For Bishop-elect Columba Macbeth-Green OSPPE, his installation as the seventh bishop of Wilcannia-Forbes in July will be a homecoming.
Pope Francis last week appointed the Forbes-born Pauline Father to lead NSW’s largest diocese.
“If someone told me a month ago that I would be appointed the Bishop of Wilcannia-Forbes diocese, I would have said they were joking. I still can’t believe it’s actually happened,” Bishop-elect Macbeth-Green said.
His appointment comes 17 years after his ordination into the Pauline Fathers – the Order of St Paul the First Hermit.
Bishop-elect Macbeth-Green was the most recent vicar provincial in Australia of the 800-year-old order.
“When I became a monk I never thought that I would minister to people in my home diocese,” he said.
“I’m humbled by this appointment and also excited about going home and giving something back to the people who gave me so much.”
The future of the Wilcannia-Forbes diocese has been uncertain since the 2009 resignation of its former bishop, Bishop Christopher Toohey.
A series of apostolic administrators was then appointed to oversee the diocese – most recently the Bishop of Armidale, Bishop Michael Kennedy.
In 2010 a proposal to dissolve the diocese and redistribute its 22 parishes was rejected by local priests, who requested a permanent bishop.
The Vatican last year declined a revised proposal by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference.
Bishop Kennedy said the appointment of Bishop-elect Macbeth-Green would be a “new beginning” for the diocese. “He has a well-grounded faith and possesses the human attributes that will equip him to be a good pastor to the people of this rural and outback diocese.
“With his experience in country parishes he understands the joys, struggles and challenges of country parishes and their people.”
Educated at Red Bend College, Forbes, Bishop-elect Macbeth-Green later taught music and joined the Army Reserve as a piper.
He joined the Pauline Fathers in 1990 and was ordained a priest in November 1997.
He has served as a police chaplain in Camden, Wagga Wagga and Brisbane, and as administrator of the parishes of Moss Vale and Tarcutta.
He was subprior of the Shrine of Our Lady of Mercy from 2002-04.
The president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Archbishop Denis Hart, said the bishop-elect “has engaged spiritually with many people and his priestly goodness and wise guidance will be warmly welcomed by the people of his new diocese”.
The diocese of Wilcannia was established in 1887 and took in areas of the original Bathurst diocese.
Further parishes, including Forbes and Parkes, were transferred in 1918 to form the diocese of Wilcannia-Forbes which now covers more than 410,000 sq km, and incorporates 22 parishes from Broken Hill to Bourke and Deniliquin.
Bishop-elect Macbeth-Green’s appointment follows the appointment earlier this month of a new bishop of Rockhampton, Brisbane priest Fr Michael McCarthy, 63, who will be installed at Rockhampton next month.
Sydney is still without an archbishop and Broken Bay, Sale and Townsville without bishops, while appointments of new auxiliary bishops have yet to be made in Sydney and Melbourne.