A confident appointment as next generation ‘steps up’
Introducing Australia’s youngest chancellor of a Catholic diocese.
Wilcannia Forbes Bishop Columba Macbeth-Green appointed Hugo Ditroia, 28, to the senior role in the vast outback diocese this week.
His journey from city-slicker youth leader to official record-keeper and bishop’s right-hand-man for the 29,264 Catholics living and working in an area covering half the state made a circuitous route via Sydney’s Good Shepherd Seminary.
There he spent four years preparing for the priesthood before prayerfully discerning his future lay elsewhere. Since then Mr Ditroia has served as the diocese’s vice-chancellor and also as the bishop’s executive assistant.
“a wide area of expertise was really important,” said Bishop Macbeth-Green
Bishop Macbeth-Green said Mr Ditroia brings a blend of qualifications, expertise and youthful energy to the complex role.
“As ours is a relatively smaller diocese in terms of its population. Hugo has a raft of other responsibilities on top of the typical diocesan chancellor role,” the bishop said.
“For example, he will also be assisting our work in professional standards and is our diocesan master of ceremonies, so a wide area of expertise was really important when I was looking for someone to fill the position.
“Traditionally clergy were chosen as chancellors, but I thought it was also important to seriously consider lay applicants for the appointment, and Hugo’s relatively young age is also significant.
“We talk a lot about how young people are the future of the Church but I don’t always see that reflected in its governing positions.
“I was Australia’s youngest bishop at the time I was appointed, so I am not afraid to let younger people take on these kinds of roles if they are qualified and have got the goods.”
The new chancellor has just completed his Bachelor of Theology course and in addition to working in youth ministry at a large Catholic college he has also served the master of ceremonies for the Archdiocese of Adelaide where he grew up.
Mr Ditroia’s family hails from Broken Hill and despite living for years in cities he says his heart always remained in the bush. His focus will be to assist the bishop in his work with the various ecclesial organisations in the diocese and any other way he can to further “the mission of the Church in the bush”, he said.
“Wilcannia Forbes is a pretty special place,” he added. “Despite the great distances between its parishes and schools it is a big diocesan family and a very faith-filled one. Everyone knows each other, everyone works together, and everyone’s working together for the mission of the Gospel out west.
“Wilcannia Forbes is a pretty special place… a big diocesan family and a very faith-filled one.”
“We’ve had a lot of struggles including a lack of clergy, dwindling numbers in some towns, and the drought has affected us so much. But those very serious ongoing issues are remediated to a great degree through this unique bond that we have.”
Mr Ditroia says he represents a “new generation stepping up in the Church in Australia” and he is so glad to be doing so in the diocese he loves.
“When I prayerfully made the decision to leave the seminary, I didn’t mourn the fact that I was leaving the possibility of ministerial priesthood in the future, I was concerned and mourning the fact that maybe I’d be leaving the diocese.
“But then divine providence kicked in. The week that I left the seminary was the week that the bishop advertised for a new executive assistant.”