Pope Francis has appointed two new auxiliary bishops for Sydney, the first in more than five years.
The Vatican today announced that New Zealand-born Opus Dei priest Fr Richard Umbers and former Brisbane seminary rector Mons Anthony Randazzo will join Bishop Terry Brady as auxiliary bishops of Sydney.
Auxiliary bishops are appointed to assist a bishop when merited by the pastoral needs of a diocese.
In Sydney, that role became increasingly demanding following the appointment to new dioceses of former auxiliaries Bishop Peter Comensoli and Archbishop Julian Porteous, and the five-month absence due to illness of the Archbishop of Sydney, Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP.
Fr Umbers, 45, is a priest of the Prelature of Opus Dei and tutor at the University of Notre Dame.
He has a degree in theology from the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome, a doctorate in philosophy, and a Master’s degree in management and environmental economics.
Despite serving as an altar boy, and having both an uncle and a cousin ordained to the priesthood, Fr Umbers initially rejected the idea of religious life.
It was Opus Dei priest Fr Max Polak who changed Fr Umbers’ understanding of faith and priesthood.
After a period of discernment and further study, he began studying for the priesthood in 1996.
Fr Umbers was ordained in 2001 at the Marian Shrine at Torrecuidad in Northern Spain at the age of 31.
The priest said he was stunned when he heard the news of his appointment, “but accepted the Holy Father’s appointment in a spirit of filial obedience and the ardent desire to serve the Church as she needs”.
“I bring with me a love for people and ideas which often finds expression in my preaching on the Gospel.
“Together with Mons Randazzo I will be eager to learn the art of shepherding from Archbishop Fisher and Bishop Brady.”
From his work as a university tutor to his efforts in engaging students to work as catechists, Fr Umbers has developed a rapport with young Catholics.
The director of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Doug Mawhinney, said the new auxiliary bishop has “inspired so many young people across Sydney”.
Mr Mawhinney described Fr Umbers as an experienced builder of Christian character, “well respected for his rich and engaging proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ and for handing on the timeless wisdom of our Catholic intellectual and spiritual traditions”.
“Fr Richard is also a bridge-builder in connecting young people to our parishes.
“Most recently he has inspired a group of university students to join the wonderful mission of our parish catechist volunteers in three Sydney parishes.
“Each week, these uni students now go in to local state schools so that Catholic children may learn more about God, how to be with God and to serve the good of all. In doing so, the faith of these young uni students is being deepened by the overflowing love of God.”
Mr Mawhinney said he was grateful for the new bishop’s “enthusiastic and broad appreciation of Catholic education at all levels and the lifelong need for ongoing catechesis and spiritual nourishment”.
“Our parish Catholic school families and educators along with our parish families with children enrolled in state schools, independent Catholic schools and in universities, have an experienced, intelligent and tech-savvy leader in Fr Richard Umbers.”
The second appointment, 49-year-old Mons Randazzo, will bring to the role of auxiliary bishop a passion for vocations nurtured during his seven years as rector of Brisbane’s Holy Spirit Seminary, during which oversaw the ordination of 27 priests.
“It is a privilege and a joy to be called by the Holy Father to collaborate in the pastoral care of the Church of Sydney,” he said.
“I am delighted to return to the city of my birth and I am eagerly looking forward to meeting the priests and people of the Archdiocese.
“I humbly ask the people of the archdiocese to remember me in prayer. For my part, I pray through the intercession of Mary, Mother of God, for our local Church of Sydney and I rely on the gifts of the Holy Spirit so that I might be a good and faithful shepherd.”
Mons Randazzo has degrees in theology from the Brisbane College of Theology and in canon law from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. He recently undertook a sabbatical program in Scripture in Jerusalem. He has experience as an auditor and a judge in the Regional Tribunal in Brisbane and in the National Appeal Tribunal.
In a February interview with catholicfoundation.org, the Sydney-born priest described the importance of formation across all vocations.
“The Second Vatican Council said, very simply, the reform of the Church begins with the form and education of the clergy,” he said.
“So when our priests and when our young people are starting to engage in living a Gospel life, in living a rich Sacramental life, and directing that life toward the mission of the Church in the world, then I think we’re going to see a resurgence of vocations.
“And not just priestly vocations, but marriage vocations, religious vocations, and single vocations.”
Mons Randazzo said it was with an “overwhelming sense of privilege” that he looked back on his time as rector, after departing the role in December.
“It’s the closest thing that a celibate priest will come to knowing fatherhood.”
Mons Randazzo enjoys the outdoors and music, and has a keen interest in architecture.
Archbishop Fisher welcomed both priests to the archdiocese.
“Two very intelligent, energetic and pastoral men are joining the bench of bishops in Australia and the leadership team here in Sydney, and the priests and people of Sydney will welcome them with open arms. They will bring fresh ideas and energy to the life of the archdiocese and I thank Pope Francis for these two gifts to us.”
Bishop Brady, 69, has served as an auxiliary for Sydney since 2007, and has been the solo bishop in this role since November 2014.
The Episcopal ordination of Mons Randazzo and Fr Umbers will take place at St Mary’s Cathedral on 24 August, 2016.