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Bishop Michael’s Letter

25 June, 2024

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ

This electronic newsletter compiled by Sr Kym brings to you the events and lives of the people of the Diocese of Rockhampton.

Over the weekend we farewelled Sisters Carmel & Colleen from the Parish of Blackwater. Sr Carmel arrived 20 years ago and Sr Colleen followed soon after at the invitation of my predecessor, Bishop Brian Heenan. They began a pastoral ministry caring for the pastoral and spiritual needs of the parish of Blackwater which includes the communities of Bluff, Dingo and Duaringa. It was encouraging to experience how much the people of the parish of Blackwater have appreciated their incredible ministry of caring for the people. We were joined by their superiors, Sr Anne Keim of the Sisters of Mercy and Sr Mary Franzman of the Presentation Sisters. Sr Mary remarked that Sr Carmel connects the Diocese and the Presentation Sisters in their 124 years of continuing presence from when the first Presentation sisters arrived in Longreach from Wagga Wagga in January 1900. Sr Carmel will join the Presentation community in Herston in Brisbane and Sr Colleen will reside in Griffin, New South Wales. Thank you Sisters for the incredible work that you have done amongst the people of our Diocese.

In May we welcomed the visit of the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Charles Balvo. He began his visitation with Confirmation of our young people at Holy Family, St Mary’s and Our Lady Help of Christians, Park Ave. During the weekend the Apostolic Nuncio met with the Directors of the agencies of the diocese and lunches with the priests of Rockhampton. On Monday, we took the train to Bundaberg. The Archbishop celebrated mass with the parishioners of Bundaberg followed by lunch with the priests and parish staff followed by a visit to the Bundaberg Rum distillery. On Monday evening it was a visit to the priests of the parish of Gladstone.

On Tuesday morning, we received a great welcome by Principal, Dr Susan Bunkum and the young people when we visited Chanel College and blessed the new classrooms, named The Aquinas Wing.

On Wednesday, the Apostolic Nuncio joined in the tenth year Episcopal Anniversary celebrations. On Thursday, we visited primary schools and colleges and met with the indigenous team at Catholic Education Office for a welcome lunch. In the afternoon, we visited CatholicCare offices and the Diocesan offices, then travelled to Mackay. In the evening we were in Mackay with a formal reception where we were greeted by almost 200 people. On Saturday there were Confirmations in the parishes of North Mackay followed by Sunday lunch with the Mackay clergy.  Archbishop Balvo then returned to Canberra in the evening.

The Archbishop is now in Rome and meeting with the Holy Father and a break in his hometown, New York, before he returns to Australia.

In the last few weeks of the school term, we farewelled Leesa Jeffcoat who has completed 23 years as Director of the Catholic Education Office and over 45 years of teaching in the Diocese. This has been a remarkable achievement, and we thank Leesa as an incredible educator of our young and competent leaders in our Diocese. We all wish Leesa the very best as she moves into the next phase of her life, still with plenty of energy and with a passion for the mission of the church. I have appreciated her support and especially working beside her as a colleague in pastorally caring for our Diocese. Thank you Leesa and may you enjoy a well-earned break.

About the time this newsletter will arrive in your inboxes, the work of many over the past few years will come to fruition. Ten years ago, I arrived in the Diocese. The director of Centacare was Ricki Jeffrey followed by Robert Sims. In 2021, Centacare changed its name to CatholicCare reflecting the mission of Jesus Christ within the Diocese of Rockhampton.

Two years ago, CatholicCare began the journey towards incorporation with a small team working very closely with Robert and directed by Dean Smith in bringing together the legal, pastoral and spiritual aspects of CatholicCare to incorporation.

From the 1st July 2024 CatholicCare will be managed by a board of directors appointed by myself and will ensure that CatholicCare continues as a part of the Diocese of Rockhampton in providing pastoral care to our people. The board chair, Peter Long together with the board members – Bernadette Ariens, Steven Burchill, Graham Fenlon, Sandra Glaister, David Lipke, John Mula, Loretta Seamer and Andrew Wall, will conduct monthly meetings and their accountability is through the Chair to myself to ensure that the mission of the CatholicCare remains part of the Diocese of Rockhampton. What has changed is the legal structure of CatholicCare to ensure that it is compliant with government legislation requirements.

It was during the morning of the 5th March 2014, the then Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Paul Gallagher put to me the following. The Holy See has entrusted the Diocese of Rockhampton to your care. Do you accept? It just seems like yesterday when we gathered in St Joseph’s Cathedral on the 29th May 2014, and now ten years later, I thank all of you for your wonderful support for your encouragement, friendship and, more importantly, your engagement with the mission of Jesus Christ and his Church and the opportunity and privilege to walk beside you as your Bishop.

The celebrations on the 29th May 2024 were marvellous. As the day began with the liturgy prepared and celebrated by our Catholic Education Office. I thank you for all that you have done in making our Catholic Education a great place for the education of our young people.

Lunch was with our clergy and religious, now a yearly event, and to all our priests and religious, it is a great joy to serve beside you as we grow together and continue the work of our Church.

The evening celebration included many from around the diocese and my family joined me with some close friends. It was a great celebration of what we had achieved together in these 10 years. During the week I appreciated the marking of the 10th anniversary at Bundaberg, Chanel College and the gift of the indigenous art piece of the shepherd, the celebrations on the Wednesday and also in Mackay on Friday evening where the Catholic community of Mackay gifted a new crozier. This new crozier reflects Mackay and its people which I will leave in Mackay for my ministries in the Mackay area. I would like to express my appreciation to all of you who have sent messages and being part of the celebrations. Thank you for your marvellous and generous support over these last 10 years.

During the month of May, Rockhampton said farewell to Dorothy Demack. Dorothy was well known for her work within the ecumenical community through her involvement with Rockhampton Churches Together and herself, was a lay preacher at the Uniting Church. Her husband, Alan, was often a leader at the annual law year prayers. Dorothy was well known to the Catholic Community through her building strong bonds between the Christian Churches of Rockhampton.

Our prayers are with the Demack family and all those who have lost a loved one.

With best wishes.

Bishop Michael