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Bishop Michael’s Letter

19 July, 2022
Loretta McKeering, Catherine Simmonds, Archbishop Tim Costelloe, Archbishop Charles Balvo (Apostolic Nuncio)

Dear Brothers and Sisters

Good morning from the Parishes of the Pioneer Valley

It is Sunday morning and I am preparing to celebrate Mass with the community who gather in the Church of St John’s, Walkerston. This morning is special for 26 young people and their families as they come together in the church after a long journey of preparation for the Sacraments, under the guidance of their priest Fr Alex. Fr Alex welcomed me at the airport yesterday, and last night we gathered in the Church of Holy Rosary, Marian where five young people were Confirmed.  The sacramental journey is reflected across the Diocese where we have dedicated people who form the Sacramental Team to encourage our people in the faith and assist our families and children with their sacraments.

While here at Walkerston, there will be an opportunity to bless and open a new teaching area for our school of St John’s. The teaching of the Catholic faith began here when the Sisters of Mercy travelled by buggy from River Street, Mackay arriving in 1920 and establishing a residence (Convent) in 1921 under the leadership of Sr M Xavier. A school ensued in 1923 and was opened by Bishop Shiel on 25th November 1923.  It was described as a church-school, school during the week and church at the weekend. St John’s School, Walkerston will celebrate 100 years of Catholic Education in 2023.

The pastoral visitation of a parish for the Bishop also includes the opportunity to meet with the Parish Pastoral Council and Finance Council and listen to their achievements, challenges and plans for the future.  While here in Mackay, there will be opportunity to celebrate the NAIDOC Mass with our school communities at St Joseph’s, Mackay.

Following on from the Plenary Council where the gathering of the Church, exercising Synodal leadership, affirmed the Uluru Statement and a commitment to being “fully the Church that Jesus wants” us to be with all  Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people making their contribution  to  the  life  of  the  Church  and,  “until  that contribution has been joyfully received by others” within the Church.  I look forward to launching the Diocesan Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) in the coming months. We are waiting for its final approval so it can be embraced by our Diocese.

During the month, we received good news regarding our priests. Fr Andrew Hogan has completed the requirements for a Licentiate in Canon Law and Fr Don White has also completed the requirements for a Licentiate in Moral Theology. They are joined by Fr Andrew Chase who has a Doctorate in Theology and Fr Stephen Hanly a Graduate Diploma in Spiritual Direction.  Congratulations Fathers!

As we look forward to the Jubilee of Priests on Friday 5 August, we congratulate the priests of our Diocese who have achieved significant milestones in their ministry.  These are:

  • Fr Frank Gilbert – 65 years
  • Bishop Brian Heenan – 60 years
  • Fr Kevin Johnson – 60 years
  • Fr Pat Mooney – 50 years
  • Fr John Hogan – 40 years
  • Fr Alex Varghese – 30 years
  • Fr Shaiju Lookose CMI – 15 years
  • Fr Sijo George CMI – 15 years
  • Fr Jayanthi Maddala HGN – 10 years

At the Jubilee Mass, to which all are welcome, I will be celebrating with our two seminarians their admission to Candidacy for Holy Orders. Our seminarians are Peter Doherty from Bundaberg and Grant Sutherland from Rockhampton.  Peter is now moving into the pastoral phase of his formation and will be joining us in the Diocese in 2023 for pastoral placement before Ordination. Grant Sutherland is in year three of his formation at the Holy Spirit Seminary, Banyo. Please keep our seminarians in your prayers.

I trust you will enjoy reading our latest e-newsletter and I invite your contributions from across the Diocese.