Stephen Reville OSA
Stephen Reville was born at Wexford in Ireland on 9 May 1844. He entered the Augustinian Novitiate at Callan in May 1863 and made his Simple Profession there on 15 May 1864. From Callan he was transferred to Ghent, Belgium where he was a particularly good scholar and graduated as a Master of Sacred Theology. He was ordained a priest in Belgium in 1867. In 1868 he returned to Ireland where he joined the staff of the diocesan Minor Seminary of St Laurence O’Toole, Ushers Quay, Dublin, a position he held for seven years, including being its Rector from 1871 onwards.
In 1875 he requested and received permission to accompany the newly consecrated Bishop of Sandhurst, Bishop Martin Crane OSA to begin the new Diocese of Sandhurst (Bendigo) in Victoria. He was taken with the missionary work and virtually became Bishop Crane’s right hand man. However he did not enjoy good health and frequent mention has been made of this problem. Before setting out to make his ad limina visit to Rome in 1882, Bishop Crane appointed him as the Vicar General and Administrator of the Sandhurst Diocese.
Bishop Crane’s visit to Europe was longer than he had anticipated (four years), due to his seeking medical attention, to no avail, to restore his sight. In Victoria was a period of intense and bitter sectarianism. At a Royal Commission that examined the financial assistance being given to denominational schools by the government, Bishop Reville made a spirited advocacy in favour of the system which prevailed at that time. The findings of the Royal Commission led to the cessation of this monetary aid to denominational schools.
Reville was a man who was very much respected by people who were not of the Catholic faith. He participated in public life during a period of great problems for Catholic education. It was a time when there were many attacks on the Catholic Church and on individual Catholics; however, such was his diplomacy that he never aroused anger or recrimination from those who opposed his views.
Bishop Crane, concerned that his eyesight was failing completely, obtained permission from the Holy See for the appointment of Bishop Reville as his Coadjutor Bishop. His Episcopal consecration took place in Bendigo on Palm Sunday, 29 March 1885, by the Archbishop of Melbourne, James Alypius Goold OSA – there were then three Augustinian bishops in Victoria until the aged Goold fifteen months later.
On the death of Bishop Crane in October 1901, Bishop Reville succeeded to the See of Sandhurst in his own right. In poor health himself, in 1902 he sought permission to reign, but his request for resignation was not granted by the Holy See.
Bishop Reville was very conscious of his responsibilities to the diocese. It then contained 22 districts with a total of 37 secular and Order priests, 105 churches, seven Religious Brothers and 200 Religious sisters. The sisters and brothers were responsible for Catholic education in the diocese and controlled six boarding schools, 37 primary schools and 13 secondary schools. On 12 February 1903 he departed Australia for a year overseas in the hope that a respite from official duties would allay the steady deterioration in his health, but it did not.
In the latter years of his life the Holy See honoured him by appointing him as an Assistant at the Pontifical Throne and as a Knight of the Holy Sepulchre. He died on 18 September 1916 and was buried in Bendigo; he was seventy-two years of age at the time of his death but in the last two years of his life he had almost been a total invalid. In 1974 his remains were transferred to the crypt of the Bendigo Cathedral.