Friday, 17 February 2012

Bathurst: taking up the challenge?

Today I want to turn, in my diocesan survey, to Bathurst, NSW.

Bathurst is another case of a priest taking on a very challenging episcopal assignment indeed!

When Bishop Michael McKenna, aged 60, was appointed in April 2009 he took on a diocese with:
  • a heretical priest Fr Peter Dresser, whose book was making worldwide headlines for its erroneous views, and was condemned by his predecessor, Bishop Dougherty, but a few weeks before his retirement;
  • a serious allegations of abuse against several priests, laybrothers and others at St Stanislaus College (a number of convictions have since resulted but some of the cases are still in progress);
  • the prospect of changes to the shape of the diocese in the wake of whatever decisions are made about Wilcannia-Forbes; and
  • a severe ongoing shortage of priests.
The question is, what strategies has he adopted in tackling these issues? 

About the diocese


Source: ACBC

Bathurst, 200 kilometres to Sydney’s West, is Australia’s oldest inland settlement thanks to a gold rush, but like a number of country dioceses the town it takes its name from is now smaller, with around 32, 385 people) than other regional centres in the diocese notably Dubbo (pop 36, 150), and Orange (37, 333).

All up it takes in some 105, 560 sq kms and includes around 48, 342 catholics, making up 28% of the population of the diocese.

Bishop McKenna replaced the Bishop Patrick Dougherty, who had been bishop since 1983. Between 1983 and 1996 the number of diocesan priests dropped from 40 to 31 (the overall number from 49 to 35), leaving the diocese with half the number of priests it enjoyed from 1959 until the mid-1960s.

Under Bishop Dougherty, the spirit of Vatican II seems to have reached something of a pinnacle, as the story behind the new St Brigid's Church in Dubbo, now regarded by many as one the town's worst eyesore's illustrates.  The old Church apparently became too small for the size of the congregation, and so a new one was explicitly designed with 'Vatican II' principles of 'active participation in mind, as a history of the parish makes clear:

"The new St Brigid's Church had its beginnings in parish reflections during 1987 on the Second Vatican Council teachings about church, liturgy and worship. The basic teaching that our Eucharistic worship is 'the source and summit of the Church's activity' meant that the design and features of the new church needed to be different to the former style where a long building made the congregation spectators to the action of the priest in the sanctuary. The new understanding of liturgy called for 'conscious, active and full participation of the people, motivated by faith, hope and charity'...

The result was that the altar became a table; a fan shape with sloping floor was adopted; and the old sandstone church, with its traditional stained glass windows,  was stripped and turned into a parish hall...


Probably not surprising then, to see the current parish bulletin having to warn that it is not acceptable to ask for another host to give to a sick or disabled person in the congregation!

In 2006, the diocese nominally had 35 priests, 98 religious, 21 parishes, priest to people ratio of 1:1,381.

There has been only one ordination in the last decade (in 2010) and today, based on a website count of parishes, the diocese has a total of 18 active priests.

Leadership

Source: Diocesan website

Bishop Michael McKennaACBC. He was rector of Corpus Christi Seminary in Melbourne between 1999 and 2005.

Bathurst is one of the few dioceses to have its own full-blown vocations website, and has clearly been making a big push on this front. 

Bishop McKenna was able to recruit three priests from India to help out, and has also been recruiting potential seminarians from overseas, with a group of six spending last year in the diocese to further discern their vocation.  As a result of this, the diocese now has four seminarians just about to start their first year at Homebush in Sydney.

Their stories, shared in the diocesan magazine, are inspiring, and the candidates themselves have perhaps been chosen specifically with an eye to putting paid to those who claim that we are shortchanging their home countries: these are generally young men who want to serve, but would otherwise be unable to fulfill their vocation for reasons of poverty and anti-church political regimes. 

In addition, another seminarian is to be ordained a deacon in March.

Nonetheless, five of the dioceses 20 parishes are currently without a resident priest.  The mass attendance at the 2006 count was 11.7%. 

Dealing with the heterodox...

I also mentioned above the case of Fr Dresser.

He was quickly moved to 'lighter duties' and has subsequently retired.  But his work continues to circulate and give scandal in places like Brisbane  - indeed it was recently serialised over at acatholica.  Of course, the problem of what to do with those who will not withdraw their subversive works is a problem that needs to be addressed in the case of a number of priests and even bishops across the country...
 
There are a few other worrying signs. 

Using anti-Cath News as a news feed on the diocesan website and that of some parishes) is, I guess understandable given that the bishops sponsor it!  Personally though, I would have gone with Xt3!

And I have to say I rather gasped to see an ad for Geraldine Doogue of all people as an upcoming 'Theology in the Pub' speaker!

It is also worth noting that Bishop McKenna was one of the few who refused to sign the letter warning Catholics of the dangers of the Greens before the last New South Wales election.  Perhaps the result of taking tea at the Mercy Sisters 'Rahamin Ecological Learning Community'...

15 comments:

HolyCatholicApostoli said...

Perhaps Bishop McKenna was recruiting seminarians and Priests from overseas at the time of the NSW Bishops letter against the Greens?

Joshua said...

Bp McKenna is an old friend of mine, and I rest assured that the diocese is in very capable hands - to quote Teddy Roosevelt (I think), "Walk softly and carry a big stick" would be words I would laughingly associate with his quiet but firm approach to managing matters!

His Lordship no doubt did not want the Bishop of Woollongong to be alone in not signing that letter, and so desisted from doing so out of fraternal charity, lest his colleague be ashamed at being singular.

HolyCatholicApostoli said...

In fact the two others who did not sign the letter were the Arcbishop of Canberra-Goulburn and the Bishop of Broken Bay.

Joshua said...

Sorry, wrong prelate!

Martin S. said...

Re: Cathnews; Parishes dispense the odious Jesuit press magazine 'Australian Catholics' too. E.g. St FX Cathedral Adelaide.

Martin Snigg

Victoria said...

Members of my family attended St Stanislaus College; could you tell me where I can find updates on the trials.

Antonia Romanesca said...

“Re: Cathnews; Parishes dispense the odious Jesuit press magazine 'Australian Catholics' too. E.g. St FX Cathedral Adelaide.”
~~~ Our impression is that there has been a ‘displacement effect’ here: the Church can come up with nothing better as an alternative, so there is sort of a gap. The Jesuits have cheerfully slid into that gap. ~~~ Cathnews is evidently tainted with dissent, from the previous descriptions given...? If that is truly the case and it seems it is, then ‘those of a certain complexion’ will almost certainly have seen opportunities and exploited those beckoning opportunities - to the max. As an archdio paper, the ultimate responsibility is that of the Melb archbishop, isn’t it?

Kate said...

Antonia - Neither Cath News nor the Jesuits pubs are products of Melbourne Archdiocese.

HolyCatholicApostoli said...

The Australian Catholics magazine has an imprimatur from Bishop Tomlinson (Vicar General of Melbourne)

Antonia Romanesca said...

“Another key goal of Church Resources since it was launched in 1997 has been to build strong communication channels for the Church community, including our flagship publication www.cathnews.com.”
Thanks Kate. Yes, I realize that the Jesuits in Vic are not under the control of the Melb archdiocese or any archdiocese. I found that out to my cost not all that long back, when I spent an hour as part of ‘a Retreat’, with a New Age type of Jesuit priest of the more extravagantly flamboyant variety. Bad move! I failed very badly, the test where they test your physical vibrations, to assess ‘how much Christ you have in you’. [in the second session out of 6] However with Cath News, which I must confess to not having haunted: it claims to represent the Church [ie the Catholic Church in Australia]. It has ‘built strong communication channels for the Aussie Church’ – so what is its exact provenance and sub-cultural flavor, can you say?

Antonia Romanesca said...

“The Australian Catholics magazine has an imprimatur from Bishop Tomlinson (Vicar General of Melbourne)”
So he has okayed it for distribution in the Melb archdiocese and given it a tick of approval, meaning it goes to all dioceses in Australia. To what degree does the imprimatur mean that + Tomlinson and ++ Hart concur with all the contents, eg. do they “absolutely concur”?? ~~~ Most I know, consider that mag to be pappy and harmless - but perhaps it is not….?

Antonia Romanesca said...

“The Australian Catholics magazine has an imprimatur from Bishop Tomlinson (Vicar General of Melbourne)”
So he has okayed it for distribution in the Melb archdiocese and given it a tick of approval, meaning it goes to all dioceses in Australia. To what degree does the imprimatur mean that + Tomlinson and ++ Hart concur with all the contents, eg. do they “absolutely concur”?? ~~~ Most I know, consider that mag to be pappy and harmless - but perhaps it is not….?

Martin S. said...

Erosion by emphasis Antonia. Silence can be a political act.

The centre is occupied now so they do the work of the secularist cult.
http://charltonteaching.blogspot.com.au/2012/02/contemporary-insanity-and-things-coming.html

HolyCatholicApostoli said...

Bishop Tomlinson is no longer VG for the Melbourne Archdiocese wih his elevation to the Sandhurst see. A new Vicar General has been appointed
see http://www.cam.org.au/melbourne-news/new-vicar-general-appointed.html

Antonia Romanesca said...

Apropos “Contemporary insanity and things coming to a point” ~~~ Thanks for that link Martin, I’ve gone to it and saved it. I guess you mean that the Jesuit mag. prev. cited is politically correct [given that your cited article is about Political Correctness and its demonstrable decadence as a moral position, or should one say immoral position!.] You are suggesting also, I think, that CathNews is merely politically correct. I continue to feel that the guys steering the Barque of Peter in its Antipodean version, want to be upbeat and not perceived as ‘boring old fuddie duddies’ commanding an irrelevant Australian Church, so some stuff has been able to be wheeled in behind their soutanes. Also that ‘things’ are currently ensconced, that might not be in other circumstances, vis if there were something better on offer – which at the moment there is evidently not.

“Selfishness and laziness are understandable but what I see is futile, industrious, meddling self-harm, with its origins in the Western elites.” ~~~ I’m in accord with the self harm but in this Dissenting situation, its not coming from an elite, its coming from the very bottom of the bottom deck.

“but what it really looks like is the chaotic mass effect of individual instability.~~~ Certainly if there is enough individual instability [one thinks of an Abishop’s inability to be active, in facing down dissent], then one can wind up with a chaotic mass effect – we might even be standing in that right now, in certain Australian dios!

“What it looks like is a world gone mad - in some new kind of madness”.. ~~~ Yep, can relate to that. Its why so many of the under 50s have left the Church, in our diocese. Its not cos they have been “gobbled up by paganism”, or are now “devoid of spirituality” because of the hyena effect of Australian secularism nibbling at them, month in and month out.

“If things are coming to a point, then there is less and less of a neutral or grey area in-between the sides of Good and evil - and this applies to everything.” ~~~ Yep, what the Holy Father has termed moral relativism, the societal and spiritual cancer of our era.