Bishop Les Tomlinson hands over to Fr Shane Mackinlay.
Photo: ANDREW PERRYMAN

THE incoming Bishop of Sandhurst has promised to deliver a collaborative style of leadership to the role that draws on his strong pastoral skills and teaching experience, ahead of his expected installation in October.

Pope Francis appointed the Very Reverend Associate Professor Shane Mackinlay as the eighth Bishop of Sandhurst on Tuesday night, following confirmation of Bishop Leslie Tomlinson’s retirement.

Fr Mackinlay, the current Master of Catholic Theological College Melbourne and a parish priest in Ballarat, said his appointment came as a welcome surprise.

“It was unexpected but not completely astonishing. People have been suggesting for years that I am someone who is likely at some point to be considered to be a bishop, and I am in significant leadership roles.”

He said he has not been expecting to be asked to take on the role of a Bishop, and moreover, not in Sandhurst.

“It’s not the sort of thing you apply for and in fact Sandhurst wasn’t even vacant until last night. I knew that Bishop Les was approaching his 75th birthday, but in good health… and it’s not unusual for bishops to continue for a couple of years.”

Fr Mackinlay had been committed to a new term as head of the college in Melbourne, but now turns his attention and energies to leading the Diocese of Sandhurst in a challenge he described as exciting, daunting, and with lots of unknowns.

Australian Catholic Bishops Conference president Archbishop Mark Coleridge said Bishop-elect Mackinlay combines high intelligence with good strategic ability, deep faith with a capacity to engage the culture, which will make him a fine Bishop.

Born in Melbourne in 1965, Fr Mackinlay and his family moved to Ballarat 10 years later. He attended St Francis Xavier Primary School and St Patrick’s College, where he was dux.

In addition to his study for the priesthood at Corpus Christi College and at Catholic Theological College, he completed a physics degree at Monash University, and ordained a priest of Ballarat Diocese in 1991.

He also undertook graduate studies in philosophy, completing a master’s and doctorate at the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium.

Fr Mackinlay taught philosophy at the Australian Catholic University campus in Ballarat before moving to Catholic Theological College, where he has been Master since 2011.

He has held a range of leadership and advisory roles within Ballarat Diocese.

He also served as spokesperson for the Catholic Church during the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and Other Organisations.

Fr Mackinlay said he enjoyed the pastoral engagement that comes from being a parish priest and being part of people’s lives.

“I love teaching and also being involved with people in their local parish communities and I very much look forward to continuing those two ministries in a different way in my new role.

“I’ve greatly enjoyed being a priest in the Ballarat diocese and I’m very pleased that I can continue my ministry among the people of regional Victoria.”

Fr Mackinlay said the role of bishop is not just one job.

“There are many different dimensions to the job and I can see teaching parts to the job, I can see leadership parts to the job, I can see administrative parts… I can see parts that are clearly very pastoral.”

Fr Mackinlay said he had observed Bishop Tomlinson’s “generous and diligent service” in Sandhurst over those years and was grateful for the welcome Bishop Tomlinson has extended to him as his successor.

Bishop-Elect Mackinlay’s episcopal ordination is expected to be held at the Sacred Heart Cathedral, on Wednesday, October 16.

– Peter Kennedy