By Paul Dobbyn
FR John Grace has responded with surprise, humility and enthusiasm to the news of his appointment as Holy Spirit Provincial Seminary’s rector from 2016.
“My appointment as the thirteenth rector of Holy Spirit Seminary from 2016 came to me as a surprise,” the 71-year-old priest said.
“I had never imagined nor contemplated being invited to become rector of the provincial seminary.”
Seminary rector Monsignor Tony Randazzo described the appointment as “an inspired choice”, saying Fr Grace “was a great priest with enormous experience not only in the Rockhampton diocese but across the whole of the province”.
Fr Grace, Rockhampton diocese’s vicar general and former administrator, said he had “been very humbled that the bishops of Queensland were able to discern gifts within me of which that I was unaware”.
“I am aware that the position is important as it oversees the formation of priests for the Church in Queensland,” he said.
“As the numbers are fewer and the climate of priesthood is under closer scrutiny in society, the role of rector is critical for the future.”
Fr Grace said expressions of support from far and wide since the announcement had been “overwhelming”.
“I have been overcome and heartened by the stream of support and encouragement expressed by priests and people since the announcement,” he said. “I hope that I can respect all in the exercise of the office entrusted when the time comes and I look forward to adequate preparation for the task.”
Msgr Randazzo said Fr Grace was well known and respected across the province of Queensland.
“He was chair of the provincial finance council for years and so understands the needs of the local churches throughout Queensland,” the monsignor said.
“Father Grace, as a man of mature age, wisdom and priestly experience, will bring a whole set of unique new gifts to the seminary.
“He will teach men to be priests by the example of his own priestly life.”
Msgr Randazzo said with the changing of his role still 16 months away, he was focused on his ministry and on maintaining the seminary’s momentum.
“I’ve been building on former rector now Bishop Michael McCarthy’s work since taking over nearly six years ago,” he said. “Now Father Grace will be building on our work of the past 14 years.”
Fr Grace said he would approach his new ministry “as a servant of the Gospel and never its master, who is Jesus himself”.
“I hope that I can work in a collaborative manner with the staff as a model for the students in their future priestly ministry,” he said.
“I am sure that the good will of the students can be fruitfully and faithfully harvested.”