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Bishop Michael’s Letter

21 October, 2021

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ

As you read this newsletter I will be travelling in the Central West and the Central Highlands as I have resumed duties after a few months on sick leave and annual leave. It is good to be back in the parishes celebrating Confirmation. I will be celebrating Confirmation in the communities of Clermont and Moranbah, then heading to Longreach, Barcaldine and Blackall. As Bishop it is great to connect with our western communities and those living on the land. As I was travelling out last weekend, I am very much aware at how important rain is in this part of the world. After Blackwater, I ran into the most incredible storm of water, wind and a little hail but grateful knowing that the farmers’ land was getting drenched with water.

Last weekend began with the Regional Pastoral Council meeting at Capella for the Central Highlands. I enjoyed the company of Fathers Truc and Yon as we drove out to Capella. Joy Philippi chaired the meeting. In the meeting we listened to the hopes and dreams from the 13 praying communities that make up the Catholic Church in the Central Highlands. Again, the dreams are that they will be supported in faith and that faith be passed on to the next generation.

Saturday night was Confirmations in Blackwater, and I was welcomed by Sisters Carmel and Colleen to the community there with Father Yon and celebrated Confirmations. A visit to the Central Highlands is not complete until one visits Woorabinda.  Sister Cecilia, whose presence in the community ensures that the Catholic Church has its doors wide open and supporting the people of the community. I also caught up with some of the local farmers who come to Mass at Woorabinda.

Over this past month since I have been back at work, we’ve had the Plenary Council.  It is now in the next stage of reflecting on all the work that has happened during the sessions. The Plenary Council has been a major event in the Australian Catholic Church, yet it was the gathering of the church reflecting on its mission moving into the future.

As I look down my calendar for the next few weeks it’s filled with school awards nights and farewell masses for our young people finishing year 12 at the various colleges.  Also in the coming week I look forward to gathering with the priests for Priests’ Council.  In the evening I have invited all the Diocesan Councils to a gathering of formation on the topic of governance. Our Diocese has five Councils which provide me with advice and overlook the various aspects of the pastoral mission of the Diocese. There is a Diocesan Pastoral Council, Centacare Council, Catholic Education Council, Finance Council, and the Priests’ Council. Professor Br David Hall from the La Salle Academy ACU is leading our reflections commencing on Wednesday afternoon and continuing through for the next 12 months of formation for all our Council members.

Bishop Brian Heenan will be with us on 4th November for a gathering of Religious and Priests. Bishop Brian recently celebrated 30 years as a Bishop. Back in 1991, Bishop Brian took over leadership of this Diocese and for 22 years led our Diocese and ensured the flame of faith was kept alive.  Thank you, Bishop Brian, for your good work and I look forward to you leading our Mass next Thursday morning to celebrate your 30 years as Bishop of Rockhampton.

Soon we will commence our Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and once again it will be via online platform. The online platform has helped us over these years with COVID to ensure that we still connect in a good way, but also it can be challenging as it requires a lot of concentration. Unfortunately, we don’t get to see our brother Bishops now in person and we only catch up via online means or on the telephone. I’m hopeful that next year as COVID abates we will be able to gather and to be able to support one another in the episcopal ministry.

It was very sad news recently when I heard of Father Rod De La Rosa dying in the Philippines of COVID. It is a reminder to all of us that the COVID crisis is not over, and I would encourage you all to seek the vaccination so that we can at least live with this awful virus that is causing such great disruptions in our communities. I was in one of the first batches of taking the vaccine and I recently completed the second vaccine. The Holy Father has encouraged us all for the common good to ensure that we do get vaccinated and that we keep healthy and well so that we can care for one another.

God bless you all.