When the Broken Bay diocese was erected back in 1986, firstly that unfortunate name was chosen. Who wants to be a part of a diocese with broken in its name? Yes, it was named for the major water way that runs through the geographic middle of the diocese.
Broken Bay and the national parklands that surround it are large. The minimum distance on the freeway between the Central Coast and the Northern Suburbs of Sydney is between Kariong and Waitara, that’s around 48kms, 30 miles, or 35 minutes driving time. It takes another 12-15 minutes to get from Kariong to either Gosford or Woy Woy, and longer for every other locality. Getting from The Entrance (one of the larger parishes) to Kariong is 37 minutes driving time.
And all of these driving times are for good driving conditions, no rain, no fog, no heavy traffic, no stalled traffic, no accidents, on 3 lanes of freeway in either direction. It is usual for Central Coast residents to allow a time buffer when heading down the freeway to Waitara and beyond. Good driving conditions are rather uncommon.
This is an active disincentive for Central Coast residents to attend diocesan events, which are usually held at Hornsby/Waitara, Pennant Hills, or sometimes Chatswood.
Then there is the cultural divide as well. Below Broken Bay (the waterway) there is affluence. Above Broken Bay (the water way) are areas of socio-economic disadvantage.
It took a long time for the Central Coast to be officially recognised as a region, and to get the kind of government funding that goes with that status. But it happened.
Then a few years ago, the two local government councils on the Central Coast were merged: Wyong Council and Gosford Council. It hasn’t been a smooth merger, and there’s been financial woes and an administrator appointed, but we do now have one council for the region.
Recently two more things have happened. The bishop decided that there should be a focus on the Central Coast and a series of consultations and opportunities to dream of better have been happening over the past few months. The other thing is that we used to have an upper Central Coast deanery and a lower Central Coast deanery. Now there is only one deanery for the whole Central Coast.
This seems to be part of a step by step preparation for the erection of a Central Coast diocese.
It would be the logical next step, and it would have a big positive impact on the Central Coast.
Obviously working together as a single deanery is going to take a while to get used to, and nothing like this seems to happen quickly. But it is a big step in the direction of becoming a diocese.
A quick glance at the Catholic Directory for Australia reveals that Broken Bay diocese is rather populous compared to other dioceses in the nation. Nowhere near Sydney, Parramatta and Melbourne for population size, but even a fifth of Broken Bay diocese would have more population (persons, and Catholic persons) than many other dioceses in Australia.
Therefore population-wise a Central Coast diocese is plausible.
We also have a lot of high-rise development along the railway corridor south of Broken Bay (the water way), which means there’s plenty of population to cover the loss of Central Coast population. At the same time, due to the rise in people working from home, and its relative affordability, the Central Coast is getting an increase in new residents – thereby also increasing the viability of becoming a diocese.
But the ability to produce sacramental and catechetical resources for Central Coast children and adults, in language which resonates with them – priceless.
And to be able to get to diocesan functions without having to brave the freeway – priceless.
And to be able to bring our young people together locally to prepare for things like World Youth Day pilgrimages, (without having to go to night meetings – because they are always at night – and then drive back on the freeway in night conditions, and then turn around and get up early for the 5.30am commuter train to the Sydney CBD for work or study) would make such a difference. The pilgrimage costs could be planned to suit Central Coast budgets too. – priceless.
Our young people would have their own identity rather than feeling like poor cousins at every Broken Bay diocesan gathering, where so many of the other young people from Broken Bay have attended select private schools, and are either studying at, or have graduated from, the best Sydney universities. – priceless.
O loving God, our highest and best good, if this is part of Your divine plan for the Central Coast region, make it happen. Amen.