On Thursday night, 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.”
The Ordination, and Principal Consecrator Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP
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.
“Like Francis of Assisi, we are called to rebuild the Church. That will require a teacher’s head, a spouse’s heart, and a shepherd’s soul, as your new vestments tell. But the most important thing you will wear from tonight is the cross of Jesus Christ upon your heart.
“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.
“No, it is Christ who builds the Church and his Church, not ours, that is rebuilt day-by-day. In it we join Peter in professing of him: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!” (Matthew 16:16)
In acknowledging the retiring Bishop Peter Ingham, Archbishop Fisher said:
“Tonight the Chair of Peter becomes the Chair of Brian - in Wollongong at least - and I pay tribute to Bishop Peter Ingham for his faithful service as Bishop here for close to 17 years.
“A good few in this region have been confirmed by him. Some more love him from his regular presence in parishes, schools and agencies. Others have been taught or led by him. And many have laughed at his ‘Dad jokes’.”
Bishop Brian Mascord, one of Newcastle’s own
Brian Gregory Mascord was born in Newcastle in 1959.
He is the eldest son of Ron and Margaret Mascord and older brother to John.
Uncommon for most bishops, both Brian’s parents are still alive and played an important role in his ordination.
During his ordination, Brian thanked his parents for “being who they are and that God had revealed his faithfulness through the gift of their love for him.”
Bishop Mascord attended Catholic schools in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle – the Sisters of St Joseph Lochinvar at the St Joseph’s Catholic School in Charlestown and St Pius X College in Adamstown.
After school, he gained his teaching diploma at the Catholic College of Education in Castle Hill. He taught for six years in Catholic primary schools before going to study at St Patrick’s College in Manly.
Brian was ordained a priest on 31 October 1992 at the Sacred Heart Church in Hamilton by Bishop Leo E. Clarke and he was incardinated in the Diocese of Maitland (now Maitland-Newcastle).
From 1993 to 1996, he worked as an assistant priest and administrator in the parishes of Taree, Hamilton and Stockton.
Brian served as parish priest to the following parishes: Cardiff (1997–2002); East Maitland and Morpeth (2002–2005); Maitland, Lochinvar and Rutherford (2005–2007).
In 2012, after years of working in different parishes within the diocese, he became the Vicar General of Maitland-Newcastle.
And on November 30 last year, Pope Francis appointed him as the fifth Bishop of Wollongong.