“WHEN I was asked to bless the plough at the opening of the Brisbane Ekka, I knew I’d really arrived.”
Archbishop Mark Coleridge’s comment drew a chorus of laughter from the record crowd of about 160 at the October 25 Assembly of Catholic Professionals luncheon at Brisbane’s Stamford Plaza Hotel.
He spoke on his first 100 days in the archdiocese.
“Actually it’s nearly 200,” he said.
Talking on the blessing of that Ekka plough “drawn by two Clydesdales”, the Archbishop said with him were “Penny” (Governor of Queensland Penelope Wensley), and Bob Atkinson (recently retired Queensland Police commissioner).
The Archbishop used the first names of these public figures to make a point about Brisbane life.
“From day one I had a strange sense of being at home,” he said. “There is something about life here that is deeply congenial.
“My welcome, both on a Church as well as civic level, surpassed expectations.
“The Premier (Campbell Newman) gave me his mobile number and said to give him a call.”
Archbishop Coleridge said this sort of thing would not have happened in his previous archdiocese, “though I don’t want to bag Canberra … it’s the easiest game in the book”.
Outlining this early stage of his journey leading Brisbane archdiocese, the Archbishop went on to acknowledge his debt to predecessors such as Archbishops Duhig, Rush and Bathersby for “a reservoir of good will”, mentioned how “the past six months seem like six years” because so much had happened, and talked of plans, already started, to carry out a structured program of parish visitations throughout the archdiocese.
He also mentioned meetings already held with senior officials from “the fledgling State Government” on a range of issues and said he “was grateful for their willingness to sit down and talk”.
Earlier, ACP founder and archdiocesan resource development director Peter de Keratry, introducing the guest speaker, said two things struck him about Archbishop Coleridge.
“I’ve never met anyone with such a remarkable recall of people’s names,” he said.
“In being able to do so the Archbishop has an ability to make each person feel important in his world.
“Secondly, in keeping with the vision of the new evangelisation, Archbishop Mark is not afraid to invite people into dialogue about the future of the Church.”
Archbishop Coleridge, opening his talk, said: “Let me touch the mountaintops of the past six months which at times feels more like six years.
“The fact is an awful lot happens in a very short time so there’s a very different sense of time. I’ve asked at times: ‘Is it I Lord?'”
Brisbane’s sixth archbishop also acknowledged, “at times I must seem like a whirling dervish, but I don’t know how else to do the job”.
He touched on ways in which he was approaching projects and challenges both pres-ent and future.
There was his new office taking shape at the Francis Rush Centre. Work started slowly but has picked up pace with completion expected by the end of the year.
There’s the ongoing program of parish visitations where he has already been to parishes including Kenmore and Noosa.
“I certainly don’t want to lead from behind a desk,” he said. He also spoke of his great love of teaching, already shown by his frequent visits to schools throughout the archdiocese.
In the spirit of the “new evangelisation” he also noted his mission was not only about building up relationships within the Church “but necessarily with society at large because of the way the Catholic Church is embedded within our society”.
“My mission is about serving the whole community,” he said.
To the entire gathering – “you remarkable collection of gifted people” – Archbishop Coleridge extended the challenge to use their gifts to build up God’s kingdom.
The ACP has grown since its inception last year with rapidly increasing membership.
Its final event for the year is a members-only cocktail reception on December 12 hosted by Archbishop Coleridge at historic Wynberg, home to Brisbane’s archbishops since 1928.
Next year’s speakers include Olympic medallists Mark and Tracy Stockwell, and former deputy prime minister Tim Fischer.
Anyone who registers for 2013 membership before December 1 will receive a free year’s subscription to The Catholic Leader.
To join visit www.bne.catholic.net.au/acp or phone (07) 3336 9406.