Pope Francis has officially accepted the resignation of Bishop Gerard Holohan after 22 years of leading the Diocese of Bunbury.
Perth Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB has been appointed Apostolic Administrator effective 12noon Friday 30 June.
Bishop Holohan became the fourth bishop of the diocese after being appointed by Pope John Paul II in 2001, the longest serving Bishop in Australia.
Bishop Holohan was born and baptised on the 5 September 1947 and educated by the Sisters of Mercy at Our Lady Help of Christians Primary School in Perth, and by the Christian Brothers, first at St Francis Xavier College, then at the Christian Brothers’ College, St George’s Terrace and later at Trinity College
He entered St Charles Seminary Guildford in 1965 for philosophical studies, and then moved to St Francis Xavier Seminary, Adelaide in 1968 to study theology.
Ordained to the priesthood on 4 September 1971 by Perth Archbishop Launcelot Goody. He was initially appointed to serve in the Cottesloe parish before serving in the parish of Subiaco until 1975.
In 1980, he became chaplain and religious education coordinator at Newman College and in 1981, he was appointed Director of Religious Education. He also served as Governor of the University of Notre Dame Australia.
Bishop Holohan was appointed as Bishop of Bunbury by Pope John Paul II on 11 June 2001, replacing Bishop Peter Quinn who retired in 2000. He was ordained a bishop and installed on 5 September 2001, becoming the fourth Bishop of Bunbury.
In a letter to the Diocese Sunday 2 July, Bishop Holohan said when he was informed that Pope St John Paul II had appointed him Bishop of Bunbury, it was a shock and a bolt out of the blue.
“However, I was soon inspired by the priests and people of the Diocese,” Bishop Holohan said.
“I could not believe the Diocese was so blessed as to have a community of Carmelite Sisters. These have been a spiritual powerhouse in the Diocese for more than forty years,” he said.
“I was deeply grateful too for the welcome and support that I received. I was inspired too by the pastoral professionalism of staff in the Diocesan office, and their humility.
Bishop Holohan explained to The Record that he had some familiarity with the Diocese, having been Director of Religious Education at Catholic Education for several years prior to his appointment as Bishop.
Among the many ministries undertaken by people across the Diocese that moved him, Bishop Holohan, made special mention of those who care for the sick and the elderly; youth and those seeking greater depth of faith; those in prison and seafarers and those addicted to drugs and mothers in crisis because of pregnancy.
“These are some examples of what struck me when I arrived – there were many others.
Bishop Holohan recalled that when he first arrived in the Diocese, there were only some five major nationalities among the Catholic population.
“There are now more than 40, all of which contribute in various ways in building the faith among their communities,” he said.
With a diocese more than half the size of Victoria, Bishop Holohan was responsible for some 26 parishes, two of which he created during his time as Bishop.
“I will always remember the joy of getting to know the people, baptising their children, and then later being the celebrant at the wedding, being a shepherd to them during their times of trial but also rejoicing with them,” Bishop Holohan said.
With a diocese more than half the size of Victoria, and 26 parishes, Bishop Holohan recalled he had the pleasure of creating two parishes during his time.
“I was also very blessed to have ordained 14 priests over the 22 years, which included ordinations in the Phillipines for religious orders based here in Bunbury.
“I will always remember the great blessing I had of getting to know the people, getting to know their lives, baptising their children, conferring the sacraments of the Eucharist and Confirmation and celebrating their marriages.
Bishop Holohan also spoke about the experience of having the re-build the Cathedral and precint, following the devastating storm in 2005.
“I am forever grateful to all the people who showed so much generosity and spirit in coming together to re-build our Cathedral precint as a home for all,” he said.
“It was a huge task, but we allowed the Lord to guide us and he did.”
Two other important aspects of Bishop Holohan’s ministry has been his role as Director of Religious Education with Catholic Education Western Australia and also as Vicar for Faith Formation for the Archdiocese of Perth, prior to his becoming Bishop of Bunbury.
While Bishop of Bunbury, he was also Chair of the Catholic Education Commission, in addition to serving on the National Catholic Education Commission.
“I am extremely proud of the work we did to incorporate Catholic Education, ensuring all the responsibilities are clear, with appropriate legal standing,” Bishop Holohan explained.
“It created a more effective structure, and in the long term will make it a more evangelising structure.
“And it was always a pleasure to see the development of new schools, creating better opportunities for our youth who are the future of the Church.”
Bishop Holohan also highlighted that he has been inspired by the wonderful fraternity he enjoyed with the priests and clergy, especially those ministering in more distant and isolated parishes.
“I was struck by my first experience of permanent deacons, especially their spirit of humility and service. Then there were Deacon’s wives who became involved often in their work and who supported their husbands and even many others,” Bishop Holohan said.
“I was struck too by the wonderful dedication of those who led and served in our Catholic schools, especially the small and less resourced ones.
“So often too they suffer as scapegoats for family and parish inadequacies regarding the sharing of the faith,” he said.
While he retires from his responsibilities as a Bishop of the Diocese, Bishop Holohan has said he will continue as a priest in the Diocese as Emeritus Bishop and will do his best in assisting the new Bishop with tasks when he is appointed, as he wishes.
“I will also assist Archbishop Costelloe, as I have said, in tasks with which he may need help,” Bishop Holohan concluded.