In front of a crowd of 4,500, the former Vicar General of the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle was ordained as the senior authority over the Illawarra region’s Catholic church.
It was one of the largest Catholic episcopal ordinations ever held in Australian history - attended not only by 34 Australian bishops and 113 priests but also by the Apostolic Nuncio in Australia, His Excellency Most Reverend Adolfo Tito Yllana.
“It has been a really nerve-wracking experience, not in a horrible way, but I never thought this would happen to me,” Bishop Mascord said prior to his ordination.
“It wasn’t a thing I had aspired to, I was very happy being a priest and working in parishes and with the people so it came as a real shock when the nuncio [the church’s ambassador] rang me in November and asked me to take this on.
“But I see this as about the church, it was always about God. It is not about me personally, I’ve been asked to take on a leadership role, I’m a stranger in Wollongong and I’m going to have to learn a great deal – and I look forward to that.
“Already the welcome I have received (in Wollongong) has been amazing.”
Brian’s predecessor - Bishop Peter Ingham - had been in the role since 2001.
Bishop Brian said he hoped he could put his own stamp on the Diocese of Wollongong while honouring the high-regard the community has for long-standing Bishop Ingham.
“Peter has fulfilled an amazing role of leadership in a very difficult time – and I hope that I can build on that leadership,” he said.
“The Royal Commission has given us profound opportunities to look at who we are as a church and the way we relate with people, and how we see ourselves.
“We need to read the signs of the times, and respond to them.”
In his homily for the ordination, Archbishop Another Fisher OP, quoting St Augustine, said:
“If as a bishop I feel tossed about in the open sea, as a Christian I find myself in safe harbour. Now Bishop Brian will have the benefit of many safe harbours of the Illawarra and Shoalhaven!
“We look to our Bishop-elect to be a good man and a good Christian before all else, to model for us faith, hope, charity and the other virtues. Happily, on his own account, Brian has been surrounded from childhood by ‘tremendous’ people such as his grandmother and beloved parents who’ve shown him how to recognise and respond to God in everyday life, expressing faith practically in service.
“Brian, a few weeks before you were named bishop, I met you at the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem as you led a pilgrim group in the footsteps of Jesus. You were deeply moved, as I was, to celebrate Mass upon the very slab on which the dead Christ lay and from which he rose for our salvation.
“Even as your lifelong pilgrimage brings you now to Wollongong, you must in a sense keep your heart fixed on that sepulchre. For in the end, the Church is not built by the faithful, the clergy, even the successors of the apostles.”