A Message from Bishop Bill Wright

A great virtue of these Year in Review reports is that in their pages you will find quite close-up portraits of some of the people, activities and occasions that form the story of Maitland-Newcastle this year.

To all those who visit the sick, prepare the children for sacraments, work in the tuckshop, make the cake or serve in a myriad of ways each day, Hail to you! and ‘Thanks’.

At the level of diocesan agencies, 2018 has once again seen an expansion of services.  St Nicholas Early Education Centres have opened in Lochinvar and Cardiff, St Bede’s High School at Chisholm opened its doors to its first Year 7 group and new CatholicCare centres brought new services to Singleton and Muswellbrook.  We also were finally able to open significant new estates of affordable housing at Boolaroo and Mount Hutton.  On the other hand, it was a great disappointment that, with a construction boom in Newcastle driving up building costs, we were unable to proceed

with our affordable and social housing project on the old Empire Hotel site in Hunter Street.

One feature of the year has been our progress in meeting our needs for ordained ministers.  We have three new deacons; John Lovell back from Rome, Anthony Coloma after his studies in the Philippines and pastoral engagements here, and Graham Fullick who continues his studies in Rome.  Kevin Gadd is progressing towards ordination as a deacon, having been admitted as a Candidate this year, and Solomon Okovido, at the seminary in Sydney, by the time you are reading this, will be officially admitted as a Candidate for diaconate and priesthood.  The two young men from Nigeria, Kingsley and Kizito, who have been experiencing Australian parish life and ministry in East Lake Macquarie this year, will pick up their seminary studies in Sydney in 2019.  Our discussions with the Vocationist Fathers about establishing a community here have progressed to the point of working though the immigration requirements.  Fr Joseph Figurado has already come to us from Sri Lanka, intending to join the Diocese officially in due course. 

On the other hand, Fr Brian Mascord left to become Bishop of Wollongong, which we celebrate and mourn in roughly equal measures.  Fr George Mullappallil is about to leave us to follow his missionary calling elsewhere and he will be greatly missed.  And we mourn the loss of two priests who have passed since our last Year in Review, Glen Walsh and Harry Hughes.

I wrote last year of our plans to achieve greater unity and coherence in aspects of the diocese’s administration by having, for example, one diocesan finance directorate, one communications team and one information technology team, rather than separate teams in each agency of the Diocese; this has been challenging.  It has taken time and effort to bring things together and is still a work in progress.

That restructure in the administration is part of the larger plan known as ‘Many Parts. One Body. One Mission.’

Another central plank of that plan was the establishment of a Council for Mission as a prime body for consulting with a broad cross-section of the diocesan community about our diocesan activities.  In part, this is intended to ensure that direction-setting and policy are not dominated by the concerns of the officials in headquarters but remain responsive to the needs and insights of the people on the ground. This Council has now been formed and has begun to meet. 

Finally, 2018 has been the year of the Royal Commission Report, which was released just before Christmas 2017.  The Truth Justice and Healing Council’s report to the bishops and religious leaders has also been released, as has the Church’s response to

the Royal Commission’s recommendations.   The National Redress Scheme has also commenced operations.  All of this is very welcome as a giant contribution to the protection of children in Australian institutions and to delivering a measure of justice to survivors of abuse.  At a local level, we had the Lina’s Project acknowledgement of our history of abuse in 2017.  Arising out of that was my commitment to an annual day of commemoration.  This began in parishes this year and will grow with time and experience.  There has also been a lot of work done on a fitting memorial to those who suffered abuse at the former Marist Brothers, Hamilton. I am glad to say that, shaped by a brief developed by survivors, a design for a reflective, public memorial at the College has been created and will be built in early 2019. 

Meanwhile, our people in Zimmerman Services continue to provide a high level of training and oversight in child protection measures for all diocesan personnel. Their

Healing and Support team give assistance of many kinds to survivors and their families on a daily basis.  It was gratifying to see the Royal Commission acknowledge the strides the diocese has made in this area.  We also continue to reach settlements regularly with survivors of their claims against the diocese.  We have not yet been notified of any claims against us under the National Redress Scheme. 

I close with thanks to all who have contributed to the production of this Year in Review and more thanks to those whose good works provide its substance.

May God bless you all.

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Bishop Bill Wright Image
Bishop Bill Wright

Most Reverend William (Bill) Wright is the eighth Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle and is the pastoral leader of more than 150,000 Catholics in the region.