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Corny dad jokes and compassion: Sydney farewells Bishop Peter Ingham

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Bishop Ingham - The catholic weekly
Archbishop Fisher, Bishop Umbers and fellow clergymen honouring the late Bishop Ingham. Photo: Patrick Lee

Former auxiliary bishop of Sydney and fourth bishop of Wollongong Peter Ingham has been farewelled with a requiem Mass in St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney.

In his homily, the main celebrant Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP spoke warmly of the archdiocese’s former priest and bishop as proclaiming the gospel through joy, and borrowed Pope Francis’ phrase to describe him as “shepherd with the smell of the sheep”.

“It was rare for him not to be smiling,” he said.

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“He always had a corny dad joke to tell, and if we moaned, he told us some more.

“Until his dying days he conveyed the joy of being a Christian to all those with whom he engaged.

“It was not just a tactic—his unstoppable joy came from the one whose Easter victory he celebrated in his last weeks.”

Family members and friends of the bishop were present at the Mass.

A solemn reception of his body, prayer and a solemn liturgy will take place at St Francis Xavier Cathedral in Wollongong on 9 May from 6.30pm.

On 10 May a solemn Pontifical Mass of Christian burial will be offered at the cathedral from 10.30am before his interment on the cathedral grounds.

Bishop Ingham died peacefully in Sydney on 26 April aged 83 after serving almost 60 years of priesthood.

In 2022 he was made a member of the Order of Australia for significant service to the Catholic Church in Australia.

Bishop Ingham - The Catholic Weekly
Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP greeting family members of the late Bishop Peter Ingham. Photo: Patrick Lee.

At the time, he told The Catholic Weekly he thought himself a “very ordinary horse in this human race”.

“I didn’t see that I did anything spectacular but I’ve basically just tried to be there for people,” he said.

Cardinal Gilroy ordained Peter Ingham a priest at St Mary’s Cathedral in 1964 and he served as assistant priest in the parishes of Rosebery, Newtown, Penrith and Auburn South.

In 1974 he was appointed as private secretary to Cardinal Freeman and his master of ceremonies. Later he was appointed general secretary of the archdiocese, which incorporated the roles of chancellor, finance director and vicar general.

In 1986 he was made a monsignor and served in Ryde as parish priest. In 1993 he was ordained as a bishop for Sydney, before his appointment as Bishop of Wollongong in 2001.

Other senior responsibilities included serving as president of the Federation of Catholic Bishops Conferences of Oceania.

Also celebrating the Mass in Sydney were Bishops Terrence Brady, Daniel Meagher and Richard Umbers, archdiocesan vicar general Fr Gerald Gleeson and more than 50 priests from Sydney and beyond.

Prior to the Mass and for a short time afterwards, people took the opportunity to spend a moment of prayer at the bishop’s casket, which was covered with a white cloth and his bishop’s mitre placed on top.

Bishop Ingham -The catholic weekly
Paying respect to Bishop Ingham. Photo: Patrick Lee.

Among them was young professional Marisa Saverimuttu of Ryde-Gladesville parish.

“I’m going to cry telling you what he meant to me,” she said.

“He was a beautiful, genuine person, so warm, compassionate and kind and always thought the best of everyone,” she said.

“No matter what path of life you were following he made everyone feel important.”

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