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Bringing hope back

Marian feast day:  Bishop Columba MacBeth-Green, centre,  with priests and altar servers after Mass to honour Our Lady's nativity at Marian Valley.

Marian feast day: Bishop Columba MacBeth-Green, centre, with priests and altar servers after Mass to honour Our Lady’s nativity at Marian Valley.

By EMILIE NG

MEALS, laughter and bagpipe marches are what Wilcannia-Forbes’ new bishop Columba Macbeth-Green has ordered for the people in his diocese.

Bishop Macbeth-Green has travelled more than 10,000km visiting Catholics in the northern, eastern and central parts of the NSW diocese.

The long drives have passed by quickly with the help of solid country music and Celtic soundtracks.

Wilcannia-Forbes Bishop Columba Macbeth-Green during a recent visit to Marian Valley to celebrate the nativity of Our Lady

Wilcannia-Forbes Bishop Columba Macbeth-Green during a recent visit to Marian Valley to celebrate the nativity of Our Lady

Speaking on a shopping break during his “little trip” through the northern region of Wilcannia-Forbes, Bishop Macbeth-Green said his lengthy trips were part of bringing hope back to the diocese.

Bishop Macbeth-Green said people in the diocese “need a bit of healing” after being without a bishop for between four and five years.

“A lot of the morale has gone,” he said.

The bishop hoped having a meal, laughing, praying and playing the bagpipes for people in his new diocese would “lift the morale”.

“The ultimate aim is to let them know that the Church is there,” he said.

“Presence is important.

“I am being present to the people in these isolated areas.

“You may not do much, but it has a great effect on people.”

Catholics living in these regions were “hours from anywhere”, Bishop Macbeth-Green said.

“It can be very lonely, so having a meal with them could help lift the morale,” he said.

Increasing vocations is on the top of the bishop’s priority list.

Wilcannia-Forbes has 16 priests working in 22 parishes throughout the large diocese spreading over 410,000sq km.

“This diocese needs clergy, we need more priests,” Bishop Macbeth-Green said.

The bishop hoped personally meeting people who lived in the diocese would encourage more vocations.

Finding ways to support the large Indigenous population was also a main concern for Bishop Macbeth-Green.

“There are a lot in our schools, and they have special needs, like making sure they get enough to eat; and lots of things schools do that others don’t,” he said.

Students have had the pleasure of marching with Bishop Macbeth-Green as he played the bagpipes.

Yet the marches were not without a few cultural lessons for the Aboriginal children.

“I had to tell them it was the Scottish didgeridoo,” the bishop said.

Teachers working in schools in the northern regions also needed support, with some staff living more than three hours away from the nearest town.

He said he was yet to travel to the south of his diocese, another 2000km, but planned to make the trip after his 14-day visit in Rome for “the baby Bishops’ School” and an evangelisation conference.

“I think I’ll be catching up on prayers on the plane and letting someone else drive,” he said.

The former rector at the Shrine of Our Lady Help of Christians at Marian Valley, Canungra, went back to his Pauline roots the weekend before his flight to Rome.

He thanked all those who had been praying and supporting him since his episcopal ordination in July.

“Marian Valley’s got a special place in my heart; I spent eight years of my life here and this particular feast day – Our Lady’s birthday is one that I’ve always loved,” he said.

“To be able to come back when all the people are here that have been praying and supporting me for all those years so it’s a thank you to them too.”

Bishop Macbeth-Green will return to Brisbane in two weeks.

When he returns, he will be back in Wilcannia-Forbes to meet with the people.

“I’ve got to get the vocations going and find priests and get the people going, get the youth and things like that (underway) so there’s a lot to (do) so I’ll have to work a bit harder before I get another break I think,” he said.

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Photos: Robin Williams

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