Bishop Bill took great honour in carrying out face-to-face ministry. His storytelling abilities and capacity to meet people where they were at in life, often left lasting impressions on those he crossed paths with. Below are a collection of reflections from people in the Diocesan community, who were moved to share fond memories of the bishop.
Dear Bishop Bill,
My earliest memory of you is from the dress rehearsal for your ordination. There
was excitement in the Cathedral and not a few nerves, might I add. In the midst of the organised chaos that was like trying to herd ducks while on the back of a horse, you were calm and composed and at peace with what was about to happen.
I drew strength from that when a few years later you were to ordain me a priest. I have drawn strength from your example of leadership and priesthood in the years since. Most importantly, I have drawn from your example of discipleship. Thank you for your yes to God to be our Bishop. Thank you for ordaining me to the priesthood; but, most importantly, thank you for your friendship.
Fr Peter Street
So, when lockdown happened and you began to live-stream mass, you taught me how, you called me back and you gently guided me, invited me into a whole new world, a community of people, a family. Your strong, gentle voice was a calming presence in a world of chaos.
I witnessed the effect your presence had on others when I had the pleasure to watch you celebrate Confirmations. Your kind, down-to-earth, joking nature calmed the children and brought joy to their experience of the Church. What a difference you have made, not only on the life of all in the community of Maitland-Newcastle, but on all those who have had the pleasure to be in your presence. Thank you.
My first encounter with Bishop Bill was in 2013. He was serious and to the point. Since that day, I have had the pleasure of many conversations that have been far less serious and flowed on for a good while longer.
COVID-19 has meant that some of the Federation of Parents and Friends Associations’ activities were altered. In 2020, the Bishop’s Award was Zoomed
from my home and Bishop Bill came over for the occasion. Afterwards, he stayed on for dinner – a simple BBQ. He seemed to enjoy a family dinner around the table – lots of chatting and the sausages – he really enjoyed those! Dessert too – I think he had a sweet tooth. On the couple of occasions I dropped in something to him for dinner – he seemed very pleased there was something “for afters” there too.
Bishop Bill was always willing to listen and respond to the needs of parents and carers. He truly valued the work of Federation and those who volunteered to
support its mission.
Dear Bishop Bill,
You were our Christ-like Good Shepherd amidst persecutions, problems, trials, happiness and sadness, and various other Episcopal pressures.
You were a heroic but very gentle spiritual Father to all of us, especially to me, from the time I met you.
Moreover, the three months I lived with you at Mayfield Presbytery are now precious memories as I took care of you after your bypass surgery. These were genuine moments of education and understanding of how to handle dreadful situations with a gentle approach and a smile. You are a champion, historical genius, and fascinating orator. Your passion towards the history of London especially the origin of roads and highways was so rich. I know these cries or sentences of mine won't bring you back, I know you are with God, but these are tears and sighs of a spiritual Son.
Thank you, Bishop. No words can adequately describe what you have done for me. I will be forever grateful for your kind words, guidance, and your goodhearted gestures to me.
Fr Joseph Figurado PP
Bishop Bill was a man of great integrity, who didn’t suffer fools. Unexpectedly, he loved Monty Python and knew sections by heart. He frequently had virtual backgrounds of his favourite historical spots around England and would wax lyrical of their historical significance. He was often sardonic in his humour, seeing to the heart of issues with sharp clarity. He disliked the red tape required for governance immensely, especially the minutiae of risk assessments which hindered ministry. For a man of his great intellect to place his trust in God says a lot for me in this age of reason. He loved the Gospel of John and it’s illumination of the Good News. He will always be my bishop and I will miss him deeply. Until we meet again, Bill.
One of my fondest memories is captured in that beautiful photo from the first Australian Catholic Youth Festival in Melbourne (ACYF). The Maitland-Newcastle contingent made a huge amount of noise as Bishop Bill moved to the podium on the stage. He turned towards us with a huge smile on his face and told the gathered crowd "there's my people".
The Diocesan LGBTIQ Catholic Forum thanks God for Bishop Bill - a true pastor and companion on the journey. I recall the day that Cath and I met with Bishop Bill to discuss the possibility of forming a group to foster the inclusion of LGBTIQ people in our diocese. We were expecting him to be cautious and were taken aback by his openness. He suggested that we call the group a "forum". He explained that a “forum” is a space for the expression of views, mutual learning and the meeting of minds/hearts. His enthusiasm convinced us to adopt the name.
Bishop Bill was a man of deep faith and his leadership has left an indelible mark on the Church in Maitland-Newcastle.
There are many instances of his love and leadership including Lina’s Project, Many parts. One body. One mission, the Convocation of the 2019 – 2021 Diocesan Synod, and his special care for young people and education. I remember his deep love of history, and the pull he felt for the city of Durham.
I appreciate his faith in me by nominating me as a member of the Plenary Council. Unfortunately, he was not able to come with Bernadette, Fr Andrew and me to this historic event.
Bishop Bill had a relaxed style of leadership, but this was underpinned by a deep faith in the guidance of the Holy Spirit and trust that things would work out as they should and in many ways they did. We will miss his presence, wisdom and guidance.
There are many people who come our way but only a few of them make a remarkable and enduring impression in our lives. They simply accept you for who you are, without prejudices of colour, race, or country. They truly trust the oneness of humanity. Certainly, you are one of such a few. You heal where others would nail, and restore peace in distress. You give where others would take, nurture where others would torture and refine where others would defile.
You are vested with power but amazingly humbled in practice. Simplicity is a virtue that is explicit in you. I am thankful to be part of this Diocese and be able to work with you as a brother in the priestly ministry and under your humble leadership. You have shown that true leadership rests in the will to love rather than the will for power. Thank you for who and what you are. I am truly grateful.
Fr James Odoh
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