The first Mass was celebrated in Mudgee in February 1839 by Fr Michael O’Reilly only six months after the sale of the very first allotments of land in Mudgee. The Archbishop of Sydney (and Australia) appointed Father Calaghan McCarthy Parish Priest of Hartley about 1847. Fr McCarthy soon realised Mudgee, one of his outposts, was a more logical centre for the parish. At his own expense he built the kitchen and four rooms of the presbytery (still in use) in Mudgee in 1851. He is recorded as being resident in Mudgee from 1852.
6th July 1852 was the first recorded wedding in the new parish between locals Patrick Connelly and Jane F’nucane. The first recorded baptism in the parish was of Catherine Johnstone on 5th August the same year.
Father McCarthy was at Mudgee for 15 years. He built the first church, the sanctuary of which formed the sanctuary of the second church and is still in use. He was the first priest to say mass in Coonamble in 1855. At that time the parish boundaries extended to the Queensland border. In 1867 Father McCarthy was transferred to Manly. His replacement, Father John O’Donovan, did not arrive until almost twelve months later. In the interim Father William Nugent supplied. In 1871 Fr O’Donovan received an assistant priest, Father John Dunne, who would later become the third bishop of Bathurst.
THE CHURCH BUILDING
Father Michael O’Reilly celebrated the first mass in Mudgee in February 1839. The first church was built of slabs with a bark roof in 1884 near the present presbytery. Part of the present St. Mary’s dates back to 1857 when Fr Callaghan McCarthy, the first priest to reside in Mudgee, built a church, sanctuary and sacristy. He also built, at his own expense, the first four rooms and the kitchen of the presbytery. The sanctuary and sacristy (vestry) are part of the original sandstone structure. The body of the Church was added in 1873-76 and the steeple in 1911.
The foundations of the present church buildings were commenced on 7th December 1873. The original sacristy and sanctuary were incorporated into the new building by architect Edward Gell. The builder was a Mr Webb from Tamaroora (near Hill End) and Mr Burns of Bathurst was the stonemason. The sandstone blocks were quarried at Botobolar and brought to Mudgee by bullock teams.
St. Mary’s church was officially opened on 11th November 1876. The ornate stencilling and beautiful stained glass windows were from the firm Lyon, Cottier and Co.
The sanctuary consists of a marble altar, the marble coming the Rockhampton district of Queensland. The rest, with the exception of some green marble from Sweden, is carara from Italy. It was cut in Sydney in small parts and assembled in Mudgee by Mr William Dryden. The stone pulpit was built by Mr Sullivan with statues of Sts Peter and Paul below.
The Stations of the Cross were painted by George de Pyro in London. These paintings were send to Australia unframed where they were subsequently framed by a Swiss firm in Sydney.
The maple benches (pews) were given on the occasion of Monsignor Flanagan’s Golden jubilee on 7th July 1937.
The Pipe Organ was built by J. W. Walker in London in 1866 and was originally installed in St Jude’s, Randwick. It was purchased in October 1904 and rebuilt by Charles Richardson. It was installed in St. Mary’s in 1907.
In 1903 the bell was placed in the tower and in 1911 the copper sheathed spire was added to the tower.
The presbytery was first built by Father Calaghan McCarthy in 1851. It consisted of four rooms and an outdoor kitchen. The presbytery has had numerous extensions over time. Till this day the presbytery remains in use. St. Mary’s Presbytery is among the oldest buildings in Mudgee. It was built in 1851-52. It continues to be the residence of the Catholic priests appointed to Mudgee Parish. It is the oldest building in Mudgee still used for its original purpose.