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Bishop Michael’s Letter

20 June, 2023

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ

Our electronic newsletter collects the events from around the diocese. During the past month I have travelled to many parts of the diocese and enjoyed celebrating the sacrament of Confirmation with many of our young people. Beginning here in Rockhampton with the students from The Cathedral College and Emmaus College, up to Mackay, down to Bundaberg and Gladstone, up to the Pioneer Valley and soon to the parishes of the Capricorn Coast and Emerald. It is always a good opportunity to celebrate this sacrament and to experience the great support that we have from our sacramental teams, drawn from parents and teachers from our schools in the diocese.  In Gladstone I had the opportunity to catch up with the Sacramental team for lunch between their celebrations.   I celebrated with the Emmaus College community their 30 years (or rather the 40 years) since the two previous schools were brought together to form Emmaus College, now under the leadership of Mr Eamon Hannon. Thank you, Eamon, for welcoming us to your college to celebrate this significant milestone.

I travelled to Canberra to participate in the Australian Catholic Council for Pastoral Research. This council analyses the data coming out of the census. At the moment we are getting many reports from the 2021 census. This enables dioceses to plan for the future and to note the shifting nature of the Catholic population. This pastoral research is an agency of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and partners with the National Council for Pastoral Services which also conducts surveys. Recently our diocese took part in one of these surveys and again the data from those surveys is slowly trickling into our offices and will enable us to do some good strategic planning.

Since becoming your Bishop on the 29th of May 2014, I have spent time travelling to the various parts of the diocese. Firstly, with Sr Noreen Dunne and listening to you which culminated in 2019 in a Diocesan Assembly. COVID certainly made its mark with the pausing of activities and now that the impact of COVID has lifted significantly we can now continue the work of listening and planning strategically for the future. Over the Pentecost weekend we announced and launched the Diocesan Pastoral Plan which I hope will be used in all our parish and finance councils, and on a diocesan level at the council’s which assist me with the governance of the diocese. The Diocesan Pastoral Plan gives a direction for the next five years and again takes into account pastoral research, pastoral initiatives and evangelisation. This plan helps us to prepare for the future of our diocese. As I look back over the history of the diocese my predecessor, Bishop Bernard Wallace, in many of his writings sketched a pastoral plan which even today is still of use to us. His research ensured that the church here in our diocese remained active, alive, vibrant, and forward looking. I commend each of the communities to adopt the Pastoral Plan.  A copy is attached to this newsletter.

On Pentecost Sunday in our Cathedral, I invited the pastors from the various churches that make up Rockhampton Churches Together to gather in our Cathedral with their congregations and to pray for all our communities.  Sr Beryl Amedee was honoured at this Pentecost service for her incredible work of bringing the pastors of the Rockhampton churches together. Sr Beryl had worked closely with Bishop Michael Putney for many years in the whole area of ecumenical outreach and Sr Beryl continues to be a guiding leader in this area ensuring that the words of Jesus, “Father, may they be one, as we are one” are lived out, as we look for ways that we can pray together, study the scriptures and work with pastoral outreach.

On my recent trip to Mackay, I visited the Stella Maris Seafarers Centre which is a ministry outreach of our diocese to those who travel on the sea. Most of our whitegoods and furnishings come via the shipping ports and these ports also export many of our minerals overseas to manufacturing factories. The Stella Maris Seafarers Centre offers a pastoral support to the various people who work on these ships and to ensure they are supported in the work they do, but also to provide a sense that the Catholic Diocese is sharing with them that the love of God is a part of their lives. Thank you to Pauline who is our director at the Stella Maris Seafarers Centre in Mackay.

I enjoyed spending time with Holy Spirit College, Mackay on their feast day. It was great to connect with the principal and leadership team at the College as they celebrated the feast of the Holy Spirit – “Come Holy Spirit and fill the hearts of your faithful”.  There was a sense of filling the hearts of the young people as we sang and reflected on the Word.  It was also an opportunity to farewell Father Stephen Hanly, who will be completing his time in Mackay before heading overseas to complete his studies in Dublin, Ireland.  Father Stephen will be undertaking studies at the Loreto Institute in Dublin, Ireland for the next 12 months in the area of spirituality and formation. We wish Father Stephen all the very best as he continues to be formed in the area of spirituality.

Australian Bishops at the Ordination. Bishop Michael is second from the left.

I joined many of Bishops for the ordination of Bishop John Panamthottathil CMI in Melbourne. I knew Father John when I was travelling to India in the mid-2000’s and working with the Congregation of the Carmelite Missionaries. In our diocese we have Father Shaiju and Father Sijo who belong to this order of priests. Father John will take over as Bishop (Eparch) for the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church in Australia and Oceania. Welcome Bishop John!

In a couple of weeks I will be travelling to Toowoomba to be at the Installation of Bishop Ken Howell. Bishop McGuckin has retired after 12 years and Bishop Ken Howell will take over as the next Bishop of the Toowoomba Diocese. Bishop Ken Howell has been an Auxiliary Bishop in Brisbane for the last few years.

In Mackay recently it was an opportunity to launch the Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) for our Diocese.  There is a copy attached to this newsletter. Aunty Veronica assisted us in launching the RAP as she welcomed us to the Yuwi Country.  Joy Philippi, our Executive Officer – Mission, and I will be launching the RAP as we travel around the diocese connecting with the various Parish Pastoral Councils and regions.

While in Walkerston for the Confirmations, I was able to convince Father James that it would be a grand idea to visit Finch Hatton and to experience the Finch Hatton Show. Together with Father Kingsley and Father James we enjoyed the show at Finch Hatton and met up with many of the Pioneer Valley locals.

Finally, I am looking forward to the end of July travelling with 32 of our young people to World Youth Day being held in Lisbon, Portugal. Mr Michael Otto, Executive Officer – Vocations, Youth and Family Life, is leading us and it will be a great opportunity to interact with our teachers and young people of our Diocese who will connect with many hundreds and thousands of young people throughout the world, all alive in their faith. After World Youth Day we travel to Fatima for three days for a spiritual reflection. Fatima is just north of Lisbon and is a very beautiful place for quiet prayer and contemplation. Please pray for us as we prepare for this amazing time.

We farewell Father Peter Tonti as he takes six months of sabbatical leave and we thank him for his incredible generosity to the diocese and also his 20 years of priestly service which he celebrates this year.

With best wishes.

Diocesan Pastoral Plan – click here

Reconciliation Action Plan – click here