By Paul Dobbyn
WHEN Brisbane’s vicar for clergy Fr Michael McCarthy headed down to meet with the apostolic nuncio in Canberra on Ash Wednesday, he certainly wasn’t thinking about becoming Rockhampton’s 10th bishop.
“I didn’t suspect a thing,” Bishop-elect McCarthy said. “I thought perhaps it was to do with my current role.
“It was very humbling to be asked to become bishop of this vast diocese.
“I thought: Why me?
“There are so very many, many fine priests around the province of Queensland who could do a wonderful job in Rockhampton diocese.”
But with “excitement and apprehension”, Fr McCarthy accepted the request from Australia’s apostolic nuncio Archbishop Paul Gallagher.
At 9pm on Monday March 10, Pope Francis officially appointed 63-year-old Fr McCarthy as Rockhampton diocese’s bishop.
Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge, in his statement on the appointment, indicated Fr McCarthy would be a worthy successor to Rockhampton’s much-loved Bishop Brian Heenan.
“Bishop-elect McCarthy has been a great contributor to the Church in Brisbane and Queensland through the years, serving as parish priest, seminary rector, vicar for clergy and director of Clergy Life and Ministry,” he said.
“This wide pastoral experience means that he is unusually well-equipped for what awaits him in Rockhampton.
“As a son of Toowoomba, he is no stranger to the rural areas that lie beyond the capital.
“Bishop-elect McCarthy will be much missed in Brisbane and our farewell to him will be tinged with sadness.”
Rockhampton diocese’s administrator Fr John Grace said “Bishop-elect McCarthy brings to the role an impressive pastoral background”.
“He has an engaging personality a dynamic spirit and appealing zeal,” he said. “He will be a great asset to the Diocese of Rockhampton and surely build on the wonderful spirit created in the diocese by Bishop Brian Heenan.
“I look forward to working closely together in the times ahead.”
Bishop-elect McCarthy has a close connection to Bishop Heenan reaching back to his days as a deacon when then Fr Heenan was parish priest of Zillmere.
“Bishop Brian would invite me to the Mass of the Oils in Rockhampton each year while he was bishop,” he said. “As seminary rector visiting seminarians in Rockhampton diocese, I also got to visit many of the diocese’s parishes.”
Rockhampton’s bishop-elect said he would take up his appointment “within three months and was working out the details”.
His first priority on taking up his appointment will be to start visiting and getting to know the diocese’s different parishes.
“Many farmers are in the grip of a drought … I’m very much looking forward to visiting them as I come from a farming background.”
Mining is another key industry in Rockhampton diocese and Bishop-elect McCarthy knows a thing or two about that as well. In the 1970s, he worked for BHP Newcastle as an industrial chemist.
In the end though, his vision is simple and clear.
“I hope to be a good pastor and good shepherd, working alongside the diocese’s fine priests, religious and people,” he said.