When writing a codicil to his last will and testament on this day 6 August 1865, Bishop John Thomas Mullock of St. John’s left “his gold enameled pectoral cross to the Diocese of St. John’s.” The gift to the diocese was quite significant because this pectoral cross in addition to having “liturgical” symbolic value also gives insight into the bishops and their friendship networks around the world. Bishop Mullock wrote that “the pectoral cross was a gift from his friend Dr Bishop Patrick Geoghegan, Bishop of Adelaide, South Australia.” [104.1.31]
Many of the early bishops in the “new world” came from Irish stock. The young Patrick Geoghegan, ordained in 1829 as a Franciscan priest (O.S.F) had as his first assignment the Franciscan Church of St Francis’ Church, Dublin, popularly known as the Church of Adam and Eve., the oldest existing Roman Catholic in Dublin.
Geoghegan in 1837 asked to be sent as a missionary to Australia where he became bishop in 1859.
While he was at Adam and Eve he was befriended by another Franciscan priest, John Thomas Mullock who was also ordained in 1829. Mullock was the guardian of Adam and Eve Convent. Mullock was sent as a missionary to St. John’s becoming bishop in 1848.
One of the first people that Mullock wrote about his appointment to St. John’s, Newfoundland was Geoghegan. In that letter he wrote:
“As to myself, I can’t say as yet how I will be situated in St John’s, but I am sure Dr (Michael Anthony) Fleming (Bishop of Newfoundland) will make me comfortable. I have a very arduous Mission but with God’s assistance I hope to get through it, always remembering St Francis’ Motto non tibi soli vivere [Live not for yourself alone].I get a steamer direct from Glasgow next month and expect to arrive in 9 or 10 days in St John’s. I will write to you in a month or two after my arrival there and give you an account of the Mission. As yet I know nothing of it except by hearsay. Our Cathedral there is the largest building in N. America.”
The two maintained a life long friendship.
The pectoral cross is on exhibit in the Basilica Cathedral Museum, home to one of the finest collections of religious artefacts of historic and artistic significance in the country.
The pectoral cross (crux pectoralis) is worn by bishops. The word pectoral derives from the Latin pectus, meaning Abreast.” This cross is attached to a chain (or cord) and is worn on the chest, near the heart. In 1889, the Holy See recommended that the pectoral cross of a deceased bishop which contained a relic of the True Cross be given to his successor. When putting on the pectoral cross, traditionally the bishop says, “Munire me digneris,” asking the Lord for strength and protection against all evil and all enemies, and to be mindful of His passion and cross.