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The Dictionary of Australasian Biography/Croke, The Most Rev. Thomas William

< The Dictionary of Australasian Biography

Croke, The Most Rev. Thomas William, D.D., Archbishop of Cashel, Ireland, formerly Bishop of Auckland, N.Z., was born in Mallow, Cork, on May 19th, 1824. His career at the Irish College in Rome was remarkably distinguished. He carried off the gold and silver medals in 1846, and next year was ordained to the priesthood and awarded the degree of Doctor of Divinity. After holding professional appointments in Carlow and Paris, Dr. Croke engaged in missionary work in his native county. In 1858 he became President of St Colman's College, Fermoy, and seven years later received the dual appointment of parish priest of Doneraile and Chancellor of the Diocese of Cloyne. He was discharging the duties of this twofold office, when in 1870 he was nominated by Pius IX. to the bishopric of Auckland. On arriving in New Zealand Dr. Croke found himself confronted by a very heavy uphill task. He found his diocese exceedingly depressed and disorganised, the bitter legacy of recent wars between the British and the Maoris, but he went to work with characteristic energy and perseverance. He laboured zealously in building churches and founding missions all over the North Island of New Zealand. He devoted himself in a very special manner to the evangelising of the Maoris, with whom he became exceedingly popular, not only as an ecclesiastic, but as an athlete. A bishop who never inquired about gates, but took at a jump every fence or obstacle that came in his way, was just the type of prelate to captivate these brave and high-spirited children of nature. In 1874 Dr. Croke revisited Europe with the object of securing a further supply of missionaries for his Maori people, but it so happened that the archiepiscopal see of Cashel became vacant while he was in the Northern hemisphere, and Pius IX. insisted on his filling the position. The leading part that Dr. Croke has played in Irish politics since his elevation to the see of Cashel is too well known to need any detailed reference in this place.