By Archbishop Mark Coleridge
IF you look at Fr Michael McCarthy’s curriculum vitae, it seems almost inevitable that he would be considered for an episcopal appointment at some stage.
He had a strong academic background and worked as an industrial chemist before deciding to study for the priesthood.
After ordination, he had served as a parish priest, seminary rector and Vicar for Clergy in Brisbane.
Yet appointments as bishop are never inevitable. There’s always a touch of mystery about them.
That’s because we’re dealing with divine vocation.
The Church may choose a man to be bishop, but God calls him in the first place. The Church only confirms the call of God.
In other words, the ministry of bishop is far more than a job.
In that sense, Michael McCarthy is not just moving to another job but entering more deeply into the mystery of divine vocation which has shaped his life.
The episcopal ministry is more like a marriage than a job – which is why a bishop wears a ring symbolising the marriage of Christ and the Church.
Like anyone who marries, Michael has said “I do” when asked if he accepts the call to be bishop.
But he cannot know what exactly he’s saying yes to; as before in his life, he’s signing a blank cheque. He signs and God fills in the details as time goes by.
The move from priest to bishop is a quantum leap, no matter how experienced the priest may be.
Michael will therefore be on a steep learning curve once he goes to Rockhampton.
He comes originally from the Darling Downs, so he knows something about rural Queensland.
He’s had long experience as a pastor; he knows what it takes to shepherd the sheep.
But the pressures of the episcopate are peculiar, and to deal with them creatively requires considerable resilience and wisdom.
At a time like this, it takes strong decision-making to forge the future, and at times that means that some people will be unhappy.
That kind of decision-making requires a lot of deep listening, but in the end it’s the bishop who must decide, and there’s always the possibility that he might be wrong.
In one sense, the bishop is very much public property, but in another sense he’s very much on his own. That’s true of a priest, but it’s still truer of a bishop.
Bishop-elect McCarthy will have many long journeys ahead of him in the Diocese of Rockhampton. But the longest journey of all will be the journey of discovery of what Christ wants of him as a bishop.
On his many journeys through the diocese Michael will certainly need a GPS. But on the great journey of discovery his GPS will have to be prayer, because only Jesus knows the way ahead.
Attuned to that GPS, the journey facing Michael McCarthy as Bishop of Rockhampton will be not only the longest and most demanding he faces but also the most exciting and rewarding.
The prayers of the Archdiocese of Brisbane go with him as that journey begins.