A Tribute to Archbishop John Bathersby

Following the retirement of Archbishop Rush, I remember well the appointment of Bishop John Bathersby (Cairns) to succeed him as Archbishop of Brisbane in 1991. What a joy! Over the years, I had got to know the new Archbishop in his role as the Spiritual Director of the Seminary in Brisbane and then as Bishop of Cairns. His installation as Archbishop of Brisbane coincided with NET training, and it was an inspirational moment for all the NET teams to be present for that event in the Cathedral of St. Stephen.

That was the beginning of a long relationship with NET Ministries. For us, Archbishop John was very much “the good shepherd” and always interested and encouraging in what we were doing. He was with us for NET Commissioning Masses; he helped us in gaining canonical recognition; he sat with the newly established Board of NET Ministries while we took those early steps forward; he hosted the NET Fundraising Dinners and he was always very available to us whenever we needed wise counsel. Bishops have many responsibilities and I hope we never took for granted the incredible generosity he showed towards us.

Archbishop Bathersby had a strong commitment in supporting young people. This was evident in his constant reaching out to the youth of the Archdiocese in major gatherings and rallies as well as through the pilgrimages of World Youth Day (WYD). He would gladly give up his creature comforts to accompany young people on their journey of faith and saw the value of just being with them in their experiences. His strength as a mountain climber stood him in good stead for his many youthful pilgrimage journeys. We travelled on the same plane back from WYD in Rome and it was by accident I found him in the back of the plane in some serious pain from his sciatica. However, he was not deterred; he was there to accompany his young pilgrims – pain or no pain. I spoke to him after we returned home and he told me how touched he was by the young people, and how they encouraged him in his ministry.

We give thanks to God for a good man, a kind man, a man who loved Jesus Christ and who was a good shepherd to his people. Rest in peace dear friend.

Shayne Bennett

Founding Executive Director of NET Ministries Australia

Photo: Shayne and Shanelle Bennett with Archbishop John Bathersby.

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