Plenary voices: Hugo Ditroia

A representative from rural and regional Outback Australia offers his perspective to fellow Plenary members

Reading Time: 2 minutes
Hugo Ditroia, chancellor of the Diocese of Wilcannia-Forbes, and Bishop Columba Macbeth-Green bump elbows amid a crop of canola in the vast outback diocese on 3 September 2020. Photo: CNS, Diocese of Wilcannia-Forbes via The Catholic Weekly

Today I come to fulfill a promise I made to the people of this diocese who contacted me from every corner of the Diocese who said “Hugo bring our voice to the council”.

Coming from a regional diocese, I know all too well of the isolation that we feel, we suffer from droughts, flooding rains, fires and even mice plagues. We suffer from the lack of political care, health care, social care, and sadly at times even religious and pastoral care.

As  the people of Wilcannia-Forbes pray for rain to soften the ground for a good harvest, to provide nourishment for the community, they too cry out to God for another source of nourishment, that is the Eucharist and the sacraments of the Church.

I’m very proud that our diocese has taken a lead in lay ministry and governance due to isolation and the lack of priests. Although while the laity do lay leadership and governance well, from running a Parish to having Sunday celebrations without a priest , it is certainly not there first or desired choice.

All they want is a Priest. A Pastor and a shepherd to baptise their children, to heal their soul during reconciliation, to feed them from the table of the Lord with the bread of life and finally to hear the words “Go forth Christian soul” at the moment they are about to close their eyes.

Recently a Canola and Sheep farmer of 60 years named “Bob” said to me, “Hugo all I want is to be assured that there is a priest at my death bed”.

Many people are watering down the importance of the priesthood, yet I offer an important perspective from our regional setting.  Despite what people are saying about regional settings, we are not advocating for women’s ordination, married priests or a renewal of Church practice and liturgy. We simply want men who will step up to the challenge to serve remote and rural communities to give strength, hope and solace in a world that offers nothing but trials and challenges.

Today I call out to the ordained and beg them, do not lose your zeal! Do not forget what first called you to give yourself to the Church for the service of her children!

Please, we need to stop turning the priesthood into a political game under the false guise of clericalism. Let us reclaim the spiritual and ontological importance of the Priesthood for the mission and identity of the church. Let’s promote vocations and foster a new and renewed love for the Priesthood and most of all let’s ensure “Bob” the farmer of 60 years has a priest at his side to utter the words “Go forth Christian soul”.