Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Romuald Denis Hayes (1892–1945)

by Patrick O'Connor

This article was published:

Romuald Denis Hayes (1892-1945), Catholic bishop, was born on 30 January 1892 at Malvern, Melbourne, third son of Victorian-born parents Thomas Hayes, grocer, and his wife Mary, née Kilmartin. Romuald was educated at convent primary schools at Malvern and Kyneton, and at Xavier College, Kew, where he was school captain and rowed in the college VIII. From St Columba's Seminary, Springwood, New South Wales, and St Patrick's College, Manly, he proceeded to the Pontifical Urban College of Propaganda Fide, Rome, where he was ordained priest on 10 August 1917. On his return, Hayes was attached to the diocese of Melbourne as a curate at Northcote. In 1920 he became the first Australian to join the St Columban's Mission Society. His initial assignment was with the society's journal, The Far East, at Omaha, Nebraska, United States of America. He sailed home in 1921, via China where he visited Columban mission stations. Following his appointment as director of the Australasian province of the Columban priests in 1924, he was based at Essendon where the society established a seminary and consolidated support for its Chinese missions from the Catholic community in Australia.

In January 1932 Hayes was elected to the see of Rockhampton, Queensland. His appointment was a sign of change in the character of the hierarchy of the Church in Australia. From 1930, to the chagrin of the bishops born and educated in Ireland, a process of indigenization had begun from Rome. At Hayes's enthronement on 24 April 1932 Archbishop (Sir) James Duhig remarked that Hayes was 'amongst what we may call the first generation of Australian born bishops'. Hayes took a keen interest in rural affairs which was reflected in his correspondence with the priests of the diocese. At his invitation, J. J. C. Bradfield visited the district in August 1939 to examine sites for an irrigation scheme. On 9 April 1940, at a public meeting in Rockhampton, Hayes introduced Bradfield who proposed to establish a 25,000 acre (10,117 ha) irrigation scheme at Wura on the Dee River, south-west of Mount Morgan. A booklet describing the scheme was prepared under Hayes's guidance. As a member of the Central Queensland Advancement League, he wanted to secure development of secondary industry in the region, particularly through provision of reliable water supplies.

The establishment of the National Secretariat for Catholic Action in 1937 and its later subsidiary, the National Catholic Rural Movement, were welcomed by Hayes who was quick to assign full-time chaplains to these organizations. Beginning in January 1941 at the newly completed St Brendan's College, Yeppoon (the first Catholic boys' boarding school in the diocese), the N.C.R.M. held annual retreats for farmers. Hayes gained support for his ideas of rural reform from the Catholic bishops' social justice statements, especially Pattern for Peace (1943), The Family (1944) and The Land is Your Business (1945). Recognized for his energy, organizing ability and charm, Hayes was a bespectacled and sensitive man of medium build. He valued his privacy, was loath to travel without private facilities and would sooner walk than accept a lift with a woman.

Bishop Hayes died of a coronary occlusion on 25 October 1945 at Rockhampton and was buried in the local cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • The Dawson Valley (Rockhampton, Qld, 1940)
  • Wura Irrigation Scheme (Rockhampton, 1940)
  • Catholic Diocese of Rockhampton, Review, 6, no 9, Dec 1940, p 3
  • Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton), 25 Apr 1932, 26 Oct, 1 Nov 1945
  • Central Queensland Herald, 1 Nov 1945
  • Hayes papers (Diocesan Archives, Catholic Education Office, Rockhampton)
  • Circulars to Priests, 30 May 1932-22 Dec 1937, 25 Jan 1939 (Diocesan Archives, Catholic Education Office, Rockhampton)
  • Bradfield Scheme (Diocesan Archives, Catholic Education Office, Rockhampton).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Patrick O'Connor, 'Hayes, Romuald Denis (1892–1945)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 28 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (Melbourne University Press), 1996

View the front pages for Volume 14

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


30 January, 1892
Malvern, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia


25 October, 1945 (aged 53)
Rockhampton, Queensland, Australia

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.