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Book Review: Good Shepherds 1859 -2009: The Catholic Bishops of Brisbane

Commemorative functions and festivities are being held this year to celebrate not only the 150th anniversary of the granting of statehood to Queensland but also the sesquicentenary of the creation of the Roman Catholic see of Brisbane.

In acknowledging the latter event it is appropriate that we call to mind with pride and gratitude the contribution to the life of the Church and its mission made by the six bishops who have occupied this see since its establishment on September 6, 1859.

The authors of the volume under review and their subjects are as follows: Fr William O’Shea (Bishop James Quinn 1859-81), Fr Neil Byrne (Archbishop Robert Dunne 1882-1917), Fr Tom Boland (Archbishop James Duhig 1917-1965), Fr Denis Martin (Patrick O’Donnell 1965-73) and Bishop John Gerry (Archbishop Francis Rush 1973-1991).

Archbishop John Bathersby, who sees the office of bishop as “a profound honour and a demanding challenge” and whose own pastoral achievements will doubtless be recorded at some future date, has written the foreword and Fr Peter Meneely, the Moderator of the Archdiocese of Brisbane, has contributed the introduction.

The bishops who emerge from these uniformly interesting essays were different from one another in temperament and personality, in their individual gifts and talents, in the ways they exercised their ministry and in their human weaknesses and peccadilloes.

However, it is clear that they shared a common vision and commitment to Jesus Christ and that each in his own way sought to attain the standard Paul set for the youthful bishop Timothy by “being ready for every good work” and by “enduring all things for the sake of the elect”.

The Second Vatican Council document Christus Dominus urges each bishop, conscious of his duties, to “so arrange his own life as to accommodate it to the needs of the times”. As portrayed by our writers, the bishops of the Archdiocese of Brisbane have done just that – whether they were building churches and schools, settling immigrants on the land, aiding the poor and underprivileged, supporting ecumenical initiatives, proclaiming the Good News, encouraging lay involvement in the life and mission of the Church, promoting vocations to the priesthood and religious life, or simply answering the call to holiness in their own lives.

The text of Good Shepherds 1859-2009 is supported and enhanced by the inclusion of pertinent photos, some of which will be new to most readers.

The book deserves the widest possible readership, especially among the Catholics of Brisbane. It is available through the St Paul’s Book Centre and Christian Supplies in central Brisbane, and through The Catholic Leader for those further afield.

Reviewed by Br Brian Grenier CFC

Released by The Catholic Leader

July 5, 2009

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