Hectic schedule for new bishop
Published: 11 November 2012
By: Paul Dobbyn
Rome visit: Bishop Robert McGuckin, on his recent pilgrimage with other new bishops to Rome, meets with Pope Benedict. With them is Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops Cardinal Marc Ouelett
IT took Bishop Robert McGuckin most of his first 100 days as Toowoomba's new bishop to unpack - no surprise considering he has journeyed to many places including Goondiwindi, Rome and Fiji in this time.
"However, I've still got to sort out my library," Bishop McGuckin said.
His recent trip to Goondiwindi coincided with the Queensland State Cabinet meeting where the bishop sought assurance from Premier Campbell Newman that discussions on cross-border problems had nothing to do with his arrival from New South Wales.
In September, Bishop McGuckin together with 93 new bishops from around the world including two other Australians - Bishop Michael Kennedy of Armidale and then Bishop-elect Paul Bird of Ballarat - took part in a pilgrimage to the Tomb of St Peter.
There was also a "memorable visit" to Fiji where Bishop McGuckin was met by Archbishop Petero Mataca and Fijian chiefs in the village of Lami in a ceremony to acknowledge his role in helping to get the island's marriage tribunal up and running again.
Bishop McGuckin also had to deal with other important matters including whether or not he needed a Queensland fishing licence.
"I learnt from the minister with responsibility for fisheries that I don't need one here," he said.
Toowoomba diocese's new bishop has been "incredibly impressed" with the welcome he has received before and after his episcopal ordination in St Patrick's Cathedral on July 11.
Since then, the 68-year-old bishop has done a bit of travel in his vast diocese which he notes "stretches to before Birdsville and the Simpson Desert to the Northern Territory border to the west and the South Australian border to the south".
"I've been to school blessings, BER (Building the Education Revolution) projects mostly, as far afield as Charleville and quite a few in Toowoomba," he said.
"Then there have been the Confirmations at Roma, Mitchell, St George, Goondiwindi, Killarney, Pittsworth, Millmerran, Moonie and Helidon.
"After each of the parish events there has been a community gathering and it has been wonderful meeting so many people.
"I have been incredibly impressed with the welcome I have received and the hospitality shown.
"There is a great deal of pride shown by the local communities in their parish churches, which are so well kept."
Bishop McGuckin said in his pilgrimage to the Tomb of St Peter, arranged for the Church's new bishops by the Congregation for Bishops and Congregation for the Eastern Churches, "there was a wonderful sense that the particular Church of Toowoomba was not isolated, but was one with the Universal Church".
"On Sunday, September 16, all of the bishops concelebrated the Eucharist in St Peter's Basilica," he said.
"This was quite a sight with almost 100 bishops wearing mitres, processing into St Peter's.
"The Mass at St Peter's on that Sunday was very special and I offered that for each and every one - clergy, religious and laity.
"On Thursday, September 20, I met with the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI.
"I expressed to him our prayers for his mission and he extended his blessing to me and everyone in the diocese as together we exercise the mission entrusted to us."
Bishop McGuckin has called on his predecessor Bishop William Morris to help with his busy schedule.
"Bishop Morris has been helping me with a few things," he said.
"I can't be in two places at once, and he has gone to Charleville and Quilpie to do Confirmations.
"And he's happy to do that for me."
A trip to Birdsville is likely to go in Bishop McGuckin's diary for 2013.
"But I've been told it would be better to wait until the weather cools down a bit before venturing to Birdsville and the surrounding areas," he said.
The role played by young people in the diocese's future is a major focus for Bishop McGuckin.
"The diocese is presently advertising for a co-ordinator of youth ministry, a position which I hope will be filled for the start of 2013," he said.
"There is also a need for young people to answer the call to priesthood or the religious life.
"In this Year of Grace, I pray that people will generously respond to prompting of the Spirit."