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Emotion hits as bishop takes up call to lead in regional Victoria

Episcopal celebration: Bishop Shane Mackinlay offers Mass for the first time as a bishop, joined by other members of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference. Photo: Press 1 Photography/Bill Conroy

SANDHURST’S new shepherd showed his love for the people of God when he failed to hold back tears during his first address as the Bishop of Sandhurst.

Bishop Shane Mackinlay, who was ordained the eighth Bishop of Sandhurst on October 16, made a bittersweet farewell to the parishes of Bungaree and Gordon, where he has called home for 15 years.

“Over the last 15 years I’ve been blessed to live and grow as a disciple as part of your faith communities,” Bishop Mackinlay, visibly overhwhelmed with emotion, said to the congregation inside Sacred Heart Cathedral, Bendigo.

“I valued your support and care for me, very much, and I’m sad to leave my home with you. 

“I’ll miss my life and ministry in your midst.”

Almost 2000 people witnessed the new bishop’s affection for his former parish.

More than 30 bishops and 300 clergy from across Australia attended.

Bishop Mackinlay brings high intelligence and deep faith to the regional diocese, having under his belt a physics degree from Monash University and a masters and doctorate at the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium.

He has been Master of Catholic Theological College, in Victoria, since 2011 as well as serving in parishes across Victoria.

Bishop Mackinlay takes the reins from Bishop Leslie Tomlinson, whose resignation was accepted by Pope Francis on July 23, after seven years in the role.

In the months leading up to Bishop Mackinlay’s ordination and installation, he spent time with Bishop Tomlinson to understand his new region, which is home to internationally renowned priest Fr Rob Galea.

“One of the things I have come to learn about him (Bishop Tomlinson) in this time is he is something of a walking encyclopaedia of the diocese which takes some time to consult,” Bishop Mackinlay said.

“He’s a fine model to be following.”

Bishop Mackinlay did not shy from mentioning the great rivalry between Bendigo, which is the heart of the Sandhurst diocese, and nearby Ballart, where the new bishop was born and raised.

“I come here from a diocese not so far away, which has many parallels with Sandhurst in its history, landscape and communities,” he said.

“And today it’s felt like it had more similarities than expected in its weather.

“But at the same time as noting the parallels, I recognise that much about the Diocese of Sandhurst is unfamiliar to me, and I look forward to hearing the stories of this place as I come to share in the life of the people here.”

At the top of his task list is addressing the challenge of rebuilding trust with those who have been hurt, betrayed and disillusioned by the Catholic Church.

This is not a new agenda for the bishop, who from 2012 to 2014 was the spokesperson for the Catholic Church during the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and other Non-Government Organisations.

“These are challenging times in which to do this, with many people feeling deeply hurt and disillusioned by the Church,” he said. 

“I take those challenges very seriously; responding to them must be integral to whatever we do here in Sandhurst and beyond.

“This is not the only time in which living as a disciple of Jesus has been challenging.

“We can only be faithful to this by placing our trust in God, sharing our gifts generously with those around us, and valuing and celebrating the riches that are brought by each member of our community.”

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