'Lonely' Lismore bishop can't quit, even if he wanted to
THE sixth bishop of Lismore, father Gregory Homeming, is a humble man who has carried a burden of loneliness ever since taking the big job at the Lismore Diocese in February 2017.
He has raised some eyebrows by joking during sermons about him not being very happy in the job, and he admits he took a while to get used to the expectations and the pace of his new role.
"When I first became a bishop I would go home at night and I was very lonely, but people would call me up, even my cousin would call me and ask me if I was okay," he said.
"I'm fine because I knew that if I tried to run away from my loneliness I could never be the bishop of Lismore.
"After a year I started to getting used to it. Now it does not bother me."
Despite that, Bishop Homeming admitted it was not actually possible for him to quit his job.
"I have a vow of obedience that others don't have," he said.
"I don't want to be important, so could I resign.
"But if I offered my resignation, the Pope would look to me and would say 'I think you are doing a good job. No. Don't be stupid'.
"I don't want to resign because I want to do what God wants me to do.
"But I do joke about it sometimes."
He admitted learning how to be a bishop and finding his place within the role took him a while.
"A man that gets married does not go to university to learn how to be a husband. You don't do a degree on how to be a father, a priest or a bishop," he said.
"This is about relationships with people, responding to needs and being there for people and you can't study that."
When asked if he is considering quitting the role, Bishop Homening chuckled.
"Let me tell you where I'm coming from: I'm a discalced Carmelite, which means that I am a contemplative, and for 30-something years I lived a monastic, contemplative life," he said.
"So of course my heart is in that.
"We would be in the monastery for three-and-a-half or four hours a day praying, and helping people through spirituality.
"Then, of no doing of mine, it was the choice of God, I've been made a bishop and, of course, the first thing was the different way of living - the living alone rather than in a community, not having the same time for prayer, I get about two hours of prayer a day now."
He said it was a big change for him, "but after 18 months I would be sad if I was moved out of Lismore, because of the people".
Bishop Homeming said he was aware the Catholic and the wider community had come to care for him.
"Many of the people love me, I know that," he said.
"Many of the priests are good men and care for me.
"The goodness of the people that I meet makes me know for sure that God wants me to be here.
"It doesn't mean that it's not without difficulty, because it's like being taken away from your family, but I say to my staff 'you are now becoming my family'.
"I care for my priests and my staff and my people. I'm beginning to feel that sense of family which I now have.
"People ask me, 'do you enjoy being a bishop?' and I think, what a stupid thing to ask.
"You would not become a bishop if you wanted to enjoy yourself.
"But if they ask me, 'are you happy?'... now I am, yes."