Cardinal George Pell has led tributes to Bishop William Brennan, the fourth Bishop of Wagga Wagga, who died on Saturday after a long illness, aged 75, reports The Australian.
Cardinal Pell said Bishop Brennan was a 'game-changer' who rolled back the post-modern tide in the Church in Australia in the 1980s and 1990s. He added that he was a polymath and 'an interesting and outstanding bishop who was tough on himself and on others. He launched John Paul II's retrieval program in Australia.'
Respected by Catholics as 'a genuine shepherd, not a sheep,' his legacy remains the best priests-people ratio in Australia and by far the youngest clergy. At a time of priest shortages when the average age of priests in most areas exceeds 60, almost half of Wagga Wagga's plentiful supply of clergy are in their 30s and 40s.
Frustrated by the disarray, dwindling numbers and occasional scandals over excessive drinking and homosexuality among students in capital city seminaries in the 1980s and 1990s, Bishop Brennan, a graduate of Rome's prestigious Pontifical Urban University, set up his own seminary, Vianney College in Wagga Wagga, in 1992. It was a controversial move, tipped by most of his colleagues to fail.
It began with nine students and taking the reins himself as Rector, Bishop Brennan ran it along traditional lines with daily Mass, prayers and a rigorous scholarly and spiritual formation. Initially, he taught the students, lived there and linked it to his Roman alma mater and Charles Sturt University.
Within a few years, bolstered by interstate students who preferred it to the post-modernism laxity of other seminaries, its numbers outstripped those of the seminaries in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane and the Adelaide seminary, which eventually closed. Vianney College now teaches 20 trainee priests for the dioceses of Wagga Wagga, Lismore and Armidale.
Details of the obsequies for Bishop Brennan:
Reception of the Body and Vigil - 7pm at St Michael's Cathedral on Thursday 5 September.
Mass of Christian Burial - 11.30am on Friday 6 September.
Cardinal Pell pays tribute to 'game-changer' Brennan (The Australian)
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