22 April 2022

In an “online meeting” held on St Patrick’s Day, 17 March 2022, the Bishop of Geraldton, Most Rev Michael Morrissey, with the agreement of Archbishop Patrick Pinder of the Archdiocese of Nassau (Bahamas) initiated the process to investigate the life and virtues of Monsignor John Cyril Hawes, also known as Fra Jerome, with a view to promoting his cause for canonization.

This followed inquiries in recent years of whether the Diocese of Geraldton had contemplated promoting the cause of Monsignor Hawes.

There is a growing and deserving national and international recognition of the exceptional significance of Hawes’ art and architectural works which are to be found in England, the Bahamas, Australia and the USA.

The Monsignor Hawes Heritage Trail in the Midwest and Gascoyne regions of Western Australia guide growing numbers of tourists to the art and architectural features of Hawes. In 2015, the Camino San Francisco was inaugurated to provide a more spiritual experience of the heritage of Hawes and in the past couple of years organised pilgrimages have attracted many pilgrims.

In his 24 years in Western Australia, Hawes designed 27 Churches and other buildings across the Mid-West, Gascoyne, and Wheatbelt regions of Western Australia, from Carnarvon in the north, to Bindoon in the south and Yalgoo to the east and Geraldton in the west.

The two most significant buildings designed and laboured on by Hawes are St Francis Xavier Cathedral in Geraldton and Our Lady of Mt Carmel and Sts Peter and Paul in Mullewa.

Hawes departed Western Australia in 1939, moving to the Bahamas, where he built himself a hermitage on Cat Island. However, his talents as an architect and his pastoral concern for the people of Cat Island meant the solitude for which yearned was hard to find.

In addition to his earlier building frenzy in Australia, Hawes designed and helped build around 20 buildings in the final 17 years of his life in the Bahamas.

Hawes had previously worked in the Bahamas as an Anglican missionary in 1909 - 1911, repairing several cyclone damaged buildings. After years of contemplation, he finally converted to Catholicism in February 1911 in New York State, and then after manually working in Canada for most of 1911. He entered the Beda College in Rome and was Ordained a Catholic priest in St John Lateran Basilica, Rome, in 1915, after which he departed for the Diocese of Geraldton, Western Australia, in which he was incardinated.

In the rock beneath his Hermitage on Cat Island, was a limestone cave in which Hawes built his own tomb. In 1956, exhausted by his labours and ministrations, Hawes died in a hospital in Miami where he had been taken for medical treatment. He was 79 years old.

According to his instructions, his body was returned to the burial cave where his body was simply laid out on the ground in a cruciform manner before being sealed by rocks.

Bishop Justin Bianchini praying at Hawes TombFr Cross is assisting with the cause of Hawes and is currently coordinating the process of gathering any information, memories, writings, photographs, artefacts or anything else that will help “paint a detailed picture of Hawes that will be translated in time into a detailed researched biography of Hawes after which a decision will be made as to whether there is sufficient evidence to promote the cause of Hawes for sainthood.

One of the requirements for sainthood is the display in the life of the prospective saint of “heroic virtues”, that is, evidence of Hawes living an exemplary virtuous life.

In addition, Fr Cross is interested to hear from people who may have or know of historical devotion to Hawes.

Similarly, Fr Cross would like to learn of anyone who may have had or continue to have recourse to Monsignor Hawes for his intercession for divine intervention, as well as information about any favours received from such prayer.

Fr Robert Cross can be contacted by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.