Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
25 May 2012
For many years Vicar-General of the Archdiocese, the sports-loving priest became Administrator after former Archbishop Mark Coleridge was installed as Archbishop of Brisbane earlier this month.
As a young priest, Msgr Woods studied at Ottawa's St Paul's University in Canada and on his return to Australia in 1985 was appointed full-time Director of the Archdiocese of Canberra-Goulburn's Marriage Tribunal but took on an additional role as chaplain to the Raiders, ACT's beloved rugby league team.
"Back then only two NRL teams had chaplains. The first was the Penrith Panthers and the Raiders was the second," he says explaining the position is an ecumenical appointment under the auspices of Sports Chaplaincy Australia. "The Raiders' first chaplain was an Anglican priest, but after serving a year he was transferred and he asked me if I'd be interested in taking over."
"Being chaplain to the Raiders is not an official position, there's no pay involved and I have nothing to do with team selections. It's more about relationships and being someone who is a constant, someone who's always around and willing to listen and have a yarn," he says. "I'm, the 'go to person', the one players or support staff might turn to for a friendly chat or when something is bothering them and they need a bit of counselling and advice."
Msgr Woods says: "God comes to you disguised as your life" and is convinced openness to matters of faith and the yearning for "something more of life" can emerge from within the easy-going friendly setting established between himself and members of the Raiders.
An enthusiastic follower of the NRL, AFL as well as being a rugby union player in his youth, Msgr Woods laughs as he explains that where rugby was concerned his "build and ambition didn't coincide."
Although still a keen jogger who keeps fit with a few runs each week, he insists that he can no longer keep up with players half his age at the training sessions and laughs as he remembers Sam Backo, one of the NRL greats and member of the Raiders, who glanced across at the priest running with the team and told him: "you must be bloody mad," pointing out that "at least we get paid to do this!"
Msgr Woods mightn't be on the field anymore but each week he is on the sidelines at Raiders' training sessions. While some of the support staff and team call him Father, to others he's affectionately called: "Rev" or "Woodsy."
While Msgr Woods might barrack for the team, he makes it very clear that being a chaplain never involves praying for a win. Instead any prayers offered are simply that the team will play to the best of their God-given talents and developed potential.
"If they do they will win more often than not. But I don't ask God to take sides," he insists.