Changing of the guard for Archdiocesan Vicar General position
Archbishop Christopher Prowse recently announced Vicar General Fr Tony Percy would be taking up a new role as the parish priest of St Gregory’s, Queanbeyan. In his place, Fr Richard Thompson would be the Archdiocese’s new Vicar General starting 17 January 2023.
The Catholic Voice recently spoke to both clerics about their thoughts on the role.
Father Tony Percy
Fr Tony Percy was appointed as Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn in November 2014.
Ordained in 1990, Fr Tony has served the Archdiocese in a number of locations, including Young, Queanbeyan, Goulburn, and Wanniassa. He has completed a Licentiate and Doctorate from the John Paul II Pontifical Institute in Washington, D.C. In 2009 he was appointed Rector of the Seminary of the Good Shepherd in Homebush, NSW, where he remained for six years.
What were the highlights from your time as Vicar General?
I think the word is trust. The bishop places his trust in you to be the Vicar General. The Vicar General shares in the authority of the bishop as an apostle, as a shepherd, and as the chief pastor of the Archdiocese. You help him as best you can. So when he asks you to do the job, he trusts you. That’s a magnificent thing. If you lose trust, then you’ve lost everything.
The second highlight would be the people I’ve worked with who try to help the bishop and Archdiocese be the best bishop and diocese we can be. That’s the priests and parishes because that’s what the diocese is constructed of – its people.
In order to do that, you need really good people around you and I’ve had the best of teams around me. I’ve worked very closely with the financial administrator Helen Delahunty. That’s been a real highlight. And the other people in the office have been really, really good. You have your ups and downs, as every workplace does, but there’s a fantastic culture here. That’s something to be proud of and to be grateful for.
The personal realisation that your own strengths are really your own weaknesses. You bring your own strengths to jobs. You realise pretty quickly they’re aligned very closely with your own weakness. That’s not a surprise. It’s a discovery, I suppose, but a nice discovery.
We’ve had challenges with COVID and the Royal Commission [ into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse]. The latter is finished, but the challenge remains to do the best you can to create a culture where it is never going to happen again.
Life itself is a surprise, full of joys and sorrows. It’s the same with the Catholic Church, with people who are just human beings. You tend to deal with many challenging issues and problems, which probably surprises you sometimes. Yet, incredible things can happen that surprise. If you develop a collective ego in a workforce like this, it’s amazing what gets achieved when people are not ego driven themselves. They’re actually trying to satisfy the mission as a team. If you can do that, it’s really, really impressive.
No, not really. You’ve only got so much energy and you’ve got to direct your energy in a certain way. The people in the secular world would say the same thing.
Father Richard Thompson
Well known as the parish priest at Our Lady Help of Christians, South Woden, Fr Richard is an adult convert to Catholicism. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1985. Among his earlier roles, he is a former Royal Australian Navy chaplain, a parish priest at St Mary’s in Young, and the Dean of the Archdiocese’s Southern Deanery. He has master’s degrees in Psychology and in Business Administration and has studied and lectured in the UK and the USA. He is also the Archbishop’s Apostolic Delegate to the Catholic Military Ordinariate of Australia and will continue in that role alongside his Vicar General and parish duties.
How did you react to your appointment as Vicar General?
Naturally, I was apprehensive, but once I talked with the Archbishop and Fr Tony I think I was overwhelmingly humbled. And that is still with me. I don’t get a sense I am out of my depth or anything like that simply because of the trust that the Archbishop and his leadership team here have put in supporting my position. No regrets or anything. Once the fog lifts, the adventure will be revealed!
What challenges do you see for the role?
I don’t see great challenges at the moment. They will be revealed simply because, as I said, of the team, I’m going to be working with and the trust certainly that the Archbishop has put in me.
Fr Percy has led this mission in a really challenging time with the royal commission and then COVID. He’s done an enormous job. [But] I’m not thinking in terms of the big boots I’ve got to fill. Not at all. I just appreciate the door is wide open for lots of opportunity and a lot of light there. Fr Tony is not going anywhere. He’ll be on speed dial!
He’s also introduced me to several of Australia’s Vicars-General. I had that opportunity and that was a really good thing to do on a personal level. I got to meet and have a meal with them. Some of them I already knew, but now they know me a little more. That will allow me to make personal and professional contact for the wisdom I will gain from them.