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Bishop Michael’s Anniversary

24 June, 2024
Bishop Michael and the Clergy gather before the Mass of Thanksgiving.

Bishop Michael celebrated 10 years as the Bishop of Rockhampton on the 29th May this year. The celebrations for this anniversary were especially blessed by the presence of the current Apostolic Nuncio, His Excellency Archbishop Charles Balvo. Fellow bishops, family and friends came from far and wide to offer congratulations and enjoy the celebrations.

Bishop Michael with his family.

On the morning of the 29th May, Catholic Education lead a moving prayer liturgy at the Cathedral.

Following this, there was a luncheon for the  priests and religious of the diocese where they were able to offer their congratulations, while enjoying the rare opportunity to gather from across the diocese.

The main celebration was the evening Mass of Thanksgiving when Bishop Michael, surrounded by so many bishops and clergy with the people of the diocese, gave thanks for all the blessings of God over the past years. This was followed by a formal reception held at The Cathedral College. A number of speeches were given.

Dean Smith, as Director of Diocesan Services, works closely with Bishop Michael on a nearly daily basis. His speech is a lovely insight into the ‘behind the scenes’ man:

Ten years ago, we welcomed a new shepherd to our fold. Tonight, as we celebrate the 10th anniversary of Bishop Michael McCarthy’s episcopacy, we reflect on the remarkable transformation that has unfolded both within him and in our Diocese.

As the Financial Administrator of the Diocese, I have the privilege of working closely with the Bishop and have had almost a bird’s eye view of what he does on a day to day basis. From the beginning, I marvelled at his ability to understand the lay of the land. It took him no time at all to get to know so many of the people and places in our Diocese – something I attribute to his scientific mind. As well as that, the Bishop that I have come to know is caring, he loves to entertain, he loves a good Baptism, he loves his holidays, and he loves to see children be children.

One of Bishop Michael’s most significant achievements as the leader of our Diocese would have to be his work to reform its governance. A resounding finding of the Royal Commission was that poor governance had led to the systemic failures that allowed abuse to occur within our Church – this message was not lost on our Bishop. All of the things that might once have seemed out of place or unnecessary for a church organisation, including accountability and transparency, policies and procedures, formation and training, risk management, and record keeping, were highlighted as being fundamental to an organisation that keeps its people safe. Bishop Michael has demonstrated a dogged determination over his 10 years to implement strong governance measures in our Diocese to ensure that never again will the sins of the past be repeated. In fact, I regard our Diocese to be a leader among Australian dioceses in the implementation of safeguarding measures and I commend Bishop Michael for his leadership on this issue.

It would take all night to list out Bishop Michael’s other achievements over the past 10 years but to name just a few, there was the formation of Regional Pastoral Councils, the listening sessions, the Diocesan Assembly, forging relationships with the Provincials and Bishops of our missionary priests, the launch of the Diocesan Pastoral Plan, the stabilisation of finances, Holy Land pilgrimages, and the re-launch of the Diocesan Pastoral Council.

A major challenge that Bishop Michael faced during the last 10 years was the decision to close churches upon the onset of the COVID pandemic. I know this weighed heavily on Bishop Michael. To deny people the ability to celebrate the Eucharist is perhaps one of the most difficult decisions a bishop could make. But as we know, it was an entirely necessary step and Bishop Michael carried this burden with grace, knowing it was for the greater good. When the time was right, he as the shepherd called his flock to return to the pews and their spirits lifted as they once again shared the embrace of community during Mass.

The mission of a bishop is threefold: to govern, to teach, and to sanctify. Bishop Michael, you have not merely governed; you have nurtured. You have not merely taught; you have inspired. You have not merely sanctified; you have loved. Indeed, you have restored and strengthened the foundations of our Diocese so that, as in Isaiah 65: 17-25, we do not labour in vain.

As we look ahead, may your remaining time as our Bishop be filled with renewed hope, unwavering faith, and abundant joy. Happy anniversary, Bishop Michael!”

Fr Andrew Chase, Parish Priest of Gladstone, gave the vote on thanks on behalf of the priests of the diocese:

‘Bishop Michael, it’s my privilege to speak this evening on behalf of the priests of the diocese. I don’t want to replicate what has already been said, but simply to offer you congratulations and thanks from the presbyterate: congratulations on this important milestone (and on having survived mostly intact the pressures and the burdens of this office); and thanks for all you have given to our diocese.

In particular I would like to thank you this evening for the spirit of collaboration and for the support you have always given to us as priests. As the Second Vatican Council reminded us, we priests are your coworkers in the ministry of governance, preaching and sanctification. And I am grateful that you have always engaged with us as priests on the basis of this philosophy of collaboration. Oftentimes when I have asked your advice or your preference on a particular pastoral question, the answer I receive has been, “What do you think Andrew?”

And I don’t believe that this is simply passing the buck! Rather, it is a genuine engagement in collaboration with us as priests, and a valuing of our contribution. But as well as the spirit of collaboration, I would also like to acknowledge the genuine care and support you extend to us. A genuine Christian shepherd is called not only to collaborate with, but also to care for and support those in his care. This we have experienced from you. Personally speaking, I can attest to that from your time as rector of the seminary while I was still in formation. And you have continued to show that care and compassion during your time as our bishop.

Over the last ten years, we as a presbyterate have benefitted from your support for us to continue our professional development and formation. Building on the generosity of your predecessor Bishop Brian, you have made space for us to further our studies, and this I believe has been to the benefit of our whole diocese. And I believe that the wellbeing and the faith of our diocese is indeed what is uppermost in your mind and heart.

I know that you see this opportunity for celebration today not as an opportunity to eulogise you, but as a chance to celebrate and give thanks to God for the work he has done in Jesus Christ and which he continues to do in our local church, through everyone involved in its mission. And indeed this is reflected in your episcopal motto, gloriari in cruce – to boast in the cross. And I think it is worth situating this motto in its full context in St Paul’s  letter to the Galatians; the whole sentence reads, “Mihi autem absit gloriari nisi in cruce Domini nostri Jesu Christi”, which we could translate as, “God forbid that I should ever boast…except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

So God forbid that we should boast in anything else tonight except the grace of Jesus’ cross. But we will give thanks to God for bestowing that grace on our church through all its faithful people, including you Bishop Michael. And we thank God tonight for your faithful service over these last 10 years.’

Miss Leesa Jeffcoat Director of Catholic Education Rockhampton offered her thanks to Bishop Michael:

‘I had the privilege this morning of speaking at a Catholic Education Liturgy held in St Joseph’s Cathedral to mark the 10th Anniversary of the Episcopal Ordination of Bishop Michael.

Like others here tonight, I am pleased to say that on Thursday 29 May 2014, I was in St Joseph’s Cathedral, on a glorious late autumn day, for the Episcopal Ordination of a person who was going to be an integral part of my life and the life of our Diocese over the next 10 years. That person was Bishop Michael McCarthy. I remember the sun was shining brightly on the beautiful St Joseph’s Cathedral where a large crowd of the faithful had gathered with great excitement and anticipation for a very important celebration.

The Episcopal Ordination of Bishop Michael was indeed a blessed day for the people of our Diocese and for those of us who serve in the ministry of Catholic Education. Tonight, 10 years on, as we celebrate Bishop Michael’s Episcopal Ordination, it is a privilege for me to offer to Bishop Michael the sincere appreciation of our Catholic Education family for the caring, compassionate, wise, spiritual, and pastoral leadership he has provided for us all. I am sure that appreciation would be a sentiment shared by people from all walks of life and in every corner of our vast Diocese.

I have indeed been blessed as the Director of Catholic Education to have received from Bishop Michael over those 10 years, strong support, wise advice, gentle encouragement, spiritual guidance, kindness, care and compassion. I know there are many here tonight who would echo those sentiments.

Many times, after a challenging day of leadership, I would have my spirits lifted to receive a call from Bishop Michael asking how I was, assuring me of his support and letting me know that he would be keeping me, and all concerned in his thoughts and prayers. Bishop Michael, I hope you know how much I appreciated those calls.

Bishop Michael’s passionate advocacy for and strong support of Catholic Education in this Diocese and beyond has been a tremendous gift to our leaders, teachers, support staff, parents, and students. Over the past 10 years, Bishop Michael has visited every school in the diocese many times and has always generously found time in his busy calendar to attend significant celebrations in the life of our Colleges, Schools, Kindergartens and Offices.  This generosity of his precious time was on display in Term One this year when I had the pleasure of accompanying Bishop Michael as he visited almost every classroom in our primary schools taking the time to chat with students and teachers. I know that the visits by Bishop Michael were very much appreciated by all in our school communities. Principals, teachers, and support staff felt encouraged, affirmed, and supported as Bishop Michael sincerely thanked them in person for their passionate commitment to the vocation of teaching.

On behalf of Catholic Education, I congratulate you Bishop Michael and extend to you our heartfelt thanks for your selfless service, your care of all, especially at times of sadness and challenge, and the significant contribution you have made to life in our Diocese and to the ministry of Catholic Education. We hope that the celebrations for your 10th Anniversary as our Bishop will reflect our deep admiration, our sincere gratitude and our loving care of you, Bishop Michael.

Bishop Michael, no words of mine can adequately express the gratitude we all feel in our hearts tonight for all you have been for us during the past 10 years. In offering you our heartfelt thanks and our sincerest congratulations, we also offer you our prayerful best wishes that the future will be all you would wish it to be.

God Bless, Bishop Michael