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Archbishop in waiting

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The newly appointed Archbishop of Adelaide Patrick O’Regan says he is looking forward to being in the Archdiocese and sees his role as “being a person of communion in this place, a missionary disciple”.

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Currently the Bishop of Sale in Victoria, he said it was “frustrating” not being able to get to Adelaide due to the coronavirus travel restrictions but he hoped to be able to come once Easter begins, even if he has to self-isolate.

“I take comfort that this is the season of Lent where we are preparing for Easter,” the Archbishop-elect told The Southern Cross.

“The first Easter was a dramatic time of confusion and disarray for the disciples gathered around Jesus.

“What they came to see was the utter faithfulness of God in the resurrection of Christ.

“While we are deeply affected by the diminishment of our ability to do even the simplest things, we are also called to look through the eyes of our Trinitarian God and see God’s utter faithfulness.”

The son of a market gardener turned mechanic and garage owner, Bishop O’Regan was born in 1958 in Perthville, a small town 10km from Bathurst in New South Wales.

He likened it to Bethlehem being a small village near Jerusalem and said Perthville’s other claim to fame was that Mary MacKillop and Julian Tenison Woods established a school there in 1872, which he attended.

Bishop O’Regan said he had a deep Josephite spirituality and was pleased the news of his appointment to Adelaide by Pope Francis on March 19 came on the feast of St Joseph.

He also drew encouragement from an old Irish poem sent to him by another bishop on his appointment as Bishop of Sale in 2014.

It said in part ‘the will of God will never lead you where the grace of God cannot keep you’.

“This has been my constant experience in Sale and a constant source of encouragement to me at times such as these,” he said.

“I am glad that Pope Francis has had the Archdiocese of Adelaide close to his heart and has responded by the appointment of a new Archbishop.

“I look forward to being with the people, and together we shall journey forward together.”

Bishop O’Regan said at the Rite of Election in the Sale Cathedral on the First Sunday of Lent, he said to catechumens preparing for baptism that from now on their vocation would be as instruments of ‘communion’.

“Communion is that most Catholic of words is now to be their own,” he said.

“It is a fourfold communion: with God, with neighbour, with their best self and as Pope Francis reminds us of St Paul’s teaching, with the whole of creation.

“If this is true of each of us as missionary disciples of Jesus, so too is it true of a bishop. I see my main role as being a person of communion in this place, as a missionary disciple.”

Reflecting on his time in Sale, Bishop O’Regan said he had been overwhelmed by the “extraordinary generosity of heart of so many people” in the richly diverse diocese.

“They make me look good and are a joy to work with and learn from.”

Bishop O’Regan, was scheduled to visit Adelaide on March 25 but was forced to remain in Warragul to avoid having to self-quarantine. In the meantime, options for his installation are being explored.

One of four children Bishop O’Regan completed his secondary education at St Stanislaus’ College Bathurst. He undertook seminary training at St Columba’s College Springwood and St Patrick’s College Manly, and was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Bathurst in 1983.

His episcopal consecration took place in February 2015. He holds a licentiate in sacred liturgy and sacramental theology from the Institut Catholique de Paris and is a member of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy.

Bishop O’Regan thanked Bishop Greg O’Kelly SJ, who will continue to serve as Apostolic Administrator until the installation, for his interim leadership.

“Bishop O’Kelly has been exceptionally generous and inspirational in overseeing the entire Church in South Australia during this time and I know the people of Adelaide have appreciated his wise leadership,” Bishop O’Regan said.

Australian Catholic Bishops Conference president Archbishop Mark Coleridge said Bishop O’Regan had “shown himself to be a man of unusual gifts, one of which is his deep sense of pastoral care for the people entrusted to his care and another of which is his quirky sense of humour”.

“Bishop Pat’s brothers within the Conference join him in praying for his new mission as shepherd of the Church in Adelaide, which has known difficulties in recent times but which can now look to the future more peacefully,” Archbishop Coleridge said.

In welcoming Bishop O’Regan, who will be the 12th bishop of Adelaide and the ninth archbishop, Bishop O’Kelly said “we thank God that our long period of waiting is over and express our delight and welcome to our new Archbishop.

He also thanked the people and clergy of the Archdiocese for their “great fidelity to Christ’s mission during this time of waiting”.

“In particular I thank Fr Philip Marshall who as Vicar General has given such outstanding and persevering service to the People of God in the Archdiocese,” Bishop O’Kelly said.

“In taking up office, the new Archbishop succeeds Archbishop Philip Wilson who served the Archdiocese from 2001 until his retirement in 2018. We thank him for his years of service to the Church of Adelaide, wishing him well and praying for his improved health.”

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