Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Reynolds, Christopher Augustine (1834–1893)

by Ian J. Bickerton

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (MUP), 1976

Christopher Augustine Reynolds (1834-1893), by unknown photographer

Christopher Augustine Reynolds (1834-1893), by unknown photographer

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 33704

Christopher Augustine Reynolds (1834-1893), Catholic archbishop, was born on 11 July 1834 in Dublin, son of Patrick Reynolds and his wife Elizabeth, née Bourke. Educated by the Carmelites at Clondalkin, Dublin, he later came under the influence of the Benedictines when he volunteered for the Northern Territory mission of Bishop Salvado, and was sent to Subiaco near Rome to train for the priesthood. He left after three years and went to Swan River with Bishop Serra to continue his training at New Norcia, arriving at Fremantle in May 1855. Probably because of poor health, he left the Benedictines and in January 1857 went to South Australia; completing his training under the Jesuits at Sevenhill, he was ordained in April 1860 by Bishop Geoghegan. He was parish priest at Wallaroo (where he built the church at Kadina), Morphett Vale and Gawler. When Bishop Sheil died in March 1872, Reynolds was appointed administrator of the diocese of Adelaide; on 2 November 1873 in Adelaide he was consecrated bishop by Archbishop Polding.

Reynolds had a large diocese and in 1872-80 travelled over 52,000 miles (83,686 km) in South Australia. The opening up of new agricultural districts, an increase in Irish migrants and diocesan debts had produced a grave shortage of clergy. But his most urgent problem was conflicts between and within the clergy and laity over education, especially the role to be played by the Sisters of St Joseph. He supported the Sisters, reopened schools closed by Sheil and, though opposed by the Bishops Quinn, helped the Superior, Mother Mary MacKillop, secure Rome's approval for autonomy for her Sisterhood.

Reynolds was not a good administrator and his strenuous efforts to extend Catholic education after the Education Act of 1875 incurred alarming debts. In 1880-81 he visited Rome. On his return, increasingly concerned with finances, disturbed at the prospect of losing St Joseph nuns and, to some extent misled by jealousy and intrigue, he dramatically reversed his policy towards the Sisterhood and on 14 November 1883 relieved Mother Mary of her duties as Mother Superior. Though the Plenary Council of the Bishops of Australasia, held in Sydney in 1885, supported him, in 1888 Leo XIII decreed a central government for the Sisterhood, to be located in Sydney. The council requested that Adelaide be raised to an archiepiscopal and metropolitan see and on 11 September 1887 Reynolds was invested archbishop by Cardinal Moran.

His health was never robust and after a two-year illness he died on 12 June 1893 in Adelaide, where he was buried. Although he was austere and hard-working, he left his successor church debts of over £56,000. A particularly fine preacher, Reynolds was widely respected for his missionary zeal and for an ecumenical spirit unusual for his time.

Select Bibliography

  • P. F. Moran, History of the Catholic Church in Australasia (Syd, 1895)
  • O. Thorpe, Mary McKillop (Lond, 1957)
  • Dom Ximenes, ‘Notes’, Australasian Catholic Record, 33 (1956), p 70
  • Freeman's Journal (Sydney), 15 Nov 1873, 17 June 1893
  • Observer (Adelaide), 17 June 1893
  • Roman Catholic Archives (Sydney).

Citation details

Ian J. Bickerton, 'Reynolds, Christopher Augustine (1834–1893)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/reynolds-christopher-augustine-4470/text7293, published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 22 December 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (MUP), 1976

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2014

Christopher Augustine Reynolds (1834-1893), by unknown photographer

Christopher Augustine Reynolds (1834-1893), by unknown photographer

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 33704