Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (Phil 1:2)
I hope you will forgive me for the formal greeting which opens this letter, but I wanted to begin with some words from the scriptures before I offered you some words of my own. The greeting above, which St Paul repeats in some of his other letters, expresses his firm conviction that he is the servant of someone else, of the Lord Jesus and his Heavenly Father, and that Paul’s only task is to be someone who can help others open their lives to the grace and peace that only God can give.
As the newly appointed Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Bunbury I hope I can do the same for all of you.
I am writing to you now to introduce myself and to explain what it means for the Holy See to appoint an apostolic administrator to the diocese following the retirement of Bishop Holohan.
Bishop Gerard turned 75 in September last year, and on that occasion he submitted his letter of resignation as Bishop of the Diocese of Bunbury to the Holy Father, in accordance with Canon Law (Canon 401). As you are now aware, the Pope accepted the bishop’s resignation, which took effect on Friday, June 30.
Episcopal resignations are not always accepted immediately, and this has been the case with Bishop Holohan. However, it is quite common that they are accepted within the following twelve months. The Holy See normally announces only that the pope has accepted a bishop’s resignation because he has reached the compulsory retiring age. Often, however, the eventual acceptance of the resignation has as much to do with the retiring bishop’s health as with anything else.
This has been a significant factor in relation to Bishop Holohan. He has served the diocese of Bunbury with generosity and commitment for twenty-two years. During that time, he has had to confront many challenges, including the building of the new Cathedral. Like many other bishops he has also had to deal with significant financial pressures and with the difficulty of limited resources, especially in terms of personnel. Such pressures take their toll, and I am sure that nobody begrudges Bishop Holohan the precious opportunity which retirement offers him to rest and recover his energies. We wish him well and thank him sincerely for all that he has given to the life of the diocese for such a long period of time.
Although I cannot tell you how long it will be before a new bishop is appointed, I can assure you that the Holy See, through the Apostolic Nuncio here in Australia, has begun the necessary process of consultation.
In the meantime, Pope Francis has appointed me as the apostolic administrator of the diocese until such time as a new bishop is appointed. I will do my best, with the help of all of you, to ensure the smooth functioning of the diocese in this transitional period. As the apostolic administrator my task will be that of ensuring, to the best of my abilities, that when the new bishop is appointed, he is able to assume his position of pastoral leadership with confidence that the diocese has been able to continue to function as well as possible. At the same time, an apostolic administrator has to take care that he does not make decisions which tie the hands of the new bishop. This means that major new initiatives and some significant decisions will have to wait for the new bishop to arrive.
In the meantime, I am hoping that in each parish, school and other diocesan organisation people will work together to support each other, to pray for each other and to encourage each other. The diocese is a “communion of communities” and if each community focuses on being faithful to all that the Lord is asking of us in our local situation, then the diocese will remain strong and faithful.
Because, in taking up the role of apostolic administrator, I have not been relieved of my other responsibilities, it will not be possible for me to be present in the diocese in the way that a local bishop can be. For that reason, I have appointed Fr Pierre Repuyan, the Dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral, to the role of Delegate to the Apostolic Administrator. Fr Pierre will look after the day-to-day functioning of the diocese, referring matters to me as necessary. As this new role adds significantly to his already heavy responsibilities, I would ask everyone to support him in every way possible.
Bishop Holohan is not lost to the diocese, which has been his home and his family for many years. He now takes on the role of “Bishop Emeritus” and will always be a valued member of the diocese. It is important that we now allow him the time and space to begin to enter into this new stage of his life. Eventually, depending on his own retirement plans, he may take up some pastoral activities in the diocese, but for the time being we must leave him free to enjoy his new-found freedom from the responsibilities of diocesan leadership. I will continue to keep in touch with the bishop and discuss plans with him for suitable ways in which to thank him for all that he has done for the Church in Bunbury over so many years.
The Diocese of Bunbury is entering into a time of transition, and this brings with it, at least for some, uncertainty and concern about the future. This is understandable. At the same time a transition period provides us with an opportunity to take a step back, reflect on where the diocese finds itself at this particular time in its history, and begin to look forward eagerly to what the future will bring. It is also a time to enter, as a diocese, into a time of prayer and spiritual preparation as we await the arrival of a new bishop. While the process of consultation is largely out of our hands, it is not out of the hands of the Holy Spirit. We can pray together as the Church in Bunbury that those who must make this important decision will be open to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
Let me conclude by thanking you for taking the trouble to read this letter. I promise you that I will do my best for and with you all.
Yours sincerely in Christ,
Most Rev Timothy Costelloe SDB DD Apostolic Administrator Diocese of Bunbury