By Paul Dobbyn
AUSTRALIA’S newest bishop Columba Macbeth-Green was to have crossed two time zones and taken part in separate ceremonies in Parkes and Broken Hill on the way to assuming responsibility for the vast diocese of Wilcannia-Forbes
Unusually, his episcopal ordination was to be in Parkes’ Holy Family Church on the morning of Thursday, July 3 with his installation in Broken Hill’s, Sacred Heart Cathedral a drive of 10 hours away, on the night Saturday, July 5.
Typically a bishop’s ordination and installation take place during the same ceremony.
However, as Bishop-elect Macbeth-Green explained, “mine is no ordinary diocese”.
On the eve of leaving Queensland for his episcopal ordination, he told The Catholic Leader, among his primary roles was to be a “healer and unifier”.
Speaking from the Pauline Fathers community at Marian Valley Canungra, where he has been rector at the shrine of Mary Help of Christians for the past eight years, he was both realistic and upbeat about the task ahead.
“Wilcannia-Forbes diocese has had several years without a bishop and also there have been some years of uncertainty as to whether the diocese would be split up,” he said.
“So my job will be to announce the Catholic Church is back in business.
”I’ll also be reaching out to fellow priests who can become quite isolated in such a vast diocese.”
The diocese of Wilcannia-Forbes covers more than 410,000 sq km and incorporates 22 parishes from Broken Hill to Bourke and Deniliquin. The ordination Mass of the diocese’s seventh bishop was to start at 11am on July 3.
An estimated 650 parishioners, clergy and guests were expected to pack Parkes’ Holy Family Church for the ordination.
Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Paul Gallagher was to be the main ordaining bishop since the seat of the Sydney Archbishop is vacant.
Co-consecrators were to to be Armidale Bishop Michael Kennedy, a former seminary classmate, and Wollongong Bishop Peter Ingham.
His order’s Father General Fr Arnold Chrapkowski from the motherhouse in Poland, was to be among 30 bishops expected at the ordination.The new bishop was to formally take possession of the Wilcannia-Forbes diocese during a Vigil Mass on July 5 in an installation ceremony at Broken Hill’s Sacred Heart Cathedral.
There were also to be civic receptions in Parkes and Broken Hill to welcome the diocese’s new bishop.
Born and bred on a sheep and wheat farm at Gunningbland, west of Forbes and Parkes, he was educated at St Laurence O’Toole Primary School and Red Bend Catholic College.
He joined the Order of St Paul the First Hermit in 1990, and studied for the priesthood at Vianney College in Wagga Wagga.
He made solemn profession in the order in 1996, and was ordained a priest the following year.
As a Pauline Father, he served as administrator of Tarcutta, and from 2002 to 2004 was subprior of the shrine of Our Lady of Mercy, after which he was administrator of Moss Vale.
He also served as that region’s police chaplain, and then from 2006 to 2011 was chaplain at police headquarters in Brisbane, and then for all of South East Queensland.
At the time of his appointment, he was the Pauline Fathers’ provincial vicar for Australia and rector of the shrine of Mary, Help of Christians at Marian Valley.
After learning of his appointment on April 12, Fr Macbeth-Green said he was “humbled and also excited about coming home and giving something back to the people who gave me so much”.
“I look forward to ministering to the diocese and meeting the people in their parishes throughout western New South Wales,” he said.
“I trust in the Lord that he will give me the graces to serve the people of Wilcannia-Forbes.”
Bishop Macbeth-Green will return to Marian Valley on September 6 when he will be the main celebrant at a Mass to celebrate the Feast of Our Lady’s Birthday.