The vacancy in the diocese of Sandhurst has at last been filled, by Bishop Les Tomlinson, aged 68, up until now Auxiliary of Melbourne. His installation ceremony will take place on 1 March.
Sandhurst, you will recall, has dire need of a good bishop - it has a very high priest to people ratio, below average mass attendance rates, and has been aggressively pursuing a lay leadership of parishes strategy.
Bishop Tomlinson has a reputation for being a 'nice bloke', but not, I gather, for being in the conservative camp.
Bishop Tomlinson's background
The press release provides the following background information on him:
"Bishop Les Tomlinson was born on 27 August 1943 at Mildura Victoria, the third child of Edward Tomlinson and Alice Rogers. Primary Education was at Sacred Heart School, Mildura, followed by Secondary Education at St Joseph’s College, Mildura.
Prior to entering the seminary Bishop Tomlinson undertook clerical work in Irymple and at Melbourne. At the beginning of 1968 he commenced studies for the Priesthood at Corpus College Werribee. At the invitation of the then Archbishop James Knox, he became one of the initial class of St Paul’s National Seminary Kensington NSW.
Bishop Ronald Mulkearns ordained him to the Priesthood for the Archdiocese of Melbourne at St Joseph’s Church, Red Cliffs on 18th August 1972. Following ordination he was Assistant Priest at Mitcham for three years before being loaned to the Archdiocese of Hobart for three years. Returning to Melbourne he served as Assistant Priest in North Dandenong and Sunshine before being appointed successively as Parish Priest of Carlton, Rowville and Ormond.
Bishop Tomlinson was Dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral for four months prior to being appointed Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia, in April of 2003, an appointment he has held to the present. Pope John Paul II named him as a Prelate of Honour on 27 May 2003. Bishop Tomlinson is also Secretary of the College of Diocesan Consultors, Chairman of the Personnel Advisory Board, Deputy Chairman of the Diocesan Planning and Development Fund, Deputy Chairman of the Diocesan Finance Council and Chairman of the Catholic Capital Grants Company and the Chairman the Diocesan Planning, Building and Finance Committee. He is Secretary of the Roman Catholic Trusts’ Corporation for the Diocese of Melbourne.
Earlier, he had been an active member of the St Patrick’s Cathedral Works Committee (1994 – 1997), involved as committee member and then Secretary of the Priests’ Remuneration Fund (August 1992 – January 2003). He spent some years as State Chaplain to the Knights of the Southern Cross and as the Spiritual Advisor of the State Council of the St Vincent de Paul Society, Victoria.
On the 5th May, 2009 he was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI as Titular Bishop of Siniti and Auxiliary Bishop of Melbourne and was ordained a bishop at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Melbourne on the 17th June, 2009. On the 3rd February, 2012, Pope Benedict XVI appointed him as Bishop of Sandhurst."
The bishop's media statement says:
"I am very humbled by the confidence that His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI and his advisers have shown in me, by appointing me as Bishop of Sandhurst. I am greatly delighted to accept this appointment.
Having been born and brought up in Mildura, just north of the Sandhurst Diocese, I am no stranger to country life. In reflecting on over almost forty years of my Priesthood, I believe that the richest and most fulfilling aspect of my ministry has been my work as a pastor. I look forward to being bishop and pastor of the clergy and people of the Diocese of Sandhurst.
Just over twelve months ago we were all deeply saddened by the sudden and untimely death of my predecessor, Bishop Joe Grech. Bishop Joe’s gifts to Sandhurst were many, but significantly amongst them was his unmistakable enthusiasm for and deep commitment to the Lord Jesus. As each of us is different, I pray that I can make my contribution to the Diocese through my gifts, to further build the life of Christ in the Sandhurst Diocese.
I am looking forward very much to the move to Bendigo, becoming part of the Church there and fulfilling my role of leadership as Bishop, Teacher and Pastor of the Diocese of Sandhurst."
Vacancies still going....
So what do people know of the bishop/think (please remember to be respectful and polite)?
In any case, one more appointment down, several still to go (or dioceses to be abolished!), viz the current actually vacant sees of Wilcannia-Forbes (vacant since June 2009), Toowoomba (May 2011), Brisbane (November 2011). Plus two more with bishops over the age limit and replacement processes in progress, viz Tasmania and Perth.
And on Tasmania, a reader has alerted me to two interesting interviews given by Archbishop Doyle of late on the state of the diocese. An ABC radio interview of a couple of days ago is in part a response to some comments by Fr Bob Maguire about the alleged romanisation of the Church, but also includes the good news that a new priest from overseas is expected to arrive shortly. The other is an interview on the State version of the 7.30 report from late last year.
Watch out also for Compass resuming shortly (get your dose of liberal fuzziness courtesy of Geraldine Doogue early on a Sunday evening now!), which a reader tells me will include an investigative report on the Wilcannia-Forbes situation before Easter. Hmmm, now if I were the Vatican I'd be trying to pre-empt that with some actual decisions, but...
In the meantime, please keep Bishop Tomlinson in your prayers.