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ISHOULD HARDLY expect you to have
given the matter any thought, but the
fact is that a new bishop's early weeks
are rather confusing. Certainly we got
off with a bang. The ceremony that this
diocese turned on in the Cathedral for
my ordination was magnificent beyond
my imagining, and I am deeply indebted
to those who, with minimal help from me,
made it happen. Despite myself, I am a
bit of an expert critic of such occasions,
from my time as a seminary vice-rector
who perforce attended a lot of them, and
I don't know that I can recall any to match
what this diocese organised and carried
through that night. A great start.
Shortly after that, however, things got
complicated. My first couple of weeks
became a blur of 'briefings' on various
aspects of the diocese's works, recent
history and 'matters pending'. I suspect
that even a priest who had worked here
for years would find it challenging to have
to get his head around all that the bishop
is supposed to know. Fortunately, I am
not much given to panic. I am content to
assume that it will all fall into place for me
one day, and in the meantime my advisers
will hear a lot of phrases like, "Ah, yes.
Now just remind me of the detail."
Luckily, bishops do get out of the office
a fair bit. My excursions into the real life
of the diocese have been very heartening.
The oil was still wet on me when I was
off to do Confirmations in the parish of
Boolaroo-Warners Bay. It's a community
with a lot of young families, and the two
nights there were lively occasions. Fr Brian
Brock, too, happens to have known me for
years and years, so he was pretty relaxed:
neither carefully deferential to the new
boss nor too preoccupied with sizing me
up. I enjoyed the spirit of the place and
look forward to going back.
Indeed, I've found a good deal of life and
enthusiasm in each of the places I've
visited so far, whether on formal 'visitation'
of the parish or for a school hall opening
or whatever. In the City, for example, the
various groups and organisations were
assembled to meet me, but there are
so many groups at work that only the
reps of the ones engaged in apostolic
or charitable works were allowed to give
formal presentations in the hour-or-so
meeting. The others had to catch my ear
over the nibbles! At Raymond Terrace, the
parishioners who had requested interviews
with me mostly wanted to garner my
interest and support for new programs
they were involved in, not, as one might
have feared, wanting to complain or raise
concerns. And I could go on.
The reports of the death of parish
communities, in other words, have been
greatly exaggerated. Yes, the proportion
of the nominal Catholic population that
is active in any given parish might be
regrettably small, but there's life and
We face many challenges as a church in
the years ahead, it's true. I've been asked
to name them on a number of occasions,
by the press and others, and it's possible
to come up with quite a substantial list.
But that is the normal state of human
affairs, isn't it?
The question is, what resources do we
have to meet those challenges? And
the greatest resource of the church, the
bedrock of the church, is its local parish
The heart of my work as a bishop is to
support and encourage the initiatives
of our local communities to 'spread the
Good News' and to 'love one another'.
Some may need more 'encouragement'
than others, perhaps. But we are far from
having to start from scratch. I am liking a
lot of what I see.
There is life
& energy here
"The heart of my work
as a bishop is to support
and encourage the
initiatives of our local
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