New shepherd already listening to townsville’s pastoral needs _ the catholic leader

Bishop-elect Tim Harris: “I’m a pastor who like a general practitioner, who has to have an idea about everything and try to do my very best in those circumstances.”

Over the kitchen table at the Clear Island Waters church presbytery in 2012, Bishop Michael Putney told the parish priest and one of his former students in the seminary Fr Tim Harris that he was dying of cancer.

“I was one of the first to hear that he had cancer, and that things were not good,” Fr Harris said. Japanese garden design “He shared that information with me in my kitchen here at the presbytery.

“I’m neither of those – I’m a pastor who like a general practitioner, who has to have an idea about everything and try to do my very best in those circumstances.”

“Interestingly Dad would take Mum to the Anglican church, just down the road from St Flannan’s, drop her off and bring us, and my sister, back to St Flannan’s and then pick her up after,” Bishop-elect Harris said.

“But Dad used to get a bit browned off because we’d be out in an hour and the Anglicans would go on for two, so we’d be waiting in the carpark for Mum to get out.

“I passed a funeral director on my left-hand side and I turned up the street just after the funeral director, shot up a dead-end street, stopped and he said, ‘Is everything turned off, Father?’

“Because if I didn’t say that … I think I deny the work of the Holy Spirit, or really, deny God’s grace in my life, so I’ve got to take a leap of faith, accept that the grace of God is with me, the grace of the Holy Spirit.”

“So I said yes, and now, days later, I’ve accepted the consequences of that yes and the affirmation from people from Townsville, right around the diocese, family, friends, has not stopped,” Fr Harris said.

“That photo made me very happy, that they have taken the time to send a picture to me, they’re having a cake, it sounds like they’re celebrating, they have a smile on their face.

“I think they were trying and the Pope and the cardinals and the committee of bishops who make these recommendations to the Pope were trying very hard to find someone.

“I’m going to have very open ears, and an open mind, and an open heart, and I’m going to listen to what the locals tell me and probably going to have to do that for some months, but I need that, from day one to surround myself with the best people possible,” Bishop-elect Harris said.

As his appointment coincided with the final Catholic wrap-up of the Royal Commission in child sexual abuse, Fr Harris is also taking into consideration the commission’s recommendations for the Church.

“The Royal Commission that I’ve been listening to pretty intently, because of what’s happened to me in the last few days, what’s come out of there is that we’re going to have to be more and more transparent.

“Also it seems the advice coming from that experience is that those dioceses that had a more inclusive leadership or had women in some of those decision-making opportunities, those diocese were less likely to have child sexual abuse.

Bishop-elect Harris said he would also focus on best management of priests who were sent to “far-flung places” thousands of kilometres away, many of whom were overseas clergy thrust into “isolated” communities.

“What I’m seeing is, from the limited number of clergy we’ve got, or available clergy, I don’t know how you keep the diocese Eucharistic in terms of the celebration of the Mass,” he said.

“Because the implication is you’ve got to have someone going out to these far-flung places and because the locally grown clergy are declining in some ways, we’re relying on these overseas priests, we’re asking these priests to go out into places that are just almost so isolated.

“How do we make sure of that without going into their lounge rooms, zeroing in on what they’re doing, watching television or how many drinks they’re having … how do I make sure those blokes out there are looked after and are okay?