The ninth Bishop of the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle will bring a wealth of experience to the position having served as the Bishop of Armidale since 2012.
Bishop Michael Kennedy did not equivocate when the nuncio visited him at home, in the Northern Tablelands, with an offer directly from Pope Francis.
“When the nuncio asked if I would accept Pope Francis’ appointment to be the new bishop of Maitland-Newcastle, I did not hesitate to say ‘yes’,” Bishop Michael said.
“Whilst I have been happy serving the Lord and His people in Armidale, I determined many years ago that I would seek to live my life by saying ‘yes’ to God. It’s a good way to live.”
News of Bishop Michael’s appointment was first shared by Pope Francis in Rome on 2 February.The appointment is made following the death of Bishop Bill Wright in November 2021, since this time Fr Greg Barker has led the Diocese as Diocesan Administrator.
Unlike his most recent predecessors, Bishop Bill and Bishop Michael Malone, who had not been bishops prior to being appointed to lead the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, Bishop Michael has a unique understanding of the role.
“When I was ordained Bishop in 2012, I chose for my motto ‘euntes docete’, the first two words in the Latin text of Matthew 28:20 in which Jesus sends his Apostles out to all the nations to teach them all that he commanded and to baptise them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,” he said.
“I think this sums up the role of the bishop: to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to bring people into communion with him through word and sacrament.”
Despite having done the job for over 10 years, the magnitude of his appointment to lead another diocese is not lost on Bishop Michael.
“It is an awesome privilege and responsibility. I accepted the role willingly and heartily knowing that like all new endeavours, it will hold both joys and challenges,” he said.
Following the announcement, Bishop Michael travelled to Newcastle to meet priests and some of the lay faithful who work for the Diocese.
“It was the beginning of a long process of us all getting to know each other,” he said.
Born and raised in Wagga Wagga, Bishop Michael is the youngest of nine children, born to parents John and Fidelma, who instilled in him the importance of family.
“I am very blessed to belong to a close, supportive, and loving family that is passionate about three things: faith, family, and football,” he said.
“Admittedly the football I am into is the AFL kind - so I am aware there may be a need to undergo a ‘change’ of sorts,” he said with a laugh adding that he is looking forward to donning his first Knights jersey.
An avid bushwalker, Bishop Michael said he was also looking forward to spending more time at the beach.
“I enjoy a walk on the beach and swimming in the surf, so I am keen to visit the beautiful beaches I have heard so much about.
“This will be a real treat for someone who has lived nearly his whole life inland,” he said.
For the most part, however, Bishop Michael is looking forward to meeting people within the diocese from all walks of life. It was a commitment he said he shared with the late Bishop Bill whom he met many times over the years.
“What impressed me most about Bishop Bill was his humanity, by which I mean his kindness to people, his respect for people with different opinions, and his good humour in all situations,” he said.
A qualified teacher, who worked at Xavier Catholic College in Albury for three years before entering the seminary, Bishop Michael is well equipped to support and guide the young, the old and everyone in between across our Diocese.
“In my life as a priest and bishop I have always been passionate about the love and mercy that God, in Jesus Christ, has for each one of us and about how we respond to this wonderful love of God. God calls to each one of us and each of us is invited to respond to that call,” he said.
With his installation only weeks away, Bishop Michael has one small request for the people of Maitland-Newcastle.
“Please pray that I will be a true shepherd in the image of Jesus Christ, and that all together we will live the joy of the Gospel united in faith and love.”