Bishop Peter Ingham is being remembered as a people’s bishop who brought unity to the church as well as sympathy to the victims of sexual abuse.
Father Ron Peters worked with Bishop Ingham very closely for 12 of his 16 years in the Diocese of Wollongong and described him as a great mentor who taught him people always come first.
“He has an extraordinary memory for people’s names and always makes sure he is available..to be with people who need support and visits his parishioners,” Fr Peters said.
“He has been one of the most proactive bishops of our time. He has brought healing to victims of abuse. And appearing at the Royal Commission he really put the best foot forward for the church in ensuring everyone was treated with dignity. He is also a stickler for protocols to protect the young and the elderly.”
Long time parishioner Kieran Biddle sits on the CatholicCare Council and is chair of the Diocesan Finance Council and described Bishop Ingham as a pastoral church leader who is very active and extremely hard working in a very large diocese stretching from the Illawarra to the South Coast and the Macarthur region.
“He is very humble and grounded with a genuine desire to help people. But he has got the best collection in Australia of terrible dad jokes”.
Mr Biddle said when the Royal Commission was happening it was clear how deeply and personally saddened he was for victims of sexual abuse.
He said protocol deems that when a bishop turns 75 they are obliged to submit a letter or resignation. The fact that Bishop Ingham was encouraged to stay for two years while the church found a replacement is a mark of how respected he is by the Vatican.
Patricia Calabro is a member of the Cathedral and Diocesan Choir and has been a scripture teacher all 16 years Bishop Ingham has been in the role. She will always remember him as a man who loves singing and basketball. “He is extremely personable with a genuine interest in people which is sometimes to his detriment. He never gets a quiet moment. We are going to miss him very much”.
Christy Honeysett said the legacy he will leave youth is also great in terms of his generosity of spirit and integrity. “He has been really good for us at a time when we needed a good shepherd”. Ms Honeysett is now a high school teacher but worked closely with the bishop as a youth and young adult coordinator when the Journey of the Cross and Icon arrived in the lead up to World Youth Day 2008.
“We had 31 parishes and 14 Catholic high schools at that time and the bishop was as involved as you could be in every single one of them”.
“He always wanted to be with his people and always genuine in wanting the best for people. It was a very busy time but he is just a very warm and pastoral man who is so interested in people. He was really open to trying new things and celebrating faith in new and vibrant ways. He was very interested in engaging young people with fresh opportunities. He always throws himself into everything with passion and enthusiasm.”
Anglican Bishop Peter Hayward said Bishop Ingham has served with distinction.
“He displayed a cheerful friendly exuberance matched with a servant hearted devotion to the service of God. Peter was unflagging in his friendliness and his deep concern that God be honoured in everyone’s lives. The Wollongong community has been deeply enriched by the ministry of Bishop Ingham. I wish him well in the next stage of his life.”
Illawarra Care Network coordinator Derek Thompson said Bishop Ingham supported ecumenical activities in the Illawarra and further afield after years as a delegate to the National Council of Churches, the NSW Ecumenical Council and the Australian Consultation on Liturgy.
He was involved in the formulation of the National Interchurch Covenant called Australian Churches Covenanting Together and in the Illawarra supported the Rise Up Illawarra organisation and other combined church initiatives.
Former Illawarra Connection president Roger Summerill recalled his strong interaction with the business community over the last 16 years. He described him as not only a great church leader within in his own denomination but one who had reached out to other denominations in a very positive way. “He is a very caring person with a great sense of humour”.
Member for Keira Ryan Park acknowledged both his contribution to the church and the community.
“Bishop Ingham has been part of our region in the good times and the bad and his caring nature and disposition will be missed,” Mr Park said.
Federal Member of Cunningham Sharon Bird noted his great care and concern for all people.
“I thank him for all his work for our local area over many years and always enjoyed his jokes that featured in nearly all addresses,” she said.