Pope Francis appointed Saturday Fr. Columba Macbeth-Green, a Pauline Father, as Bishop of Wilcannia-Forbes, a rural diocese in the Australian state of New South Wales.
“If someone told me a month ago that I would be appointed Bishop of the Wilcannia-Forbes diocese, I would have said they were joking. I still can't believe it's actually happened,” Fr. Macbeth-Green said April 12.
“When I became a monk I never thought that I would minister to people in my home diocese. I’m humbled by this appointment and also excited about going home and giving something back to the people who gave me so much.”
The diocese had been vacant since the 2009 resignation of its last ordinary, Bishop Christopher Toohey.
“For the Australian bishops, I extend warm congratulations,” said Archbishop Denis Hart of Melbourne, who is president of the Australian bishops' conference. “I welcome the announcement of Fr. Columba Macbeth-Green, OSPPE, as the seventh bishop of Wilcannia-Forbes.”
“His appointment after a long interval will be warmly welcomed by the people as an indication of Pope Francis’ love and care for them.”
Archbishop Hart added that “since his ordination in 1997 for the 800 year-old Order of St. Paul the First Hermit, Fr. Macbeth-Green has worked with distinction at the Shrine of Marian Valley in Queensland and in Tarcutta and Marian Hills.”
“He has engaged spiritually with many people and his priestly goodness and wise guidance will be warmly welcomed by the people of his new diocese.”
Bishop Michael Kennedy of Armidale, who also served as apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Wilcannia-Forbes from 2012 until Fr. Macbeth-Green's appointment, said the bishop-elect “has a well-grounded faith and possesses the human attributes that will equip him to be a good Pastor to the people of this rural and outback Diocese.”
“With his experience in country parishes he understands the joys, struggles and challenges of country parishes and their people. I am confident that Bishop Elect Macbeth-Green will be a true Shepherd after the heart of Jesus Christ.”
Fr. Macbeth-Green was born in Forbes in 1968, and educated at Red Bend Catholic College in the town. Upon leaving school, he taught music and joined Australia's army reserve as a piper.
He joined the Order of St. Paul the First Hermit in 1990, and studied for the priesthood at Vianney College in Wagga Wagga. He made solemn profession in the order in 1996, and was ordained a priest the following years.
The Pauline Fathers are a semi-contemplative order founded in 1215 in Hungary who observe the Rule of St. Augustine. They are based in Poland and are custodians of the shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa.
They are also present in Germany, Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Ukraine, Italy, and the U.S., and entered Australia in the Wollongong diocese in 1982.
As a Pauline Father, Fr. Macbeth-Green has served as administrator of Tarcutta, and from 2002 to 2004 was subprior of the shrine of Our Lady of Mercy, after which he was administrator of Moss Vale.
He also served as a local police chaplain, and then from 2006 to 2011 was police chaplain at police headquarters in Brisbane, the Australian capital, and then for all of South East Queensland.
At the time of his appointment, he was the Pauline Fathers' provincial vicar for Australia and rector of the shrine of Mary, Help of Christians.
The Diocese of Wilcannia-Forbes covers 160,000 square miles and is home to 111,300 persons, of whom 34,000 are Catholic. In 2010, the diocese had 16 diocesan priests, and 5 religious.
The diocese's last leader, Bishop Christopher Toohey, resigned in 2009 at the age of 57; he later admitted to behavior inconsistent “with that required of a good person” in his relationships with some young adults in the early years of his ministry. He no longer exercises public ministry within the Church.
The date of Fr. Macbeth-Green's consecration as bishop and installation has yet to be released.