Catholic hospital and 82 parish churches throughout the colony.
By the time of Polding's death, Adelaide, Hobart, Perth, Maitland, Melbourne, Brisbane, Goulburn, Bathurst, Armidale, Sandhurst and Ballarat had been established as separate dioceses.
He laid the foundation stone of St Matthew's Church at Windsor in 1835—the first church in Australia to be solemnly consecrated.
Through years of hardship and struggle, misunderstandings and disappointments, Polding's compassion and pastoral concern, his integrity and religious dedication won the admiration and affection of so many.
He died on 16th March 1877 at Sacred Heart Presbytery, Darlinghurst.