News from the Diocese

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Catholic Diocese of Wollongong serving the people of God in the Illawarra, Macarthur, Shoalhaven and Southern Highlands regions of NSW
  • Message from Bishop Brian Mascord on the National Apology to Victims and Survivors of Abuse

     

    My Sisters and Brothers in Christ

    Prime Minister Scott Morrison will deliver a National Apology to Victims and Survivors of Institutional Child Sexual Abuse, this coming Monday, 22 October 2018. The National Apology, to be delivered at Parliament House in Canberra, will acknowledge the appalling abuse perpetrated on vulnerable children by the very people who were supposed to care for them, including members of our Church. 

    At a recent diocesan conference on Creating a Safe Church from Within, Mr John Crowley—headmaster at St Patrick’s College in Ballarat—gave a heartfelt reflection. He addressed the importance of us, as the Church, openly and honestly acknowledging the hurt that has been caused. John said, “This acknowledgement must, above all else, avoid the use of the word, ‘but’. Why? Because a genuine acknowledgement opens and prepares our hearts to truly hear the voices of those victims and survivors deeply wounded by our Church. Most profoundly, without it there can be no trust. Without trust, how can hope exist?”

    It is true that words can be hopelessly inadequate if not accompanied by effective action. Our faith assures us that if our actions are grounded in an openness to God’s grace, they can produce the fruit that we and the whole of society so desperately want to see.
    So, as we join together as a nation to say sorry, I invite you, as followers of Christ, topray with me this prayer of healing and hope.

    PRAYER OF HEALING AND HOPE

    Loving God

    We pray for our brothers and sisters
    who have been abused within our Church.
    We acknowledge their unending strength:
    their boldness has been an immense gift.
    We pray they find justice, peace and healing.

    We pray for our community:
    that we accept and nurture each other
    during this time.

    Empower us to be a positive
    and supportive force within society.
    Help us to witness the love of God for all.

    Help us to acknowledge and
    make amends for past wrongs.
    Give us the strength to be true advocates
    for the wronged and vulnerable.

    May the grace of God
    guide us now and always.
    We offer this prayer
    through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
    Amen.

     

    Yours in Christ

     

    Most Rev Brian G Mascord DD
    Bishop of Wollongong

    Download Pastoral Letter and Prayer of Healing and Hope

  • Saviour—Advent and Christmas Reflections 2018 | ORDER NOW

     

    We are delighted to announce that we are now taking orders for Saviour—Daily Advent and Christmas Reflections 2018 with bulk pricing for GST Free Catholic Religious Groups starting from only $3.00 per book.

    Advent is such a busy time of year and we so easily forget that—at its heart—it is meant to be a time of preparation, waiting and hope for the coming of Jesus into our world and lives.

    This year’s reflection book, Saviour, provides an opportunity for us to be still each day, listen to God and hear him declare to us as the angel declared to the shepherds: “Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11).

    Saviour is a 76 page pocket-size book containing short spiritually rich, yet accessible, daily reflections from the beginning of Advent (2 December 2018) through to the Baptism of the Lord (13 January 2019) primarily for personal use, but also appropriate for group use such as parish, Church agency, religious community and school staff/class prayer.

    Saviour also features beautiful religious artworks from the Masters such as Giotto, Lodi, Messina, Veronese, Zurbarán, Coypel and Bouguereau with enlightening “Artwork Spotlight” reflections written by Monsignor Graham Schmitzer.

    Many customers buy bulk copies of the book for family, friends and work colleagues as an alternative to Christmas cards and gifts. We have included a page in the book for you to write your gift message.

     

       

     

    We have also included special discounted prices for bulk orders as well as a GST Free option for Catholic Religious Groups (eg, Catholic parishes, schools and religious communities):

    Pricing

    Qty GST Free Catholic Group
    AU (+ post)
    Retail (inc GST)
    AU (+ post)
    1 - 24 $4.00 $4.40
    25 - 49 $3.50 $3.85
    50 + $3.00 $3.30

    If you have any questions, or if you would like to place a phone or email order, please contact us on (02) 4222 2400 or email us at orders [AT] dow [DOT] org [DOT] au

    Delivery of the books is expected to commence late October 2018.

    Please note, if you live in the Diocese of Wollongong, please check with your parish, school, agency or religious order before ordering as they may be ordering copies on your behalf.

  • Creating a Safe Church from Within: Summary Report

     

    Over Friday 31 August and Saturday 1 September 2018, approximately 600 people from the Dioceses of Parramatta and Wollongong, together with many members of religious congregations and several other dioceses, attended one of two forums regarding Creating a safe Church from within.

    The forums, with Fr Hans Zollner SJ as key note speaker, aimed to foster discussion and engagement amongst participants about the response of the Catholic Church to child sexual abuse, and more broadly to consider issues relating to the operation of power within the Catholic Church. The discussions particularly focused on responses to survivors and measures that could be taken to ensure child safety. The forums were facilitated by Ms Susan Pascoe AM.

    This report written by Kate Temby summarises the key presentations made on each day, and provides an outline of what participants identified as the key theoretical and practical changes necessary to make Catholic organisations child-safe. As well as drawing on the key note presentations, this report draws on the question and answer sessions following each presentation, the presentation of the results of table discussions, the posters created by each table and the feedback forms.

    This report has also been provided to the Implementation Advisory Group which has been established to monitor the response to the findings and recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse; and to Catholic Professional Standards Limited.

    Click here to download the Creating a Safe Church from Within: Summary Report

    Click here to download the Friday Summary Poster

    Click here to download the Saturday Summary Poster

  • POSITION VACANT – Parish Liaison and Youth Ministry Leader

    The Office of the Bishop is seeking to fill the position of Parish Liaison and Youth Ministry Leader. The position is Casual, based in Campbelltown (but will include some travel to Wollongong) and is planned to commence as soon as possible. Remuneration for the position is based on the Miscellaneous Award 2010.

    The successful applicant will assist the Diocesan Youth Ministry Coordinator in implementing the Diocesan Plan for Youth Ministry in parishes and regional centres with an emphasis on Regional Youth Groups (LIVE local). This role will also involve recruitment, training, support and management of youth leaders involved in regional youth groups throughout the Diocese.

    The application should include a resume specifying residency or work visa status and a letter from the applicant addressed to the Diocesan Youth Ministry Coordinator outlining your commitment to the ethos and values of the Catholic Church. The letter should also address how you will meet the skills, experience & qualification requirements of the position. 

    The Position Description is available for download here.

    Please send the letter and resume to the Diocesan Youth Ministry Coordinator, Seth Harsh at seth [DOT] harsh [AT] dow [DOT] org [DOT] au by close of business, Monday 1 October 2018. Alternatively it may be posted to PO Box 1239, Wollongong NSW 2500. Enquiries should be directed to Seth on 4222-2460.

  • Caring for those, who have cared for us - Bishop’s Annual Appeal 2018

     

    To make your donation, click here and select “1259597 - Bishop’s Annual Appeal for Care of Retired Clergy” from the biller code dropdown list.

    My sisters and brothers in Christ

    It is the responsibility of our Diocese to support and care for the retirement and health of our clergy.

    Our retired clergy live on their own, or in assisted living facilities, or in nursing homes, and require some level of additional assistance to do so. Your donation to this appeal will help to provide suitable accommodation, transport assistance and holistic health care to them.

    Currently, there are 11 clergy in retirement. It is likely that we will have an additional nine clergy retiring over the next five years alone. The Diocese needs to urgently and significantly increase its resources to ensure that we can continue to care for our ageing clergy.

    Your donation will help ensure a dignified retirement for our diocesan clergy like Monsignor David O’Brien.

     

    Yours in Christ

     

     

    Most Rev Brian G Mascord DD
    Bishop of Wollongong

  • Statement from Bishop Brian Mascord | Archbishop Philip Wilson

    I support Archbishop Philip Wilson in his decision to resign as the archbishop of Adelaide, especially when considering the ongoing pain and distress being caused—particularly to the victims of Fr James Fletcher—by his maintaining the office of archbishop of Adelaide.

    As a former priest of the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, the grief is very close to home, and my heart goes out to those people who were abused by Fr Fletcher and to their families.

    As the bishop of Wollongong, I also acknowledge the sadness and confusion being experienced on the local level. I am aware that Archbishop Wilson has been praised for his stance and support for victims and survivors of child sexual abuse during his time as the bishop of Wollongong—as evidenced during the Royal Commission’s public hearing on the Diocese of Wollongong. In the context of his conviction and the unknown outcome of his upcoming appeals process, it is important to continue the good work of the Diocese whilst respecting and supporting the legal process which binds us together as a society.

    We must now renew our resolve to ensure that our ongoing policies and practices effectively address risk, recognise harm and take action for the prevention, reporting and response to abuse, while compassionately supporting victims and survivors—providing acknowledgement and just redress.

    I urge any person with a complaint of mistreatment or abuse to come forward to the police through the Police Assistance Line on 131 444 or to contact the diocesan director of professional standards and safeguarding, Anna Tydd, on (02) 4222 2405. I also wish to offer support to anyone who is affected. If this applies to you, or someone that you know, please contact Anna so that arrangements can be made for the appropriate support.

    As we continue to strive to become the Church we should be, we entrust ourselves to the care of our loving God, whom we seek to imitate in our words and actions.

     

    Most Rev Brian G Mascord DD
    BISHOP OF WOLLONGONG
    31 July 2018

  • Plenary Council 2020: Listen to what the Spirit is saying | Bishop Brian Mascord's Pastoral Letter

     

    My Sisters and Brothers in Christ

    Many of you have heard that Plenary 2020 is coming. So what does that mean? Plenary Council 2020 presents for us, as Catholics, the opportunity to ask a very simple question —What is the Holy Spirit asking us today? Many would quite rightly describe this time as one of upheaval and uncertainty. As people of faith, we trust even in the midst of such change that the Holy Spirit is powerfully at work moving and doing new things in the hearts and minds of the faithful.

    Pentecost Sunday this year (20 May 2018) marked the official launch of Plenary Council 2020. Catholics throughout Australia—including many in our own Diocese of Wollongong—noted and proclaimed the apostolic blessing that the Australian Church received from Pope Francis and utilised the resources provided to ensure that this special day, of the coming of the Holy Spirit, provided a unique opportunity to call on the gifts of the Spirit during the plenary process. In many ways, it is an opportunity for us to listen deeply to our own hearts and the hearts of others in expressing what we love about who we are as the Church, as well as identifying and naming our shortcomings and disappointments, and expressing in concrete ways our hopes for the future. I am confident this process will lead us to discern the sensus fidelium (sense of faith) of all our communities who listen humbly and speak boldly on the matters important to the Church in Australia at this time.

    Whilst many people in our Diocese are very eager to take up the opportunity to contribute to Plenary Council 2020, there are still many others who remain unaware that the Australian Church is now in “plenary” mode and the process of praying, listening, talking, discerning and contributing thoughts in a considered way has already commenced. Therefore, the purpose of this communication is to ensure that you are made aware of the significance of the plenary council and to provide you with initial details of how we, as the Church in the Diocese of Wollongong, can participate and contribute wisely, sensitively and authentically to Plenary Council 2020.

    It is my hope that many parishes will have already utilised the resources forwarded to you that have been developed by the national Plenary Council Executive Committee, especially the resources associated with the launch on Pentecost Sunday. If not, that is easily overcome, as the resources remain a pertinent way to enable local communities to prayerfully focus on what the Spirit is saying.

    Pope Francis in his message to the Australian Church on the inauguration of Plenary Council 2020 expressed: “It is my hope that through patient dialogue and faith-filled discernment, the conciliar journey will confirm the Catholics in Australia in a spirit of fraternal unity and missionary discipleship, thus enabling them to be a leaven of holiness, justice and reconciliation in today’s rapidly changing society”. (Pope Francis, Apostolic Blessing, May 2018)

    Plenary Council 2020 will be only the fifth plenary council in Australia’s history, the first since 1937, and the first to feature women and lay people. Described as a three-year journey of listening to God by listening to one another, Plenary Council 2020 will be the highest possible formal gathering of the Church in Australia and, unlike a synod, it has the power to make changes to its legislation and governance in Australia. Cultural reform of the Church is likely to feature prominently.

    Archbishop Timothy Costelloe of Perth—endorsed by Pope Francis as the president of Plenary Council 2020—hopes that the plenary council will bring about a period of authentic renewal: “I encourage all Catholics, whether devout or disillusioned, fervent or frustrated, to seize this opportunity to speak what is on their minds and in their hearts.”

    As individuals, parish communities and regions in the Diocese of Wollongong, there are some simple things you can, and should, be doing in this initial phase of prayer and listening. One of the best places to start is the Plenary Council 2020 website, www.plenarycouncil.catholic.org.au, which provides great resources that will assist us as the Church to pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to understand the purpose and processes of the plenary council, to provide forums for discussion and feedback, and to provide updates as we journey toward the plenary council gatherings in 2020 and 2021.

    For us in the Diocese, the remainder of 2018 and early 2019 will be a period for initial listening followed by a period of discerning and feedback in 2019, ready for a year of proposing in 2020 as we move to attending and contributing to the plenary council meetings. In 2021, after the plenary council meetings, the Church in Australia will commence implementing changes arising from the council.

    Much has already happened behind the scenes in the Diocese to prepare in earnest for our participation in Plenary Council 2020. Our recent Journey magazine provided a summative introduction on the plenary council. Clergy have been briefed at their recent mid-year clergy conference in detail about the plenary council. Numerous key diocesan leaders from the Office of the Bishop have already attended information sessions and have been briefed on how to assist parishes and communities to utilise the resources and ensure an authentic process of listening. Appropriate resources are being allocated to ensure our ear is attuned constantly to the Holy Spirit and that opportunities are provided for listening, collating and communicating the thoughts of many.

    We will launch our diocesan process at a Vigil Mass at St John Vianney Co-Cathedral in Fairy Meadow at 6pm on Saturday 18 August 2018. The Vigil will also include a commissioning of Local Animators nominated by faith communities and the distribution of plenary kits including Plenary Council 2020 candles, books for recording plenary reflections, and various other items to assist in the process of listening to and recording dialogue at a local level.

    I have included in this correspondence a supporting document to explain the important role Local Animators will play in this process in the Diocese of Wollongong in Parishes, Schools and CatholicCare and other faith communities. Further, this document provides information to assist these communities in the discernment and selection process of one individual in your community setting who might serve in the role of communicating Plenary Council 2020—enabling respectful listening and promoting various types of submissions and appropriate recording of feedback. (Details of options for training processes for Local Animators are detailed in this document)

    Coinciding with your own small group listening processes in your parish, we are holding four regional listening sessions. These will be held on Sunday afternoons from 12pm–4pm, enabling us to enter into a process of deep listening and discernment. More concrete details will be made in due course, but, I would ask that you note the following regional dates in order to be able to attend:

    11 November 2018—Illawarra

    18 November 2018—Southern Highlands

    17 February 2019—Shoalhaven

    24 February 2019—Macarthur

    Plenary Council 2020 is a cause for great excitement and one that we must enter into full of trust in God’s guiding hand. We have much to plan and organise along this journey, and that will happen in an ongoing way in the weeks and months ahead. It is important to note though: no matter how well we plan, this process will be “messy” at times, and necessarily so, because it deals with both the human and the divine. It will thus require patience and humility if we are to be led by the Spirit in honest and respectful dialogue. It requires us to sincerely pray with, and for, each other as we open ourselves to this process of expressing our loves, disappointments, hurts and hopes for who we are as Church. Together, let’s see what the Holy Spirit is saying to us.

    Yours in Christ

    Most Rev Brian G Mascord DD
    Bishop of Wollongong
    26 July 2018

    Download Bishop Brian's pastoral letter

    Download Support Kit

  • Pope grants title of monsignor to four diocesan priests

     

    In one of his last acts as the bishop of Wollongong, Bishop Emeritus Peter Ingham nominated to Pope Francis four priests of the Diocese of Wollongong for the title Prelate of Honour of His Holiness (monsignor) in recognition for their exceptional service to the Church.

    I am pleased to announce that Pope Francis reviewed the nominations and has granted the title of monsignor to Frs Bryan Jones, Patrick Faherty, David O’Brien and Graham Schmitzer, with the secretary of state of the Vatican honouring the four monsignors with a formal diploma.

    Monsignor is an honorary title, rather than a specific position in the Church hierarchy, so a monsignor does not necessarily have any duties distinct from those of any other priest. However, some positions within the Vatican automatically carry the title of monsignor. Because the title of monsignor historically designated a priest who served in the papal curia, or Vatican bureaucracy, all monsignors are officially part of the papal household, whether they serve in the Vatican or elsewhere. Unlike regular parish priests, they may wear some of the regalia normally reserved for a bishop. The only other monsignor in the Diocese of Wollongong is retired priest, Msgr Paul Ryan.

    As part of the nomination process, Bishop Peter provided Pope Francis with a biography of each of the nominees as well as his personal recommendation. As part of his recommendation, Bishop Peter had the following to say:

    Msgr Bryan Jones

    “Fr Jones is well respected by me and the clergy for his practical wisdom and problem-solving ability.  He is a dedicated priest who has served as one of my vicars general for the past 16 years as a diocesan consultor and member of the Council of Priests.”

    Msgr Patrick Faherty

    “Fr Faherty is well-respected by clergy and laity alike as a very worthy priest.  I have used to good effect his pastoral wisdom, dedication and practice to help train seminarians in their pastoral placements.”

    Msgr David O’Brien

    “Fr O’Brien brings a well-grounded pastoral approach to his ministry.  He has cared for the clergy (both ill and well) as the director of Clergy Life and Ministry and was instrumental in the Diocese employing a registered nurse to care for sick and retired clergy which has been of great benefit in supporting the health and wellbeing of all our clergy.  Fr O’Brien is a very effective parish priest, deeply appreciated by his people. He has been a diocesan consultor and member of the Council of Priests for the past 16 years.”

    Msgr Graham Schmitzer

    “Fr Schmitzer is well read and contributes spiritual teaching in the Diocese’s published programs for Advent and Lent that are distributed to a wide audience. He is held in high regard by clergy and laity alike. He has served the Diocese in the capacities of diocesan secretary and tribunal official, chancellor and as a member of the Council of Priests and College of Consultors.”

    We are indeed blessed in the Diocese of Wollongong with many dedicated, hard-working clergy, religious and laity, and I take this opportunity to join with Bishop Peter in congratulating these four worthy papal honour recipients.

    Most Rev Brian G Mascord DD
    Bishop of Wollongong
    20 July 2018

  • Bishop announces new vicar general

    I am pleased to announce that I have appointed Fr Bernard Gordon as the full-time vicar general of the Diocese of Wollongong to assist me in the governance of the Diocese.

    In accordance with Canon 479 §1, the vicar general possesses—by virtue of his Office—the same executive power as belongs by law to the bishop throughout the whole Diocese. This means that the vicar general can perform all administrative acts as the bishop does, with the exception of those administrative acts which the bishop has reserved to himself, or which by law requires a special mandate of the bishop.

    When exercising any authority or carrying out any act, a vicar general does so always in the name of the bishop (hence the use of the title vicar) and according to the “mind and will” of the bishop. A vicar general never acts according to his own determinations; he must always act as the bishop would act on those things that impact on the life of the Diocese.

    As this is a full-time appointment, Fr Bernard will be based in the Office of the Bishop from September 2018. He will be available for supply from time-to-time and will also preside over the celebration of the Sacrament of Confirmation as well as other public occasions on my behalf when I cannot attend. As vicar general, Fr Bernard will be the principal advisor on the Council of Priests and the College of Consultors, as well as other councils and committees at my request.

    I wish Fr Bernard well in his new role among us and I am grateful for his support. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the outgoing vicar general, Monsignor Bryan Jones, for his faithful and dedicated service to the role.

    Most Rev Brian G Mascord DD
    Bishop of Wollongong
    20 July 2018

  • Statement from Bishop Brian Mascord | Archbishop Philip Wilson

    My Sisters and Brothers in Christ

    The word “church” has many meanings. For some it can mean simply the building where we, as faithful, gather for worship, or it can be as an institution with laws, rights and responsibilities. However, no image is more significant than that of the Church as the people of God. All other images lose their significance if there is no living body of Christ.

    Over recent days we have been presented with news that, for many, will disturb, upset and anger, as it involves a member of the hierarchy of the Church—Archbishop Philip Wilson—who had a significant influence in our Diocese during his time as Bishop of Wollongong. A guilty verdict has been handed down by the courts in relation to his failing to inform police about allegations of child sexual abuse when he was an assistant priest in 1976. I understand that he is considering the reasons for the verdict and consulting closely with his lawyers to determine the next steps. I do not offer any comment regarding the particulars of this matter.

    The purpose of this letter is to recognise that many of you will be affected by the present situation with varying emotions ranging from confusion, anger and shame. As your Bishop, I stand with you in these emotions, with the added hurt that the events occurred in my previous Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.

    In December 2017, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, released its report with many recommendations. As I mentioned in my Pastoral letter for Lent 2018: “all those who came forward and courageously spoke their truth to the Royal Commission … have given the Church a significant opportunity to reflect on how we are called to be the face of God in our world today. They have been the voice of the Spirit challenging us to be real and authentic in who we are as God’s people. Whilst it has been a difficult time for all, nothing compares to the courage of victims and survivors in coming forth and speaking truth—a truth that calls for action on the part of everyone.”

    On my own behalf, I wish to offer my apology to all who have suffered abuse by members of the Church or are feeling hurt in whatever way by the actions of anyone associated with the Diocese of Wollongong. I wish to assure you that the Diocese is totally committed to the protection of children and young people above all else, and in remaining transparent and open in our communications to ensure that the safety of children and vulnerable people remains paramount. We have rigorous processes in place for dealing with complaints of abuse, and we give full cooperation to all police investigations and child protection authorities.

    Like my predecessor, Bishop Emeritus Peter Ingham, I strongly urge any person with a complaint of mistreatment  or abuse to come forward to the police through the Police Assistance Line on 131 444 or contact the diocesan Director of Professional Standards and Safeguarding, Anna Tydd, on (02) 4222 2405. I also wish to offer support to anyone who is affected. If this applies to you or someone that you know, please contact Anna so that arrangements can be made for the appropriate support.

    I ask that you hold everyone involved at this time in your prayers recognising that, as the body of Christ, we are a wounded people and like Mary stood at the foot of the cross looking beyond the cross to the resurrection.

     

    Yours in Christ

    Most Rev Brian G Mascord DD
    BISHOP OF WOLLONGONG

    Our Lady Help of Christians | 24 May 2018