THE Catholic Church has had a presence in Dubbo since the early days of settlement when priests visited the area on horseback.
The first recorded Catholic christening occurred on October 10, 1847 when Father Michael McGrath of Kings Plains (near Blayney) came to Dubbo to baptise Catherine Smith, the daughter of William Smith and Ann Mauritz.
The following year Dubbo was gazetted as a village and in 1851 when the first census was taken there was a population of 67.
In 1855 a slab and shingle Catholic Church was constructed in Macquarie Street, between Bultje and Cobra streets.
Mass was said every six weeks by Father P. White, the parish priest of Wellington. He conducted the first Catholic wedding in Dubbo when John Hubert Crowe and Mary Giles were married by special licence on September 12, 1856.
The Catholic community had plans to build a new church and a school. Land was granted to the parish on lots 6, 7, 8 and 9 in Brisbane Street. A dedication ceremony was held at the site on July 16, 1863.
The parish of St Brigid's was officially established in 1865 with Father McAuliffe as priest.
The original Macquarie Street church was in use until it collapsed during a storm on August 22, 1869.
Father McAuliffe said mass in an old chaff shed in Brisbane Street (opposite the Commercial Hotel), while plans were put in place for the construction of a sandstone building designed by Edward Gell, a leading architect in the colony.
It is interesting to note that Gell's son became parish priest in Dubbo in 1895 and again in 1900.
The sandstone walls of the church, quarried on the west bank of the Macquarie River, were 12 feet (3.6 metres) above ground in May 1870 when St Aloysius School opened in Carrington Avenue (on the site of the current Dubbo City Council administration building).
The school served as a church on weekends.
New parish priest Father Chastagnion was astounded by the delay in completing the church and criticised the contractor.
The Sydney Freeman's Journal of July 5, 1873 reported Catholics in Dubbo "aided on many occasions by their Protestant fellow-citizens" had raised large sums of money to finish the church.
The roof was finally completed and St Brigid's was consecrated and used for divine service - without windows or seating - towards the end of 1873.
Bishop Matthew Quinn of Bathurst Diocese opened and blessed the church on March 8, 1874 in the presence of Father Cahill, superior of the Jesuits in Melbourne.
The celebrations concluded with a dinner in the school room.
Calico covered the unfinished windows until Father Chastagnion set about getting stained glass in place. Records indicate around 700 pounds was spent on the western, northern and southern windows and two larger windows in the north and south gables that once formed the original oblong shape of the church.
Father Chastagnion travelled by horseback to all parts of the parish, including Geurie, Gilgandra and Warren.
He built a second presbytery in Dubbo on land in Brisbane Street (at the back of Myer where the Macquarie Credit Union is under construction).
Six Sisters of Mercy from Bathurst and Ireland came to Dubbo on July 9, 1880 to open Our Lady's Girls College for boarders and day pupils and St John's Primary School.
Two Patrician Brothers arrived in 1889 to take charge of St Aloysius school for boys. They left in 1892. The De La Salle Brothers took over the running of the school.
A new two-storey Catholic presbytery was opened in November 1901.
The Holy Name of Jesus Church, Geurie, was blessed and opened on January 15, 1906.
St Mary's Church, North Dubbo, opened in 1910 on the corner of Macleay and Bourke streets. North Dubbo was a separate parish between 1953 and 1986.
The church was closed in 1987 and the mass centre was transferred to Lourdes Hospital Chapel.
The original St Mary's church was used as a school during weekdays. It was staffed by the Sisters of Mercy.
In 1961, new school buildings were built further north in Bourke Street and staffed from 1969 to 1974 by the Daughters of Charity.
St Mary's School relocated to the corner of Wheelers Lane and Myall Street in 1983 and expanded to a full kindergarten to year 6 primary school in 2004.
Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Ballimore, was built in 1952 and was part of the North Dubbo Parish until 1986 when it became part of St Brigid's Parish.
St Laurence's church and school opened in South Dubbo in 1953. The school was staffed by the Sisters of Mercy. The Parish of St Laurence's was created in 1964 and a new church was built in 1971. The parish closed in 2008.
The Sisters of Mercy College and De La Salle College were combined and reorganised in 1969 as St John's Primary School in Bultje Street and St John's College in George Street.
St John's College relocated to Sheraton Road in 1986. A new Catholic presbytery was built in Brisbane Street the same year.
In 2006 St John's Primary School was relocated to the Sheraton Road education precinct. It was expanded from a years 3-6 schools to a full kindergarten year 6 in 2007.
St Pius X School in West Dubbo was built in 1974 and staffed by the Sisters of Mercy.
The school was used as a Sunday mass centre until 1990. The library was converted into a chapel in 1989.
By the 1990s the Catholic community realised a new church was needed to accommodate the growing congregation.
The new building was designed over three years with a lot of parishioner input. It was opened on July 1, 1990.
Sacred vessels, the processional cross, priest's chair and hand-carved wooden crucifix were transferred from the old church.