BISHOP-elect Fr Mark Edwards OMI said
that he was both humbled and enthusiastic about becoming Auxiliary Bishop of
Melbourne for the Eastern Region.
The 55-year-old Oblate priest was
appointed Auxiliary Bishop by Pope Francis on Friday 7 November and will be ordained on Wednesday 17 December.
‘The people of God have been very good to
me over the years and I am sure the people in the Eastern Region will be also.
I will get to make a lot of friends. I have 70 parishes to look after there, so
to all those future friends I don’t know yet, I look forward to catching up
with them,’ Fr Edwards said.
‘I would love to support and encourage
the priests in the Eastern Region to whatever extent I can, to thank them for
the work that they are doing, to let them know that they are loved and not out
there on their own.
‘I would hope that as much as I can I
will bring a connection with Jesus and with what holiness I have to help people
feel connected to Jesus.’
said he hoped his life as both a teacher and an Oblate would help him in this
role to ‘speak in a way that young people can understand’ and to have an ear
and a heart for formation.
‘I’ve worked in our seminary [in
Brisbane] for 12 years, so formation has been helping people grow up to be not
only good men but men of faith—resilient, courageous, faith-filled—things that
I hope I can bring with me.’
One of four children, Fr Edwards was born
in Balikpapan, Indonesia, on 14 June 1959.
His father grew up in Whyalla, South
Australia, and after graduating from Adelaide University, worked for Shell
International in Holland.
‘My father fell in love with a Dutch girl
over there, and as part of their moving we ended up in Indonesia and lived out
in the wilds in a tiny village,’ Fr Edwards said. ‘I was born in Balikpapan,
where the nearest hospital was. Myself and my brother were born there. Dad then
had a choice to become an Indonesian citizen or to move back to Australia.’
settling in Melbourne, Fr Edwards’ father asked Shell to allow him and his
family to remain settled in Melbourne, ‘which meant no more promotions for him
either, which was very kind of dad’, Fr Edwards explained.
Fr Edwards was
educated at Mazenod College, Mulgrave, where he spent six years and where he
‘met the Oblates’.
completion of his final year at school, he attended Monash University in
Clayton for three years, completing his Bachelor degree in Science.
Novitiate of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, Mulgrave, in 1980, he
studied at Catholic Theological College, making his final religious profession
on 17 February 1984, and was ordained a priest on 16 August 1986.
‘I joined the
Oblates to be a missionary but my first appointment was at Mazenod College. So,
having lived all around the world, I’ve lived a lot in Mulgrave!
‘Mum was a
Catholic and Catholics from Holland in those days were very loyal to the
Church. Dad is an Anglican and a practising Anglican who used to go to church
every Sunday, and that was really important to me.
‘Mum’s faithfulness and love of the
Church and Dad’s love of Jesus and his preparedness to live that out publicly
both strongly helped me in my formation.
‘A number of Oblates taught me at Mazenod
College; they were very friendly with us—I regarded them as friends and I saw
how they lived. I remember when I was in grade five I said to God, “if this
works out—something that must have been important to me at the time—I will
become a priest.”
‘I looked at the Oblates and the work
they were doing; I saw how they lived and the community they were in and I
thought I would love to be a part of that community and a part of that
lifestyle. I’ve been a part of this community since 1980 and I’ve never been
Fr Edwards has since worked as a teacher,
novice master and lecturer in Melbourne. Between 2001 and 2012 Fr Edwards
served as counsellor of the Australian Province of the Oblates of Mary
Immaculate. In 2010 he became rector of Iona College in Brisbane, which he is
‘very sad to be leaving’.
When things become overwhelming, Fr
Edwards said he took heed of advice from former Oblates vicar general and
recently retired Archbishop of Chicago, Cardinal Francis George OMI: ‘You don’t
have to be the priest your mother wants you to be or your parish priest wants
you to be. You only have to be the priest that Jesus wants you to be.’
‘In some ways that’s frightening because
that’s a very high standard. But in other ways it’s very freeing because you
only have to please one person,’ Fr Edwards said.
‘Jesus always seems to have me ready for the next step when
I get there.’
Picture courtesy of Iona College