Most Reverend John Steven Satterthwaite DD BE
Fourth Bishop of Lismore, NSW
When the request of Bishop Farrelly for a coadjutor was granted by Pope Paul VI, history was repeated. The first Bishop of the Diocese was a priest of the Diocese of Armidale, and the Coadjutor and the future Bishop of Lismore would be a priest of that Diocese.
Bishop John Steven Satterthwaite was born at Randwick, Sydney, on 11 August 1928, when his parents were moving from the Murray River district to the north of New South Wales, to Ashford near Inverell, where his father had been appointed shire engineer. His primary education was at Ashford State School. In 1941 he was sent to St Joseph’s College, Hunter’s Hill, as a boarder, to complete his secondary schooling.
Having gained entrance to university, he enrolled in the faculty of Engineering, Civil Division, and took up residence at St. John’s College, in 1946. His participation in the life of the college, particularly in debating and rugby (a change from his being a member of "Joey’s first Eight rowing team) did not interfere with his studies. Academically brilliant he graduated in 1949 with a degree of Bachelor of Engineering (Civil Division). The following year he joined the work force as a junior engineer with Australian Iron and Steel, Port Kembla.
The year 1951 brought a change of direction in his life. He decided to study for the priesthood. Having been accepted by Bishop Edward Doody for the Diocese of Armidale, he proceeded to St Columba’s College, Springwood. After six months at St. Patrick’s College, Manly, he left for Rome in 1953 to study at the Irish College and at the Lateran University. He was ordained a Priest in Rome on 16 March 1957, by Archbishop Luigi Traglia, and obtained the degree, Doctor of Divinity, after a further twelve months.
On his return to the Diocese of Armidale, Dr Satterthwaite was appointed Assistant Priest in the parish of Glen Innes, where he served an apprenticeship under Monsignor John O’Connor, for three years. In 1962 Bishop Doody brought him to the Cathedral city to be his secretary and Chancellor of the Diocese, with the added responsibility of Rector of St. Mary’s Minor Seminary.
On 6 March 1969 John Steven Satterthwaite was elected the Titular Bishop of Tignica and Coadjutor Bishop of Lismore. Tignica is a Titular Diocese in Tunisia, identified with the ruin of Ain-Tounga in the vicinity of Carthage. Sixteen members of the Australian Hierarchy were among the congregation of some thirteen hundred, which witnessed the Episcopal Ordination in St. Carthage’s Cathedral on 1 May 1969. Cardinal Gilroy, Metropolitan of Sydney, was the Consecrating Bishop, assisted by Archbishop Cahill (Canberra and Goulburn) and Archbishop Gleeson (Coadjutor, Adelaide).
The Diocese and the City of Lismore celebrated the ordination of the new Bishop with the customary warmth and enthusiasm. The celebrations included a concert in the City Hall, at which the Bishop received a testimonial, a Children’s Mass at Oakes Oval, a Civic Reception, and a Mass for Religious.
Bishop Satterthwaite in his first year in the Diocese was Pastor at Casino, as well as being Vicar-General, which office he filled when he moved to Grafton as Pastor. In 1970 he represented Bishop Farrelly for the "Ad Limina" visit to Rome.
With the retirement of Bishop Farrelly on 31st August 1971 he became Bishop of Lismore, and was installed by Archbishop Freeman of Sydney, on 1 September in the presence of Cardinal Gilroy, who had invested his predecessor as an Assistant Bishop at the Papal Throne. On Thursday, 30 May 1974, it was his sad duty to be the principal celebrant of the Solemn Requiem Mass for the third Bishop of Lismore.
From the beginning Bishop Satterthwaite maintained the traditions of the former Bishops. Records indicate a demanding programme of visitation of parishes, involvement in planning and with organisations – diocesan, parochial and lay.
In the thirty years of his Episcopate, Bishop John has given his attention to the pastoral needs of the Diocese. To coordinate the implementation of many of the outcomes of the Vatican Council he established a Diocesan Pastoral Council and a Council of Priests. To afford maximum support for the diocesan pastoral plan he had to make important decisions in regard to parishes. With due regard to the growth of population in parts of the diocese and to the availability of personnel, two new parishes were established, Sawtell and Nambucca Heads, and what was formerly the parish of North Lismore was restructured as Terania; two parishes without resident priests were given Pastoral Coordinators.
Complying with decisions of the Vatican Council and directives of the Congregation for the Divine Worship, the Bishop moved to undertake some rearrangement of the fabric of his cathedral church. In 1975 the sanctuary was extended and an altar of simple design facing the congregation was put in place. The bishop’s throne was dispensed with and the pulpit and communion rails were removed. Other changes placed the baptismal font adjacent to the sanctuary, and the Bishop’s sacristy was converted into a chapel and dedicated to the Saints. In 1986 a major restoration programme was carried out; this included the re-roofing of the entire building and a complete overhaul of the pipe organ.
In the field of Catholic education the Bishop approved the reorganising of the Catholic Education Office in Lismore. One notable decision was the appointment of an Episcopal Vicar for Education, and of a lay Director of the Catholic Education Office. Each year, since 1982, the meeting over some days of Parish Priests, School Principals and parents has been immensely beneficial for the schools in the diocese.
The diocesan policy to support charitable works was an on-going commitment of the Bishop. He arranged for the Diocese to be responsible for the conducting of St Vincent’s Hospital, Lismore; the St Joseph’s Cowper Children’s Home and two Homes for the Aged. The Bishop encouraged parishes to provide care for the Aged and supported the Sisters of Mercy and the Society of St Vincent d Paul in similar projects.
During his Episcopate, many building initiatives were undertaken. He approved new and re-furbished schools, presbyteries, churches,parish centres, hospital additions, new and expanded aged care facilities.
In an interview Bishop Satterthwaite was asked about the English origin of his family name. Replying he explained that it related to sheep and the field where sheep graze. He commented that as a Bishop his role was to be shepherd.
On 1st December, his resignation as Bishop of Lismore was accepted by the Holy Father to become the Emeritus Bishop of Lismore. On 12th December in the Cathedral of St.Carthage he handed the responsibility of the diocese to the Most Reverend Geoffrey Jarrett, the Fifth Bishop of Lismore.
In retirement, Bishop John has returned to parish work in the parish of Port Macquarie.