There was no Catholic priest on the first convict fleet to Australia in (dep. 1787; arr. 1788) and none would arrive at the colony until 1803, some 15 years later. Irish Catholic convicts made up a significant portion of the whole. Many more arrived in the next few years.
The history books simply gloss over this fact with the calm assertion that “the convicts practised their faith in secret, whenever opportunity allowed” (or something like that).
It would be hard for a Catholic to practise his/her faith without the Eucharist.
Thinking about this, I have to wonder: did they practise the Eucharist without an ordained Priest? Would such extreme circumstances make them (to coin a phrase) “priests by necessity”? What if a pious convict took on the role of priest?
What would the Church’s position be?
What if I found myself in the middle of nowhere (stranded on the proverbial desert island with a few ragged Catholic survivors), with no hope of a Priest suddenly turning up. Assuming I had the necessary bread and wine, would I be justified in practising the Eucharist, provided I got the words right and had the right intentions? Could I also hear confession, provided I kept it in confidence? Administer the Last Rites? etc, etc?
Any ideas or insight? I haven’t yet checked the Cathechism… off to do that now!