Bishop Gibney’s Cross returns to the Archdiocese

28 Sep 2023

By The Record

Vicar General, the Very Rev Fr Peter Whitely and Sean O’Sullivan, great-grandson of Bishop Gibney’s former housekeeper, Anne O’Sullivan. Photo: Michelle Tan.

Former Perth Bishop Matthew Gibney’s Crucifix has returned to the Archdiocese of Perth.

Following his death in 1925, Bishop Gibney bequeathed his Crucifix to his dedicated housekeeper, Anne O’Sullivan in recognition of her many years of loyal service.

She in turn bequeathed the Crucifix to her great grandson Sean O’Sullivan who, conscious of the historical importance of the crucifix, was anxious that it remain in the possession of the Archdiocese of Perth. 

Sean O’Sullivan, great-grandson of Bishop Gibney’s former housekeeper, Anne O’Sullivan. Photo: Michelle Tan.

In the presence of Vicar General, the Very Rev Fr Peter Whitely, Mr O’Sullivan has this month signed a Deed of Gift and presented the crucifix to the Archdiocesan Archives and Information Governance Office ensuring that Bishop Gibney’s crucifix will remain in the possession of the Archdiocese of Perth in perpetuity.

The Crucifix, 380mm X 170mm in size, is made of wood with brass caps and a long chain attached, in addition to having a brass figure of Jesus Christ on the cross and a brass medallion to the Blessed Virgin to whom Gibney was dedicated.

The Crucifix, 380mm X 170mm in size, is made of wood with brass caps and a long chain attached, in addition to having a brass figure of Jesus Christ on the cross and a brass medallion to the Blessed Virgin to whom Gibney was dedicated. Photo: Michelle Tan.

Born in November 1835 in Killeshandra, Cavan, Ireland, Matthew Gibney was ordained as a priest in 1863 and arrived in Perth later that year.

He was appointed Vicar-General to Bishop Martin Griver in 1873.

In 1880, Bishop Gibney travelled east in order to raise funds to rebuild the two Perth orphanages

The Crucifix, 380mm X 170mm in size, is made of wood with brass caps and a long chain attached, in addition to having a brass figure of Jesus Christ on the cross and a brass medallion to the Blessed Virgin to whom Gibney was dedicated. Photo: Michelle Tan.

However, his journey by train from Benalla to Albury coincided with Ned Kelly and his gang being surrounded in a Glenrowan hotel and a shootout with police ensuing. 

Bishop Gibney left his train and tended to the wounded Kelly, allegedly using the Crucifix to protect himself from the fire which had developed at the hotel. 

Bishop Gibney heard the seriously injured Kelly’s confession and gave him his last rites. Other members of the Kelly gang had already passed away with the exception of Martin Cherry to whom he also administered the last rites before he died.

His return to Perth was described as ‘in a blaze of glory’ and he resumed his work under Bishop Griver.

In 1886, he was appointed coadjutor bishop of Perth and in 1887 he was consecrated bishop following Griver’s death the previous year.