By Paul Dobbyn
BRISBANE Archbishop Mark Coleridge’s invitation to ordain 10 priests in Nigeria’s Umuahia diocese next month marks a deeper level of engagement between the two dioceses.
Archbishop Coleridge received the invitation to conduct the ordinations in Umuahia’s Mater Dei Cathedral from Nigerian Bishop Lucius Ugorji during his recent visit to Brisbane.
Bishop Ugorji also caught up with Nigerian priests and seminarians, and had discussions with Archbishop Coleridge and his advisors on a range of issues relating to the program of co-operation between the Brisbane and Umuahia dioceses.
The Nigerian bishop was also co-ordaining bishop at the episcopal ordination of Rockhampton’s new bishop Michael McCarthy on May 29.
The relationship between the two bishops reached back to the mid-2000s during the lead-up to the agreement between the dioceses when Bishop McCarthy was rector of the Holy Spirit Provincial Seminary.
Archbishop Coleridge said “it is clear that the relationship between Umuahia and Brisbane has grown far beyond an arrangement of convenience which would simply see Umuahia supplying clergy and Brisbane funds”.
“It has become a deepening experience of ecclesial communion, with the exchange of gifts which that implies,” he said.
“It is a way to experience more of what it means to be the universal Church.
“We learn from those sent from Umuahia and they learn from us; it’s very much two-way traffic.”
Archbishop Coleridge said this ongoing learning was among reasons why he was looking forward to his first visit to Nigeria next month.
“I will go as a pastor, but also as a pilgrim,” he said.
“During the discussions I had with Bishop Lucius, he agreed to send two more priests as soon as visa arrangements could be settled and two more seminarians in the middle of next year.
“This is another act of great generosity for which I am deeply grateful.”
Brisbane archdiocese’s agreement with Umuahia diocese was signed between Archbishop Emeritus John Bathersby and Bishop Ugorji on July 4, 2006.
For the first three years Brisbane welcomed two Nigerian priests each year.
Two seminarians were trained for Umuahia diocese and two other seminarians were trained and eventually ordained for Brisbane archdiocese.
In April last year a new agreement was signed between the two dioceses.
Archbishop Coleridge and Bishop Ugorji signed the memorandum of understanding in Brisbane.
At the time, Bishop Ugorji said there were 12 Umuahia priests and 12 Umuahia seminarians in Brisbane archdiocese.
While the new agreement was essentially the same as a 2009 document he signed with Archbishop Emeritus Bathersby, there were several amendments.
The new agreement allowed the Nigerian seminarians to have input into the decision of whether they are ordained for Brisbane or Umuahia at the end of their formation.
Bishop Ugorji then said Nigerian priests ministering in Australia were chosen based on their willingness to leave Nigeria, their flexibility to adapt and their resilience.