NZ Catholic put some questions to Bishop Michael Dooley about his future ministry. The questions and answers are below.
What would you list as your main priorities as Bishop of Dunedin?
My main priority is pastoral care of the people of this diocese. An important aspect of this is pastoral care of the priests so that they can effectively minister the Gospel. We are blessed with parishes and schools that witness to Christ and I will strive to encourage them to continue on and find new ways to do this.
You are the third Bishop of Dunedin in a row to hail from Southland. What is it about Southland that it keeps producing such men of faith?
I am probably the wrong person to ask as I have never really dwelt on that question but perhaps the close connection to the land and sense of community can help to nurture a sense of the sacred and a desire to serve.
In your new life as a bishop, what will you miss about parish life?
I will miss the people who have been like another family for me. The daily and weekly connection in the Eucharist with parishioners has been a real source of grace for me. The sorrows of funerals, the joys of Baptisms and marriages have been special times of connection in faith with many different people.
According to media reports, among your hobbies are running marathons, building model steam engines and following thoroughbred horse racing. Do you expect you will be able to maintain these pastimes as bishop?
My days of running marathons may be over although I may have another half marathon in me. I hope to turnout for the Taieri running club when I am home on a Saturday so I definitely plan to keep running. My interest in engineering and appreciation of horses will surely remain but I will not a have great deal of time to spend on them. What is the most important thing you have learned from your predecessor Bishop Colin Campbell that prepares you for life as bishop? Bishop Colin is a very prayerful man and I am reminded that daily prayer is the most important way for me to keep on the right track and to keep the person of Jesus before me in my ministry.
What would you say to a young man interested in becoming a priest in your diocese?
I would encourage him to take the plunge and listen in prayer for God’s call to priesthood. It is not an easy life, it would be dishonest to say otherwise, but it is a very fulfilling life that provides great opportunities for growth and grace.
What can you tell people about how Dunedin diocese is meeting the challenge in terms of servicing diocesan debt for a diocese of its size?
A diocese has to live within its means otherwise increasing financial stress becomes the focus rather than the mission of the Gospel. As a diocese we have had to stop running at a deficit and decisions were made last year that achieved that.