I have no doubt that over the coming months, people will be asking me about Bishop Michael Kennedy.

For those who are keen to meet our new bishop, and the man behind the bishop, I invite you to view his installation as the ninth bishop of the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, Installation. It is through this great ritual that you will meet the person, in his manner, in his choice of readings, in the music, in his words and in his actions.

His motto reflects his charism – Euntes DoceteGo forth and teach. Bishops take on the office of teaching, sanctifying and governing, and Bishop Michael Kennedy, like his predecessors, will lead us with his God-given gifts. He takes this motto from Matthew 28:19-20, the great commissioning of the disciples:

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

The mandate from Pope Francis, appointing Bishop Kennedy to the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, and read out by the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Charles Balvo, appoints him as our pastor, our new protector, our shepherd for the good of all the faithful. His mandate is to look after the sheep and to be the bearer of great hope.

On several occasions during the ritual, we were reminded of being a church on mission, that is, the mission of Jesus Christ. Bishop Kennedy noted that he was pleased that our diocese is a church on mission, of looking outward. This is reflected in the gospel reading, that of the seventy-two going on mission, being sent to proclaim the good news. Bishop Kennedy noted the words from the gospel (Luke 10:1-12, 17-20), that ‘the harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest.’

Bishop Kennedy recognised in his homily, that this is not the sole work of the bishops and priests, but it is our calling because of our baptism. This takes me back to my message from last week, in which I spoke to you about two of our grandsons being baptised just over a week ago. They have been invited to be part of this great faith journey.

As proclaimed in the reading from Jeremiah (1:4-9), during the installation, we are known before we are formed in the womb and sent out:

Go now to those to whom I send you
and say whatever I command you.
Do not be afraid of them,
for I am with you to protect you –
it is the Lord who speaks!

Like Bishops Bill Wright and Michael Malone, before him, he has been asked to come to us and he has willing responded. He is unaware of what will unfold in the years to come and yet he trusts in the divine providence of God. In the mandate from Pope Francis, we have been asked to hold him with esteem, obedience, fitting co-operation and love. His appointment to us is one of mutuality. We are being asked to form a community of love around him to build up the kingdom of God in this place with him.

Friday night was indeed a joy-filled evening, both in the Cathedral and afterwards in the Southern Cross Hall. We were nourished in community at the Eucharist and then with good food, drinks and the company of many wonderful priests, bishops, and people. Historically, it will be one of the nights for us to remember and recall.

As I listened to the naming of all of the saints during the Eucharistic Prayer, I thought of our wonderful connection with all of the communion of saints, and then I thought of Aunty Sandra from the Awabakal tribe as she welcomed him to Country, and the connection to the land and the ancestors, past, present and emerging, in this Great South Land of the Holy Spirit. We were also reminded in the liturgy of the feast of St Patrick and his willingness to go to Ireland in the 6th Century, to take the gospel of Jesus Christ to the people there. As missionaries we are being continually invited to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, in both our words and actions.

I loved that after Bishop Kennedy had taken the Cathedra (his chair) and received his pastoral staff the following benediction was sung:

May the peace of God be with you.
May the favour of the Lord upon you rest.
May his grace upon you shine,
and give you light in darkest times,
may the peace of God be yours.

And this takes me to the readings for this weekend, the 4th Sunday of Lent, known as Laetare Sunday (Rejoice). This weekend is one of rejoicing in our diocese. I was privileged to proclaim the first reading from 1 Samuel 16:1, 6-7, 10-13, in which Samuel is sent in search of a king from Jesse’s sons, with the one chosen and anointed to be the youngest and a shepherd, David.

We then listened to the Second Reading from St Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians (5:8-14), which speaks of darkness and light, preparing us for the gospel reading about the man born blind from John’s Gospel (9:1-41):

Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.

You were darkness once, but now you are light in the Lord; be like children of light, for the effects of the light are seen in complete goodness and right living and truth. Try to discover what the Lord wants of you, having nothing to do with the futile works of darkness but exposing them by contrast. The things which are done in secret are things that people are ashamed even to speak of; but anything exposed by the light will be illuminated and anything illuminated turns into light. That is why it is said:

Wake up from your sleep,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.

This weekend we are being strongly encouraged to be people of the light, to be a people of joy, to be followers of the One who saves and redeems us.

I finish with a couple of the verses from St Patrick’s Breastplate hymn by Cecil F. Alexander, sung during the Preparation of the Gifts on Friday night:

I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, His shield to ward,
The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard. ……

Christ be with me, Christ be within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort me and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in my quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in the hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

On this Harmony Day, 21 March, we have a new shepherd to lead and guide us. May our gracious God care for him as he will care for us, his flock.

I hope to see you at next weekend’s Stations of the Cross at Kilaben Bay, and I trust you will observe Earth Hour on Saturday 25 March.

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Teresa Brierley Image
Teresa Brierley

Teresa Brierley is Director Pastoral Ministries of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.