Bishop Peter Ingham's Diamond Jubilee MessageOn our Diamond Jubilee, we rejoice over the beginnings of the Diocese of Wollongong.
It is my privilege as Bishop to proclaim the esteem and pride we, the People of God, have in our Diocese of Wollongong on its Diamond Jubilee – to proclaim our faith in God’s Providence working through our Diocese, with its history of joys and hopes, griefs and anguishes (Gaudium et Spes §1.)
Hopefully our Diamond Jubilee remembrance at St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral and at each parish, school and ethnic community throughout the Diocese, will put “fresh heart” into all of us. Where necessary, in true Lenten spirit, may the Jubilee inspire even a “change of heart” so that we, as bearers of Christ’s love, may promote greater circulation of Christian life and love in the Church of Wollongong through the deeper communion of mind and heart between us all in Jesus Christ who is the source and foundation of our unity.
What is a diocese? A diocese is a portion of the people of God which is entrusted to a bishop for him to shepherd with the cooperation of the presbyterate, so that, adhering to its pastor and gathered by him in the Holy spirit through the gospel and the Eucharist, it constitutes a particular church in which the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church of Christ is truly present and operative (cf Can 369.)
Shaped By Our Past
This Diamond Jubilee remembrance can help us to reconnect with our history, to retrace our steps, to reminisce about experiences past – the joy and the pain – that have shaped and challenged and nourished us both spiritually and in ministry throughout these 60 years.
We look to those who have gone before us for the example of courage in difficult times to help us to continue to hold fast in faith and hope as we face the challenges of today and tomorrow; as we keep alive and untarnished what has been bequeathed to us; as we give modern day expression to our long and rich tradition of Catholic faith and culture.
All the men and women of faith in this diocese over the past 60 years are models of encouragement and hope for us: “we have so many witnesses ... on every side of us” (Hebrews 12:1.) By living as Catholic Christians, they have demonstrated God’s truth and values, not only to the Catholic community, but also to the wider communities of the Illawarra, the Shoalhaven, the Macarthur and the Southern Highlands. We see much further into the future when we stand on the shoulders of those who went before us.
Begin Afresh from Christ
The clue is not to lose sight of Jesus who “leads us in our faith and brings it to perfection” (Hebrews 12:2) and Jesus who said, “Make your home in me as I make mine in you.” (John 15:4)
Pope John Paul II in his Letter At the Beginning of the New Millennium tells us to contemplate the face of Christ. We are called to set out anew from Jesus Christ with hope and renewed enthusiasm, not only so we will be heralds, witnesses and bearers of God’s love, but also that, through us, others may come to believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour. Our national “Year of Grace” beginning at Pentecost this year, invites us back to contemplate the face of Christ and start afresh from Jesus. Again, “Let us not lose sight of Jesus, who leads us in our faith and brings it to perfection.” (Heb 12:2)
In this spirit of grateful faith, hope and love, we pray for our Diocese of Wollongong on the 60th anniversary of its beginnings. We lovingly and prayerfully remember our dead: Bishop Thomas McCabe and the People of God –clergy, religious and laity – who have gone before us. Our prayer of thanksgiving encompasses Bishop Thomas McCabe, Bishop William Murray (who at 92 is deteriorating following a stroke five years ago) and Archbishop Philip Wilson (Adelaide, and President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference), the clergy, the religious, the laity, past and present.
Sixty years is still short enough for quite a number amongst us readily to recall our beginnings as a diocese. Many younger people now in our schools, will be here for the centenary in 2052! May many of our young people hear the Lord’s call to service in the priesthood and religious life for these communities of the Illawarra, the Macarthur, the Shoalhaven and the Southern Highlands. May those who marry, support each other in love and nurture the faith in their children.
May we all be aware we are not being a diocese on our own: God is with us on our journey as we reassess our own fervour at this watershed of 60 years. (cf Phil 4:13)
May we find fresh heart and enthusiasm for our combined spiritual and pastoral responsibilities by reflecting on what the Holy Spirit is saying to the People of God in Wollongong, not only in the light of our Diocesan Pastoral Plan, but also in that longer span of time from the Second Vatican Council, 50 years ago, to the present.
On our journey to eternal life, we deal in a hope “which does not disappoint” (Romans 5:5), because Jesus is that hope and, in the Immaculate Heart of His Holy Mother, this Diocese finds a loving and protective place to be.
Most Rev Peter W Ingham DD
4th BISHOP OF WOLLONGONG