Monday, June 25, 2012

New bishop ready for rural challenge

TOOWOOMBA'S Bishop-elect Robert McGuckin is used to travelling considerable distances in various roles, including last year's review into the Wilcannia-Forbes diocese.

But he says Toowoomba's vast diocese (490,000-plus sq km reaching as far south as the New South Wales border and west to the Northern Territory and South Australian borders) is something else again.

The 68-year-old bishop is finalising packing, preparing for a retreat and his July 11 episcopal ordination in Toowoomba.

A dedicated fisherman, he said as yet he had not located any fishing spots in his new posting.

"My boat 'On Retreat' will also be staying put and behaving itself," he said.

Bishop McGuckin said his appointment, announced Pope Benedict XVI on May 14, had taken him "somewhat by surprise".

"I said jokingly to Bishop Fisher (of Parramatta diocese) it was a rather dramatic way to get rid of me," he said.

"On a more serious note, I will miss people from this diocese very much."

Bishop McGuckin spoke of "relish for this my latest challenge".
As yet he has had time for only two visits to Toowoomba diocese.

He said the reception he had received on both visits had been "very affirming".

He said the vast rural-based Toowoomba diocese would have differences from the predominantly urban Parramatta diocese.

"In some senses the needs will be the same but the farming communities will often be facing challenges not found in the city - falling prices on farm produce for example," he said.

"Then there will be issues such as the drift of young people away from rural communities to cities - something I noticed when I was involved in the Wilcannia-Forbes review last year."

He is looking forward to travelling across his far-flung new diocese as soon as possible.

"I'll be observing and listening to what suggestions the clergy, the religious and the people have to offer - there are many wise heads amongst them," he said.

"I'll be looking to build on all the good work that has been done before me."

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