Bishop Peter Ingham was surprised last week to receive a letter from Pope Francis congratulating him on his 50th anniversary as a priest on Friday 18 July 2014.
The letter from Pope Francis, in Latin, conveyed his good wishes and blessing upon Bishop Ingham, the clergy and the people of the Diocese of Wollongong.
Pope Francis wrote in the letter, “I send you this letter my venerable brother, because you will celebrate your 50th anniversary of your ordination to the priesthood. I wish to convey my good wishes to you for having consistently exercised the sacred ministry. For this you are to be congratulated…May the blessing be both to you and through you to your Vicars General and the Church community of your diocese. I very lovingly impart my Apostolic Blessing and ask from you prayers for me and my Petrine Ministry.”
When asked about the letter from Pope Francis, Bishop Ingham said, “I was honoured and delighted to receive the letter. I was especially touched that he called me his ‘brother’ because he too is a bishop and I lead the local diocese in communion with him leading the Church throughout the world.
“As my 50th anniversary comes closer, and as I get older, I have been reflecting on my life as a priest a lot more. I have come to appreciate the great honour that has been bestowed on me, firstly to be a priest and then a bishop. Even as a bishop I am fundamentally a priest and shepherd of God’s people just with a larger flock to serve and to bring into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
“I see my calling summed up in the attitude of the Apostles, Paul and Barnabas in the New Testament, who ‘put fresh heart into the disciples encouraging them to persevere in the faith.’(Acts 14:22) Like Pope Francis, I’ve come to appreciate that Joy is one of the fruits of the Spirit of God and I’ve always tried to be a priest with a sense of joy and good humour which can be a contagious way to spread the Gospel.”
Over thirty students from St Brigid’s Catholic Parish Primary School Gwynneville visited Bishop Ingham on Wednesday morning giving heartfelt speeches as well as a gift, cake and cards.
The cards contained hundreds of messages from all the students at St Brigid’s including Sophie and Olivia from Year 5 who wrote, “God has been with you for the 50 years of priesthood and may he continue to be with you forever. May you continue to be looked up to and follow in Jesus’ footsteps.”
Year 3 student, Malachi, wrote, “Congratulations! You must be very tired after all that. Happy 50 years.” Another Year 3 student, Ella, wrote, “I hope you have a special day and you are in my heart. Enjoy your day.”
Bishop Ingham was ordained into the priesthood on 18 July 1964 at St Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney by Cardinal Gilroy. In his early ministry in the Archdiocese of Sydney he served as Assistant Priest in Rosebery, Newtown, St Marys (near Penrith) and Auburn South. Then followed six years as Private Secretary to Cardinal Freeman and ten years as Secretary of the Archdiocese of Sydney.
He was nominated a Prelate of Honour (Monsignor) to Pope John Paul II in 1986. In 1990 he returned to parish ministry as Parish Priest of St Charles Ryde. During this time he also took on the duties of membership of the College of Consultors and the Council of Priests.
He was ordained as an Auxiliary Bishop of Sydney in 1993 by Cardinal Clancy and installed as the fourth Bishop of Wollongong on 25 July 2001 where he has been serving ever since.
The Lumen Christi Catholic Parishes Wollongong, encompassing the parishes of Wollongong, Fairy Meadow and Gwynneville were celebrating Bishop Ingham’s 50th anniversary at the 10.30am Mass at St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral, Wollongong on Sunday 20 July.
A special Diocesan Mass to commemorate Bishop Ingham’s anniversary will be celebrated at the Cathedral in September.
For media enquiries: Daniel Hopper, Diocesan Communications Coordinator
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