Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Patrick Francis Lyons (1903–1967)

by Peter Synan

This article was published:

Patrick Francis Lyons (1903-1967), Catholic bishop, was born on 6 January 1903 in North Melbourne, second child of Patrick Joseph Lyons, a Victorian-born labourer, and his wife Catherine Cecilia, née McMahon, who came from Ireland. Young Patrick was educated at St Mary's School, West Melbourne, and St Joseph's Christian Brothers' College, North Melbourne. After matriculating, he joined the Department of the Navy as a clerk. Four years later he resigned and undertook ecclesiastical training at St Columba's College, Springwood, New South Wales, St Patrick's College, Manly, Sydney, and (from 1923) the Pontifical Urban College of Propaganda Fide, Rome. Ordained in Rome on 6 January 1927, he was awarded a doctorate of divinity in June that year. He returned to Victoria where he served successively as assistant-priest at Collingwood, Geelong and Brunswick before being appointed in 1935 to the staff of St Patrick's Cathedral, Melbourne. In 1938 he was promoted administrator of the cathedral, chancellor of the archdiocese and secretary to Archbishop Daniel Mannix; in 1939 he was made vicar-general.

While at St Patrick's, Lyons organized celebrations in 1939 to mark the centenary of the Catholic Church in Melbourne, the principal event being the completion of the cathedral's spires. In the same year he helped to establish St Patrick's Cathedral Boys' Choir and choir school, using as a nucleus members of the Vienna Mozart Boys' Choir who had been stranded by the outbreak of World War II. In 1940 he was appointed cavaliere della Corona d'Italia in recognition of his services to the Italian community in Victoria.

On 2 July 1944 at St Patrick's Cathedral Lyons was consecrated bishop of Christchurch, New Zealand. He was transferred to the titular see of Cabasa, becoming auxiliary bishop to Cardinal (Sir) Norman Gilroy in Sydney on 5 April 1950. A passionate admirer of Mannix, Lyons acted as the episcopal leader (1950-54) of the Catholic Social Studies Movement in Sydney. There, his authoritarian style and testy personality occasioned resentment, especially when he dismissed Fr P. J. Ryan from the C.S.S.M. chaplaincy. In 1954 Gilroy removed Lyons from his position with 'the Movement' and replaced him with James Carroll, the newly consecrated auxiliary archbishop. While in Sydney, Lyons made submissions on behalf of the Catholic Church to the Royal Commission on Television (1953-54).

Appointed coadjutor bishop of Sale on 11 October 1956, Lyons was elevated to bishop in the following year. In 1959 he negotiated an extension of the diocese of Sale to the west: eight parishes were detached from the Melbourne archdiocese, thus concluding a campaign begun by Bishop Patrick Phelan to make the thinly populated diocese more viable. During Lyons's episcopacy the Catholic population of Sale grew rapidly through immigration, refugee settlement and industrial development. He attended sessions of Vatican Council II in 1962-65.

Intelligent, conservative, meticulous and forthright, Bishop Lyons seemed aloof to many of his parishioners, though his close friends found him engaging. At Sale he presided cautiously over a Church in transition. He died of cancer on 13 August 1967 in East Melbourne and was buried in St Mary's Cathedral, Sale.

Select Bibliography

  • P. Ormonde, The Movement (Melb, 1972)
  • G. Henderson, Mr Santamaria and the Bishops (Syd, 1983)
  • Gippsland Heritage, 1, June 1983
  • Catholic Life, Dec 1993, special supplement
  • Advocate (Melbourne), 9 May 1940, 5 July 1944, 11 Oct 1956, 17 Aug 1967
  • Gippsland Times, 29 Oct 1959, 22 July 1965, 14, 21 Aug 1967
  • Age (Melbourne), 1 Apr 1944, 11, 14 Aug 1967
  • Bishop Patrick Lyons—Chronology of his Career (Bishop's Office, Diocese of Sale, Victoria).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Peter Synan, 'Lyons, Patrick Francis (1903–1967)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 21 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (Melbourne University Press), 2000

View the front pages for Volume 15

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


6 January, 1903
North Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia


13 August, 1967 (aged 64)
East Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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