The Most Reverend Mark Edwards OMI was received as the sixth Bishop of Wagga Wagga during a Liturgical Reception and Solemn Mass at St Michael’s Cathedral, Wagga Wagga on Wednesday 22 July 2020.
“I’m grateful to the people and clergy of the diocese who have made me so welcome and who have prayed for a bishop of the diocese. To be bishop of this diocese is a call from God through the church.”
The Liturgical Reception was held on the Feast day of St Mary Magdalene with limited numbers in attendance due to current COVID19 restrictions. The solemn Mass was concelebrated with the archbishops and bishops who were able to travel, priests of the diocese of Wagga Wagga and of other religious congregations.
Arriving at the Cathedral, Bishop Edwards was greeted by a traditional Wiradjuri smoking ceremony and was then welcomed by the Metropolitan Archbishop, the Most Reverend Anthony Fisher who presented him to the Apostolic Administrator the Most Reverend Christopher Prowse and his Delegate Reverend Father Kevin O’Reilly.
Following a Welcome to Country by Wiradjuri Elder, Aunty Kath Withers, Archbishop Fisher
welcomed the intimate congregation declaring “Good things come to those who wait. Clearly, Pope Francis thinks Bishop Mark Edwards is a very good thing and so you’ve waited nearly four years for him as well as a COVID19 lockdown to make this, not only one of the most welcome installation ceremonies but also one of the strangest in the history of the Church in Australia.”
The Apostolic Nuncio to Australia, His Excellency Most Reverend Adolfo Tito C. Yllana, read out the Apostolic Letter appointing the Most Reverend Mark Edwards OMI Bishop of Wagga Wagga, first in Latin, then in English.
Amongst those able to attend the Mass were a number of Civic Dignitaries including Deputy Prime Minister and Member for Riverina, Michael McCormack, Member for Wagga Wagga, Dr Joe McGirr PM, Mayor of Wagga Wagga, Greg Conkey OAM, and representatives of other churches, agencies and community groups.
A virtual choir of students from Catholic schools across the diocese performed “Insieme (Together)” via video as representatives of the clergy, religious and laity of the diocese and its agencies, civic and religious leaders, welcomed the Bishop to his new role as shepherd of the people of Wagga Wagga.
Bishop Edwards thanked the diocese for their patience over the years without a bishop and praised the efforts of Archbishop Prowse in overseeing the diocese.
“I’m grateful to the people and clergy of the diocese who have made me so welcome and who have prayed for a bishop of the diocese,”
“To be bishop of this diocese is a call from God through the church.”, he said.
After Communion, the Bishop thanked his family, friends, brother priests, and all those who weren’t able to attend today’s ceremony.
The Bishop’s Coat of Arms features the motto ‘Learn who you are in the eyes of God’ in both English and Wiradjuri. This is an appeal from St Eugene de Mazenod, founder of the Oblates to experience that we are beloved children of God and that He delights in us.
Bishop Edwards’ Homily
Mary Magdalene, grief-stricken, was looking for the body of Jesus and she comes to the gardener, as she thinks, to ask him for the body. The first reading puts this in the context of a lover looking for her beloved, searching everywhere. Jesus promises that she who seeks finds and Mary, the seeker, encounters the Risen Christ. It is an experience of deep and tender personal recognition. Mary knows and is known. “Mary” “Rabunni”. And the next line after the text of the first reading we are given is the bride holds her groom and won’t let him go. She wants to take him to her house, a clinging that Mary echoes in the Gospel. And, as much as Mary wants to meet Jesus, we know in faith that he much more wants true relationship with her.
Chiara Lubich must have had some similar encounter: “I would like to bear witness to the whole world that Jesus forsaken has filled every void, illumined all darkness, annulled every pain and wiped out every sin.”
How do we have this personal meeting with our Lord which we so deeply desire? Perhaps, sometimes we have to be pushed down onto our knees and almost forced to be open to this encounter. To know our own need and have the hunger of Mary Magdalene that searches and will not let go.
St Theresa of Avila is one of my favourite saints. For many years she was not a bad religious but not a great religious either and she wanted to be more, to be better. One day she came across a new statue of the scourging of our Lord and, moved to her depths, fell on her knees and said to our Lord “I am not leaving until you give me what I need.” And Our Lord was just waiting for this strength of desire; she became within perhaps 8 years a spiritual giant and for her sharing of this journey and experience, she is a doctor of the Church. One of my friends is praying for me that I have the clarity of she who was the first to recognise the Risen Christ. I pray for me and for you that we also hunger and thirst as she did, a renewed passion for the Lord Jesus.
I think of the many in our world, in our diocese, in our families who are searching and perhaps are mourning. The Gospel promises a fulness. How do we share and preach that fulness in a way that speaks to the hunger of our people for transcendence and fulness?
We can have courage as we worship and share our encounter because the Lord has arrived before us and is hard at work. Mary Magdalene, the apostle to the apostles, be with us as we navigate this mission and cling resolutely to Christ our Master. With you, we pray: “My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.”