Students and staff from 13 Catholic schools in the Port Pirie Diocese gathered at St Mark’s College to farewell Bishop Greg O’Kelly SJ prior to his official retirement last month.
This followed a thanksgiving Mass for Catholic Education staff and school leaders in St Mark’s Cathedral, where a guard of honour was made for the Bishop’s entrance and principals held their school candles.
Those gathered offered heartfelt thanks for Bishop O’Kelly and his dedicated and integral leadership of the diocese, and also for his past leadership within Catholic Education SA.
At the assembly the following day, Year 3 students provided a dramatic representation of the work of a bishop and hampers comprising regional produce from around the diocese were presented to him by student representatives.
Nichii Mardon, director of Catholic Education SA Port Pirie Diocese, expressed the community’s “deep gratitude for the kind, inspiring and invested leadership that Bishop Greg has generously shared with us over many years”.
“Bishop Greg knows each of our Catholic schools across our beautiful, vast diocese – its people, its context and the gift that each brings to the broader community,” she said.
“Bishop Greg’s influence as a strong and gentle shepherd, of his vision and advocacy for regional Catholic education, and as a notable educational leader will continue as a lasting legacy for each of us.”
Ms Mardon said Bishop O’Kelly had served tirelessly over the past 11 years as a strong leader of faith, strengthening existing and initiating new forms of ministry in parish life, aged care, prison ministry and outreach.
“Bishop Greg knows the gift that young people are to our diocese, our schools and to we grown-ups who have so much to learn from you,” she told students.
“Bishop Greg, the impact you have had on all of us here and all those we represent is profound.
“Thank you for all that you have been, that you are and that you will continue to be in new ways. May God bless you as you transition merrily and gently out of this role.”
In his final message to the people of Port Pirie Diocese, published in The Witness, Bishop O’Kelly quoted the French writer Bernanos who said “to part is to die a little”.
“It is not possible to mix one’s life with others, especially when they constitute a variety of warm and outgoing communities, and not feel sad upon leaving their midst,” he wrote.
“Thank you for what you have given me. Being amongst you has reinforced my family roots, but you have privileged me by adding me to the circle of your affection, just as you do with all our priests and Religious. This is humbling.”
Reproduced with permission from The Southern Cross, the online news publication of the Catholic Archdiocese of Adelaide.