Fr O'Kelly, 64, today said he was surprised but honoured at his appointment, announced last night in Canberra by the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Ambrose De Paoli.
"I was completely astonished because this is quite out of the ordinary for a Jesuit to be appointed to this position so it took me totally by surprise," Fr O'Kelly said. "It is an honour to be asked to serve the Adelaide people in this way."
He will become the first Jesuit bishop in Australian history, in a year that marks the centenaries of Jesuit founders, St Ignatius Loyola and St Francis Xavier, and 150 years of Jesuit education in South Australia.
In a letter to St Ignatius' College staff and students, the head of the Australian Jesuits, Fr Mark Raper, describes how Fr O'Kelly first learned of his appointment: "On the evening of Sunday 18 June, your Headmaster, Fr Greg O'Kelly SJ, received a completely unexpected phone call from the Papal Nuncio, who after some initial comments informed him, 'The Pope has appointed you Auxiliary Bishop of Adelaide.'"
Born and raised in Adelaide, Fr O'Kelly entered the Jesuit order in 1959 and was ordained a priest in 1972. He is a distinguished figure in Catholic education throughout Australia, having served in leadership roles in Australian Jesuit schools for more than 30 years.
Fr O'Kelly says he hopes to bring an outlook of hope, faith and meaning, gained in the ministry of teaching, to the wider Archdiocese.
''I think schooling is a ministry of hope. It's faith in the child, that the child is worthwhile; it's faith in the culture, that the culture's worth transmitting, and it's faith in the future, that the future is worth preparing people for,'' he said.
"I hope that I can work with the priests, Archbishop and families of the diocese to give young people a sense of meaning in their lives, based on values, hope and faith."
Archbishop of Adelaide Philip Wilson, who is also President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, welcomed Fr O'Kelly's appointment.
"I am delighted Pope Benedict XVI has appointed Fr Greg O'Kelly," Archbishop Wilson said.
"He brings to the Episcopate the fruits of his Jesuit formation and experience. He has also been well prepared for this new role by his diverse experience and leadership in Catholic education throughout Australia. I look forward to working closely with him as we face the challenges in the Archdiocese and our state," he said.
After his Episcopal ordination in September, Fr O'Kelly will work closely with Archbishop Wilson.
Meanwhile, across the Tasman Sea, Benedict XVI has appointed Msgr Barry Jones, currently parish priest of Greymouth, to be the Coadjutor Bishop of Christchurch.
A member of the Council of Priests and of the Bishop's College of Consultors for the diocese, he is a member of the Christchurch Commission for Justice and Peace, and for 15 years worked in the diocesan Maori Mission.
It is expected that his ordination as bishop will take place some time in October.
Pope Benedict appoints Father Greg O'Kelly as Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Adelaide (St Ignatius College, Press Release)
Catholic Communications Adelaide
First Australian Jesuit bishop (Province Express 6/7/06)
Message to St ignatius College, Adelaide (Province Express 6/7/06)
We have a new coadjutor bishop (Catholic Church, NZ 29/6/06)
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4 Jan 2007