If any diocese could deal with having its leader appointed on the same day that Masses were suspended, it was ours. If any diocese could organise an installation Mass normally attended by about 3000 people for around 30 people, it was ours.
Expecting the unexpected has become the norm. I think back to the death of Archbishop Leonard Faulkner and his beautiful funeral Mass which came just a week before Archbishop Philip Wilson stood aside from his duties.
We witnessed the joyful ordination of our very own Charles Gauci as Bishop of Darwin, only to be followed less than six months later by the tragic death of renowned theologian Fr Denis Edwards.
While resilience has become a trademark of the Adelaide Archdiocese, that doesn’t mean we aren’t filled with happiness and hope at the prospect of being guided by, and journeying with, our new shepherd, Archbishop Patrick O’Regan. There is a sense of optimism and enthusiasm in the air.
But before we look too far forward, we should reflect on how we have got to this point and who has steered the ship so capably in the absence of an archbishop at the helm.
Bishop Greg O’Kelly SJ has been, quite simply, amazing. We have benefited enormously from his ability to respond with clarity, compassion and timeliness to any need, his stamina as he travelled extensively between and around dioceses, his affable nature and his sense of humour. We have been blessed by his presence – and that of his canine companion Jezabel.
Bishop O’Kelly would be the first to say that he has been more than ably supported by Father Philip Marshall, who has worked tirelessly to keep the day-to-day operations of the archdiocese running, as well as taking on the ceremonial leadership role much of the time. Never ruffled by the magnitude or frequency of the task, he deserves our deepest gratitude.
Our clergy and laity have been steadfast in their commitment to serving God and the faithful in parishes, migrant communities and chaplaincies. And our thousands of workers and volunteers across education, social services, health and affiliated agencies have continued to carry out the true mission of the Church.
One of the reasons this was all possible, in my view, was the solid foundation put in place by Archbishop Wilson after coming to Adelaide from Wollongong in 2001.
His “extraordinary work” was rightfully acknowledged by Archbishop O’Regan and while I only have first-hand experience of this work for his last eight years, I can vouch for his great love of the people of Adelaide, his incredible intellect and his wisdom.
When Archbishop Wilson resigned in July 2018 he thanked all those who served daily in our agencies, parishes, communities and schools, both as employed staff and as volunteers. “I want you to know that I have always been moved by your kindness of spirit and your willingness to live out your love of Jesus in the service of the Church and of the people in your care,” he wrote in a pastoral letter to the faithful.
Archbishop Wilson knew he was leaving the diocese in good hands, regardless of what decision Pope Francis might make about his successor.
Having said that, I know Archbishop Wilson was also delighted when he heard that the Bishop of Sale had been appointed to Adelaide. He believed it was the Holy Spirit at work.
Judging by the comments of people who have lived and worked with Patrick O’Regan, and by the reaction to his heartfelt and inspiring words at the installation Mass, the Spirit will be ‘overshadowing’ us in the years to come.
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