WAGGA Wagga Catholics have ended their four-year wait for a Bishop after Pope Francis appointed Indonesian-born “global citizen” Bishop Mark Edwards as its new shepherd.
The Melbourne auxiliary bishop, who was rector of Iona College between 2010 and 2014, will become the sixth Bishop of Wagga Wagga diocese.
The rural NSW diocese, located three hours from Canberra, has been without a shepherd since 2016, when Bishop Gerard Hanna retired due to ill health.
In a letter to the faithful of Wagga Wagga, Bishop Edwards described his appointment “as a call from God to be with you and journey with you as disciple, brother and bishop”.
“Together, as a community of missionary disciples, we will worship, love and evangelise,” he said.
“I am aware that I have much to learn, particularly about parish life and the joys and challenges of being a Catholic in Wagga Wagga.
“Keen to listen to your stories and those of the Diocese, I come humbly, with deep interest and love.
“Please pray for me that I may offer the service that the Diocese needs. I will pray for you.”
The gentle but towering bishop is a self-confessed “global citizen” who was born in Indonesia and lived with his family in Adelaide, Darwin, and Melbourne’s South-East, where at school he met the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, and eventually joined the order in 1980.
He is the first Australian Oblate to be named a bishop.
On Brisbane’s bayside, he is fondly remembered for serving as rector of Iona College for four years, the place where he also received the initial call from the Pope’s representative for Australia that he was to be named a bishop.
The surprising news happened four minutes into the call, after speaking candidly with former apostolic nuncio Archbishop Paul Gallagher about the state of religious life in Queensland.
“He said, ‘I apologise for the subterfuge but the Holy Father has appointed you as auxiliary bishop for Melbourne’,” Bishop Edwards told The Catholic Leader in 2014.
“That’s when the shock hit.”
The appointment and reality that he was leaving Iona College and his Brisbane Oblate community left him excited but also in tears.
“I love Iona College, and I was always going to cry when I left, so I’ve been doing some of that,” Bishop Edwards said at the time.
Bishop Edwards’ installation as Bishop of Wagga Wagga has not been confirmed.
Australian Catholic Bishops Conference president Archbishop Mark Coleridge said after such a long wait “it is a joy to welcome the appointment”.
“Like many of his Oblate confreres, Bishop Mark brings to the episcopal ministry a combination of simplicity and sophistication, and that will equip him well for all that awaits him in Wagga,” Archbishop Coleridge said.
“I join with the bishops of Australia in pledging our prayers as he prepares to take office and our fraternal support in the years ahead.”