News from the Diocese
- Bishop Peter Ingham's Lenten Message 2017 - "Millstone or Milestone?"
- At Once: Lenten Concert Varroville - 25th Anniversary of the Dedication of the Church
Bishop Peter Ingham's Video Pastoral Message on the Royal Commission's Final Hearing on the Catholic Church
My Dear People
When I became a priest so many years ago, it was God’s love for me and, in turn, my love for people that inspired me to follow the call to a way of life that would seem counter-cultural in today’s world. I knew from my own experience the fulfilment and joy that a life of faith lived out in Christ’s Church could bring, and I wanted to share the gift I had discovered. To be here 52 years later, knowing the damage that some members of the Church which I now lead in Wollongong has caused to the lives of many innocent people, particularly children and their families, breaks my heart.
Priests, religious brothers and sisters, and other persons in positions of authority and trust within the Church, are mandated to bring hope to people. It is our task to bring light to darkness, peace where there is strife, and love where there is pain and hatred. Shamefully, some have used that power against the most vulnerable within our communities, and through abuse they have shattered the lives of many. It is a corruption of the Gospel the Church proclaims.
During the Royal Commission, victims and survivors have courageously come forward to share their stories, each case representing a personal account of an indefensible crime against their dignity. Statistics revealed this week have shown that 11.7% of the priests in our Diocese between 1952 and 2010 had claims of abuse made against them. Most devastating is that each data point represents a life, or many lives, that have been shattered. It’s not just a number – it’s a child, a young or vulnerable person.
In my time here, I have met with and listened to a number of victims and survivors and have personally heard their tragic stories. In recent days, I have also met with some very dedicated people representing our parishioners, our teachers, those who work in our welfare agencies, in social justice, in aged care and my fellow clergy. It was a meeting with great emotion, depth of feeling, hurt and dismay, as they told of their sense of betrayal and of having also been let down by the perpetrators, Church leaders, and the culture that has enabled this.
There is no doubt that these findings will rock the Church in Australia for generations to come. It is not just the sexual abuse, but a connected spiritual abuse that remains a poisonous consequence. It troubles me deeply, knowing that these crimes, these sins, have also potentially closed hearts and minds to being open to the fullness of life in God.
So, as the leader of the Catholic Church in Wollongong, I again say, how deeply sorry I am for the past failures that have left so many so damaged. The story of our Church will, and must, include this chapter. It must not be denied or hidden. For the dignity of those who had their trust severely broken, and for the sake of the future of those who will seek hope in Jesus, the Church must honestly acknowledge this failure and re-commit to doing everything in its power to see that such things never happen again.
I wish to assure you and the wider community that the Diocese of Wollongong is committed to the protection of children and vulnerable people and to addressing with sensitivity and determination any concern or allegation brought forward. We already meet all mandatory reporting obligations in relation to the Police, the Ombudsman and other child protection authorities. We also have mandatory child protection training as well as strict screening processes for those wishing to be involved in ministry. These are just some of the steps we have taken to ensure a safe culture which we all want and expect.
The measure of our commitment will ultimately rest on the effectiveness of our actions. There needs to be an ongoing process of cultural change and continual improvement as we seek to be truly open to the wisdom of the Royal Commission and so ensure greater protection for children and vulnerable people into the future. I am grateful to our parishes, schools and agencies for the important work they have been doing, and are still doing, to make our Church a safe place.
I, along with all who exercise leadership in our Diocese, continue to strongly urge any person with a complaint of abuse to come forward to the police through the Police Assistance Line on 131 444.
I am mindful that as the Royal Commission continues over the coming weeks, it may be a difficult and even distressing time for many. I encourage you to talk to each other or seek advice from a trusted counsellor. Should you feel that other pastoral support or counselling would be of assistance to you, please contact the Diocese on 1800 225 922 and the appropriate support can be arranged.
I believe it is in the midst of great turmoil and despair that God can work – where Jesus can transform and renew, where the Holy Spirit can bring hope and make all things new. And so it is my prayer that the Church will emerge more humble, more just, and more compassionate. It is also my prayer that we do not turn away from God who remains the light of the world, and that our Church remains the Body of Christ, a wounded body that is rightly humbled, but one where we all gather around the same table to draw on God’s limitless love and mercy.
We pray for the victims and survivors and their families and friends. We pray for the Commission; that it is a source of justice and peace to all those affected. We also pray for the many men and women, the vast majority in our Church communities, who have dedicated their lives to loving God and loving others, who have also been deeply betrayed.
Finally, I invite you to pray for me and all the leaders of the Church as we commit to doing everything in our power to see that such things never happen again.
Jesus, Light of the world, source of love and hope that can heal the deepest wounds, hear our prayers.
Most Rev Peter W Ingham DD
Bishop of Wollongong
10 February 2017
Bishop Peter Ingham's Statement on the Royal Commission's Final Hearing on the Catholic Church
My Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ
The final hearing involving the Catholic Church at the Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse commences this coming Monday, 6 February 2017, and will run for three weeks.
During the hearing, the Royal Commission will examine the following questions in relation
to the Church:
- What are the current child protection policies, procedures and standards including responding to allegations of child sexual abuse?
- What factors may have contributed to the occurrence of child sexual abuse in the Church?
- What factors may have affected the institutional response of Church authorities? and
- How has the Church responded to the relevant case studies and other Royal Commission reports?
As part of the hearing, the Commission will also release data relating to the extent of claims of child sexual abuse in the Church in Australia. Francis Sullivan, Chief Executive Officer of the Church’s Truth Justice and Healing Council, recently said, “The data will shock and confront the community and will once again make plain the extent of the suffering, damage and loss victims of abuse have endured. It is absolutely important that this information is made public. It is part of being transparent and ensuring the complete story is told.”
The hearing will explore the way forward, providing the opportunity for the Church to explain what it has been doing to change the old culture that allowed abuse to continue, and to put in place new policies, structures and protections to safeguard children and vulnerable adults.
I reiterate my heartfelt apology to victims of sexual abuse by Catholic Church personnel. I also apologise to their families and all who have shared their suffering. Victims, survivors and their families must receive respect, justice and compassion. For the victims and survivors, for the Catholic community and for many in the wider Australian community, this hearing may be a difficult and distressing time, as the Royal Commission reviews the evidence it has already received and seeks to understand why and how this tragedy has occurred. Should you feel that pastoral support or counselling would be of assistance to you, please contact the Diocese on 1800 225 922 and the appropriate support can be arranged.
I again strongly urge any person with a complaint of mistreatment or abuse to come forward to the appropriate authority. If the complaint is of a criminal nature, please notify the police through the Police Assistance Line on 131 444. If you need assistance with this, or if the matter is not of a criminal nature, please contact the Diocese on 1800 225 922.
Pope Francis has urged the whole Church to “find the courage needed to take all necessary measures and to protect in every way the lives of our children, so that such crimes may never be repeated”. I renew my invitation to all people of the Diocese to join me in prayer for the continuing work of the Royal Commission that our combined efforts may lead to the greater protection of children and vulnerable adults, and to justice and healing for victims of sexual abuse.
Yours in Christ
Most Rev Peter W Ingham DD
Bishop of Wollongong
3 February 2017
ALPHA... Join the Adventure
Alpha is a tool for evangelisation that is being used by thousands of Catholic parishes around the world to introduce people to the first proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ, otherwise known as the Kerygma: “Jesus Christ loves you; he gave his life to save you, and now he is living at your side to enlighten, strengthen and free you” (Evangelii Gaudium, 164).
Alpha is a series of interactive sessions that explore the basics of the Christian faith in a friendly, open and informal environment. It is a parish tool for evangelisation based on welcome and hospitality, sharing and prayer, all in the midst of a caring parish setting. Each session includes a meal, a talk, and small group discussion, where no question is too simple and no answer is pre-packaged.
Alpha explores many questions such as: Is there more to life than this? Who is Jesus? Why did Jesus die? How can I have Faith? Why and how do I pray? Why and how do I read the Bible? How does God guide us? How can I resist evil? Does God heal today? What about the Church and telling others?
Wanna know more about Alpha in the Diocese of Wollongong. Click here to check out the recent article in Journey Magazine all about Alpha.
Alpha is already scheduled to be run in two parishes in the Diocese. Click the following parish links for Alpha dates and times:
- Christmas Mass Times 2017
- Journey 62 - Summer 2016 | READ ONLINE NOW!
"You Matter. You are a priority," Prison Chaplains across Australia deliver 'A Message for Prisoners' during the Year of Mercy
Prison Chaplains across Australia are delivering a special ‘Message for Prisoners’ from the Catholic Church about love and hope from the Australian Catholic Prisoners Pastoral Care Council.
This message marks the Jubilee for Prisoners chosen by Pope Francis to be celebrated during the Year of Mercy on 6 November 2016.
In his message written for prisoners, Bishop Delegate for the Australian Catholic Prisoners Pastoral Care Council, the Most Reverend Terry Brady said, ‘Pope Francis shows us the importance of accompanying one another in the ups and downs of life. We all stumble; make mistakes; fail others and ourselves. But we are all capable of loving and of experiencing hope’.
Bishop Brady said this special day for prisoners, occurring during the Year of Mercy, invites each one of us to follow the merciful example of God, ‘to forgive and love rather than judge and condemn’.
‘Many people have spent time in jail – including saints and even Jesus himself. His message is meant for everyone, regardless of the circumstances because we all possess human dignity.’
Recognising and valuing the human dignity of Prisoners, Pope Francis said, ‘no one is beyond the reach of God’s mercy’. In the past, our thinking and beliefs have been that everything will be resolved by ‘isolating, separating, incarcerating’ but in fact ‘the care of prisoners is a moral imperative for the whole of society’, reintegration does not begin within prison walls but rather ‘outside – in the streets’, the Holy Father said.
It is during the time in prison that ‘the task of a chaplain is to let the prisoners know that the Lord is inside with them. No cell is so isolated that it can keep the Lord out. He is there,’ Pope Francis said.
Speaking about ‘Reaching Out, A Message for Prisoners’, Fr Peter Carroll MSC, Chairman of the Australian Catholic Prisoners Pastoral Care Council said, ‘The Council would like every prison chaplain across Australia to know that their vital ministry is acknowledged and appreciated by the Church in Australia during this Jubilee for Prisoners in the Year of Mercy. The role of a prison chaplain is essential in many ways, especially in affirming the uniqueness of each individual. ’
‘It is easy to forget the families who are also affected by having a loved one in prison. They too need the prayers of our Catholic community and practical gestures of concern and support from our parish communities.’
‘It is my hope that each Prison Chaplain will use this message as a resource to continue their essential and pastoral conversations with prisoners about their human value; their self worth in our society and their importance in the eyes of the Church.’
As part of the Jubilee for Prisoners, the Catholic Diocese of Wollongong has distributed thousands of copies of its EMMANUEL Daily Advent and Christmas Reflection Book to inmates in all prisons in NSW.
You can download the message and prayer here: http://dow.sh/messageprisonersDL
Halloween – Ghoulish or Godly?
Halloween is growing in popularity but its roots are lost on most people. It is observed on 31 October, the "een" or "eve" of All Hallows Day (All Saints Day) on 1 November.
"Hallow” occurs in the Lord's Prayer – "hallowed be thy name" (may God's name be held holy) – so to celebrate Halloween without connecting it to All Saints Day would be like celebrating Christmas Eve without a Christmas Day.
If you take away the Saints from Halloween, along with our Christian beliefs about the dignity and destiny of human beings, then all you have left is a pre-Christian Celtic celebration held at the end of summer in the northern hemisphere. As days shorten and winter nights lengthen, the spirits (goblins and ghouls) have more dark time to be mischievous and haunt. The pagans appeased them with treats so as not to suffer their tricks. The “trick or treat” tradition comes from people disguising themselves as evil spirits, both to fool them into leaving them alone, as well as to steal the treats left by people to appease the evil spirits.
When Christianity came to Ireland, they wisely baptised “Halloween,” sifting out what was true and disposing of the superstitious. We Christians believe in a spirit world of angels and saints. All the baptised, both on earth and who have gone before us in faith, belong to the Communion of Saints. So the old pagan custom of appeasing the spirits became a Christian holy time of remembering them, of being connected with them in love, and not being frightened of them.
In time there developed (it seems in Ireland) a feast of the spirits who intercede for us, not frighten us. This became the celebration of All Saints at the end of the northern summer and some time later evolved All Souls Day to pray for the spirits on the way to God but who needed help.
All this reminds us, despite our modern day individualism, of the unbelievable connections we have in the family of God – on earth, in purgatory and in heaven. So these days of Halloween, All Hallows (All Saints), All Souls celebrate what we believe and name the “Communion of Saints.”
Fr William Bausch says dressing up for Halloween ritually connects us and symbolically joins us to the community of the invisible world. He says that the scary masks (witches, skeletons, etc) from a Christian point of view, are a symbol of human disfigurement brought on by sin, betrayal, sickness and death. But faith reminds us that eventually those masks, by the grace of God and our faith, will be removed and we shall be made beautiful as ugliness dissolves, sin is cleansed and even the last enemy, death, falls before the everlasting mercy of Christ.
Jack-o-the Lanterns, roaming forever between heaven and earth, holding his pumpkin lantern high, is a one-man morality tale associated with Halloween. Jack is smart enough to outwit the devil himself, but it is not enough to get him into heaven. Jack was so self-centred that he never helped another human being. He used his giftedness only for himself. While Jack knew about faith and the power of the Cross, he failed to take up his cross and follow Jesus.
Fr Bill points to the irony of our modern world which really discounts faith, the interior life and organised religion, yet plays this cultural game of secular Halloween. But the spiritual, in fact, sneaks in, as secular people flirt on Halloween with the possibilities of another world and, as Fr Bill puts it, Halloween “scratches a growing spiritual itch without losing face.” He says it shows that our very one-dimensional secular world still needs fulfilment and peace – something deeper.
Halloween, like Christmas, is becoming very commercial. As a result, we do not even come close to thinking of it in terms of faith and religion. To help us make the connection, Fr Bausch suggests:
First, before going out “trick or treating,” why not gather the family to offer a prayer for deceased members and friends, people of our past who meant something to us and whose influence is still with us.
Second, bring out the family album for the triduum of Halloween, All Saints, and All Souls; put it on the coffee table with a little lit candle in front of it. This makes a statement to your children or grandchildren that we all come from a long line of people who loved us and that Halloween is sacred time as well as fun time, that we are part of their journey as they are of ours.
Third, on All Saints Day, possibly around the dinner table, have family members research the saint after whom they are named and tell everyone something about him or her.
Finally, you might bring some of the things you may get by going around tricking or treating to a nursing home or send to the St Vincent de Paul Society.
Halloween, All Saints, All Souls: is especially a time of faith but can also have a touch of “trick or treat” fun!
[Fr William Bausch “Once Upon a Gospel” Pp 572-574.]
Halloween also invites us to talk openly about death which is a taboo topic for so many, almost as if it were not a real fact of life! You and I need to press the "pause" button in our crowded lives to reflect on our own mortality, with all the spiritual and practical consequences that go with it. Fortunately each year the Church gives us two feasts, All Hallows (Saints) and All Souls (the Commemoration of all the Faithful who are departed) to do this.
Most Rev Peter W Ingham DD
Bishop of Wollongong
27 October 2016
EMMANUEL - Advent and Christmas Reflections 2016 | ORDER NOW
Continuing the tradition from past years, Emmanuel is a 72 page pocket-size book containing short daily reflections from the beginning of Advent (27 November 2016) through to the Baptism of the Lord (9 January 2017) primarily for personal use, but also appropriate for group use such as parish, Church agency, religious community and school staff/class prayer.
These spiritually rich, yet accessible, daily reflections have been written by twelve contributors from the Diocese of Wollongong:
- Sr Eileen Brown SGS (Good Samaritan Sisters, Wollongong)
- Mr Ken Bryant (Head of Catholic Life, Education and Mission Services, Catholic Education, Diocese of Wollongong)
- Fr David Catterall PP (Parish Priest, St Mary MacKillop Parish Oran Park)
- Fr Sean Cullen PP (Parish Priest, St Thomas Aquinas Parish Bowral and St Michael's Parish Mittagong)
- Fr Leo Duck (Priest in Residence, Holy Spirit Church Vincentia)
- Mr Peter Gilmore (Faith Education Officer, Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Diocese of Wollongong)
- Fr Shane Kelleher OCD PP (Parish Priest, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish Varroville)
- Mrs Suzanne Marden (Team Leader for Staff Spiritual Formation, Catholic Education, Diocese of Wollongong)
- Miss Trish McCarthy (Faith Education Officer, Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Diocese of Wollongong)
- Fr Christopher G Sarkis PP (Parish Priest, Our Lady Help of Christians Parish Rosemeadow)
- Sr Hilda Scott OSB (Benedictine Abbey Jamberoo)
- Fr Graham Schmitzer PP (Parish Priest, Immaculate Conception Parish Unanderra)
Emmanuel also features beautiful religious artworks from the Masters such as Duccio, Caravaggio and Fra Angelico with enlightening “artwork spotlight” descriptions written by Fr Graham Schmitzer PP.
Many customers buy bulk copies of the book for family and friends as an alternative to Christmas cards. We have included a page in the book for you to write your Christmas gift message.
If you have any questions, please contact us on (02) 4222 2400 or email us at orders [AT] dow [DOT] org [DOT] au
Delivery is expected to begin in the first week of November.
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.