Father Peter Comensoli answers higher call

Happy tending to his flock at his sleepy Helensburgh parish, Father Peter Comensoli never sought out higher office.But when your spiritual leader taps you on the shoulder, the promotion is hard to refuse.Pope Benedict has hand-picked 47-year-old Fr Comensoli as auxiliary bishop to Sydney's Cardinal George Pell.He will become Australia's youngest bishop, and the first Wollongong priest given the role."It's a daunting appointment," Fr Comensoli admitted."Being a bishop is not something you get a hankering [for] … you can't just live a quiet little life in the parish and take it fairly easily."You have to be a figure in the life of the church and be an example to others."Wollongong born and bred, the surf-loving Fr Comensoli will join two other auxiliary bishops in helping Archbishop Pell carry out his duties across the sprawling Sydney Diocese.Educated at St Paul's College Bellambi (now Holy Spirit) and the University of Wollongong, where he studied commerce, Fr Comensoli began studying for the priesthood in 1986.He has spent 19 years in parishes across the Illawarra, peppered with trips to Rome and Scotland to further his theological studies."I'm a bit sad leaving Wollongong. I've had all my life here, except when I was away studying, but in the church you get called to all sorts of things," he told the Mercury.Fr Comensoli first knew change was afoot when he received a phone call two weeks ago from the Pope's Australian representative, Papal Nuncio Giuseppe Lazzarotto, who wanted to meet him.Suspecting he would be offered the post of bishop, Fr Comensoli thought and prayed hard before deciding he was up to the task."[I wondered] whether my own faith is strong enough to be an example to others, and whether I was willing to take up a more penitential life and whether I am worthy of taking on this role," he said."It is confronting when you are faced with that question."Fr Comensoli will be ordained at St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney on June 8, before embracing his new status as a bishop with apolistic zeal."People in Australian society have lost a sense of an outlook where God is important in their lives," he said."I see my role as someone who can say believing in Jesus Christ is … a way all human beings can move towards fulfilment of their lives."

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