Bishop Gregory Homeming addressed the congregation at the end of the Mass for his episcopal ordination and installation as the Bishop of Lismore in St Carthageís Cathedral on February 22. This is some of what he said.
IN thanking people, I will name very few, because if I name some I will offend others.
I have two that I want to name in particular (for thanks) – first of all, the main ordaining bishop, (Archbishop) Anthony Fisher (of Sydney).
Anthony Fisher and I – in fact, together with Bishop Vincent Long (of Parramatta) – studied together at Yarra Theological Union (in Melbourne).
We studied, we worked, we enjoyed each other’s company, and who would’ve thought that three student friars would one day be three friar bishops.
(Bishop Homeming is from the Discalced Carmelites, Archbishop Fisher from the Dominicans and Bishop Long from the Franciscans.)
And, Anthony, you have from the moment that I could talk to you been such an extraordinary support and friend and helped me through to get to this point – took away my worries – but, more than anything, became an extraordinary friend by my side.
So thank you, Anthony.
I’d also like to thank Bishop Geoffrey Jarrett (predecessor as Bishop of Lismore), who, from the moment I came into the diocese, became almost like a father figure for me – took me under his wing; nothing was too difficult.
The first time we met, you, who are so much older than me, spent 14 hours non-stop talking to me.
I almost expired but you had energy to continue to help me, and you’ve continued to be such a wonderful support to me.
And I say to you now, that as the bishop of the diocese, I will look after you in your old age as long as you are here, and long may that old age go, because you will not be a burden to me; you will be an adornment to the diocese, and I am grateful for your presence.
There are many others that I could thank. I could run through many names but it’s getting late.
I simply want to say this, my life has been a life in which God’s presence for me has been so manifest in the people who’ve been around me – in my family and my friends.
I would not have made it through my Carmelite formation if it were not for my family and friends – always there supporting me.
My life then as a superior in the order and as a priest – and those of you who were those supports know very well who I’m talking about – if you had not been there, constantly there for me at any time, I wouldn’t be standing here tonight as a bishop.
My episcopate, in fact, is yours and my prayers will always be for you because as I pray as a bishop my prayers will always be for those, and include those, who have brought me to this place that I am now – something that I have never ambitioned and something which those of you who know me I’ve been avoiding for about 20 years.
This is only my second ordination of a bishop, because I’ve kept away from bishops unless they’ve asked me to give them a retreat.
I’ve never been at an installation, I never go to the Chrism Masses, because I do not want to be on the radar and, sadly, I stand here now inspite of all my attempts. Somehow, God has got the better of me.
But I thank all of you because, without your support, your friendship, your love – and I am proof of the love of the people, because I am here before you.
The Australian Catholic Bishops asked me to write something for the media, so I wrote it out and I’ll read this to you.
“I was informed of my appointment as Bishop of Lismore last October 11. Over the months leading up to today, I have prayed, pondered and asked God what he is doing to me.
“As the weeks moved on it became clear to me that Our Lord had been forming me, yes, for the whole of my life, for this.
“The 31 years as a Discalced Carmelite, the years of study, my work as a lawyer, and a loving family were God’s preparation.
“Somehow all of this was necessary for me to be your bishop. The bulk of this time has been my formation and life as a Carmelite.”
And before I go on I need to thank in a special way, for those 31 years, my Carmelite brothers and sisters who have been my family, and the great sadness of my life is that I’m leaving this family.
My heart remains with you.
I will live a different life but I thank you for being patient with me, for supporting me, for loving me, and only as I leave you do I realise how much I love you … and I say that to you now. Friars don’t say to each other, that they love each other, but I indeed love you very much.
(He returns to his written statement)
“Over those 31 years I’ve struggled with my own weaknesses and failings, and tried through them to find God.
“Jesus has entered my life through my weaknesses and in them I have been graced with the experience of the living God.
“My ministry as a Carmelite has included retreats and lots of spiritual direction.
“In this I have tried to help people with their own weaknesses.
“I’ve tried to show them that Jesus comes to them through their struggles and that, with prayer, they can experience God in the deepest experiences of life. I have discovered that to be human is to be weak, and that it is weakness which unites us.
“At this moment I’ve little idea of what a bishop’s job is. I suspect that this will become clearer as the months move on.
“I am your bishop, with the emphasis on ‘your’. I belong to you.
“The people, religious and priests of Lismore will show me my job.
“I will listen to you and, together, we will discern God’s will for our diocese.
“Our weaknesses and failings will not be an obstacle because I believe they will guide us. As Our Lord said to St Paul, ‘I am strong in your weakness’.
“My role is that of a shepherd who leads his people with a simple focus – to stand in the presence of God.
“I pray that I will not be an obstacle.
“I pray that you will come to know the love of Christ and be filled with the utter fullness of God.
“Let us treasure Christ through the Word of God. Let us carry this Word in our hearts so that, meditating on it, it will accompany us in all that we do and say.Let Christ be our constant companion and friend.
“Please pray for me, that I will be a good bishop and that all I do will be for the good of our diocese, the Church in Australia and for my own holiness.”