Seven months after the retirement of Perth's Archbishop Barry Hickey in June 2011, on his reaching 75, Benedict XVI named Bishop Timothy Costelloe SDB, a Melbourne auxiliary bishop, as his successor on 20 February 2012. He was the eighth Bishop and fifth Archbishop of Perth. The installation ceremony took place on 21 March in Perth's St Mary's Cathedral.
Archbishop Costelloe, who is no stranger to Perth, has some particularly big shoes to fill given Archbishop Hickey's outstanding leadership over an almost 20 year period, notably his successful promotion of priestly vocations, his creative approaches to evangelisation and his courageous public stances in defence of marriage, family and human life.
The new Archbishop is impressively qualified for his formidable responsibilities, and is one of several distinguished religious order priests who have been consecrated bishops in recent years.
Archbishop Costelloe was born in Melbourne in 1954, educated at Saint Peter's parish primary school, East Bentleigh, and at Salesian College, Chadstone, from where he matriculated in 1971.
After working in a variety of jobs he undertook a teacher training course at Christ College in Melbourne, which he interrupted in 1977 to join the Salesian Order. He made his first profession as a Salesian on 31 January 1978 and graduated from Christ College at the end of that year. He was ordained a priest on 25 October 1986.
After three years as Religious Education Coordinator at Salesian College, Chadstone, he was transferred to Rome where he completed a Licentiate in Sacred Theology at the Salesian Pontifical University in 1991. Upon returning to Melbourne he began lecturing in Systematic Theology at the Catholic Theological College and worked in the area of the formation of young Salesians.
In 1996 he was transferred to Perth where he was parish priest at Saint Joachim's, Victoria Park, and lecturer at the University of Notre Dame, Fremantle, while at the same time completing his doctorate in Theology from the Melbourne College of Divinity. In 1998 he attended the Synod for Oceania in Rome as Archbishop Hickey's theological adviser.
Returning to Melbourne in mid-1999 he was appointed as Rector of the Salesian formation community in 2000 and resumed teaching commitments at Catholic Theological College while also serving as parish priest in two Melbourne parishes. On 15 June 2007 he was consecrated as an auxiliary bishop for the Melbourne Archdiocese.
In the years following, Bishop Costelloe took up a host of important responsibilities: Episcopal Vicar for Tertiary Education, Chair of the Catholic Education Commission of Victoria, Chair of the Mannix College Council, Chair of the Advisory Board of the Archbishop's Office for Evangelization, and the Archbishop's delegate for Youth Ministry in the Archdiocese of Melbourne.
His work in youth ministry was particularly impressive according to one of his Salesian colleagues.
He was also an Adjunct Professor at the Australian Catholic University and, in the Bishops Conference, a member of the Bishops Commission for Doctrine and Morals and the Bishops Commission for Catholic Education.
Following the news of his appointment, the Archbishop-elect said that it was "with a sense of gratitude and humility, and also a certain trepidation, that I take up my new position as Archbishop of the Catholic Archdiocese of Perth in Western Australia." He added that he was "very grateful to his Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, for the confidence he has shown in me by appointing me to this role. It is both a privilege and a joy to follow in the footsteps of Archbishop Hickey who has led the Catholic community of Perth with energy, enthusiasm and compassion."
Archbishop Costelloe said he hoped to be a "strong and positive voice for the Church in Perth."
Archbishop Denis Hart of Melbourne, in offering his congratulations on the appointment, said that Bishop Costelloe had given generous service in Melbourne and Perth and that his priestly gifts and his broad leadership in the Church would provide great service to the people of Perth.
Archbishop Hickey, commenting on the appointment of his successor, said that his own role as a Church leader had required tackling the increasingly difficult task of taking the Christian message to an increasingly secular society. It was vital the Catholic Church continued to hold onto its high moral and spiritual standards: "That fight to preserve our standards, our vision of morality, our vision of human sexuality, is still a challenge, more a challenge now than it was when I started."
It is obvious that particular thought has gone into the recent selections of new bishops for the many vacant Australian dioceses. The latest appointments to Perth, Sandhurst and Armidale have been a promising start as we await the names of new bishops for Ballarat, Hobart, Brisbane, Rockhampton and Toowoomba. In addition, two new auxiliary bishops are needed for Melbourne.
The leadership challenges for Australia's bishops grow by the year: internally, to re-evangelise the Catholic community in the schools and parishes; and, externally, to articulate Christian values fearlessly in the face of secularist rejections of religious freedom and impositions of morally evil policies, as has been all too evident in Western Europe, the USA and Canada.