News from the Diocese
Joyous scenes as over 600 celebrate first Mass at Australia’s newest church in Oran Park
It was an historic day yesterday for the Catholic Church in Australia and a great testimony to the faith and community spirit of the Macarthur as over 600 people gathered to sing, pray and celebrate their Christian faith at St Mary MacKillop Catholic Parish’s first Sunday Mass at Oran Park at 10am. The celebrations continued after Mass with a massive sausage sizzle and meet-and-greet with the new parish priest, Fr David Catterall.
It became apparent during the week leading up to the Mass that the planned venue (OOSH Centre) at St Justin’s Catholic Primary School Oran Park would not be big enough to cater for the number of people attending the Mass. The parish community quickly scrambled and decided to open up the doors of the school library and surrounding outside areas as the new venue. The school community also provided a wonderful service with their enthusiastic welcome, generous hospitality and beautiful music during the Mass. Fr David also announced that St Benedict’s Catholic College Oran Park have offered to carve a wooden altar for the parish.
Fr David summed up the overwhelming scene in his homily saying: “Today, we make the words of St Peter to Jesus at the transfiguration our own as we recognise how ‘wonderful it is for us to be here’ – how wonderful it is for you and for me to be invited by the Lord to be a part of this new beginning not only for our faith community, but also our Diocese and our Universal Church.”
Fr David continued: “As you would expect, some people have already asked me what my priorities will be as the founding parish priest of St Mary MacKillop Parish. I must say that my first priority is to get to know you, the people of this parish. To listen to your needs and hopes and dreams for this faith community and to work with you in making this vision a reality.”
Reflecting on the day’s Gospel reading, Fr David said: “We hear how after the disciples had returned from their mission Jesus encouraged them ‘to rest for a while.’ Just like we need to stay connected to Wi-Fi in our work and social lives, we need to stop at times and be connected and re-connected to God, the source of all, in order for us to be faithful and fruitful Christians. That’s why I encourage you to do all you can, as we build our parish together, to make this weekly celebration of the Mass a priority. For it is here every week that we are invited to draw strength from Jesus, the Good Shepherd, who is and will always be the cornerstone of all that we build together.”
Parishioners quickly jumped on the parish’s already popular Facebook page to express their gratitude and excitement on the day’s events. Christen Hallit-Yousseph said: “A very joyful and blessed opportunity to be at the first Mass for our new parish and being guided by Fr David whose infectious love of the Lord and life has flowed through our beautiful congregation.” Another parishioner, Alison Gatt, wrote: “So very excited to be a part of a new and dynamic parish. It was lovely to feel such a sense of community already.” Gerald Kenneally wrote: “A beautiful Mass this morning at Oran Park. It is gatherings like today that build great parish communities.”
In addition to the Sunday 8am Mass at the parish’s Leppington church and the 10am Oran Park Mass, Fr David announced that a Saturday Vigil Mass at Oran Park will soon commence to cater for the demand.
Fr David also outlined the many great parish events coming up including: the planting of a tree to mark beginning of the building of the new parish centre and worship space at Oran Park (26 July), a visit from Bishop Peter Ingham (2 August), a day for parishioners to share their hopes and dreams for the new parish (9 August), and a parish pilgrimage to Mary Mackillop’s tomb (16 August).
Earlier in the week Fr David had a cuppa with Narellan Fire Station Officer, Greg Wright, and his crew as they discussed how 30% of residential fires occur in the winter months. Fr David said: “It was a great opportunity to meet a group of people who are serving our local community so brilliantly. I was more than happy to hand out their fact sheet to all parishioners at our first Mass and I can’t wait to meet more wonderful people like Greg in our community.”
Launch of The Catholic Guy Impact Centre Mount Carmel Catholic College
Thursday | 2 July 2015
Bishop Peter Ingham’s Speech
My Dear Friends
I am here tonight to endorse Mr Bruce Downs known as the Catholic Guy, along with his wife Rosemary, and his ministry team. They have conducted a number of parish/mission events in our Diocese as well as all over Australia. They use various forms of media, and other activities to evangelise.
As your Bishop, I am officially authorising them to set up and to work in our Diocese of Wollongong so that they may reach out, with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the teaching of his Church, to all who have a heart open to God; and particularly to reach people disconnected from the Church, because we want these people to come into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, so that they may have an experience of Christian community, so as to be reconnected to the Sacraments of the Church found in our Parish Communities.
The Catholic Guy Ministry, which originated in Perth, is made up of a growing group of people who together are combining their own personal sense of call to achieve this mission, by serving the Church, bishops, priests and parishes as part of the New Evangelisation. This growing group of people experience and live their lives as Catholics and are followers of Jesus Christ in their daily life.
The Mission of Catholic Guy Ministries, of making Jesus Christ better known and loved, of helping us all to be Bearers of Christ’s Love to others, is really another string in the bow of our Diocesan Pastoral Plan. As you know, our Diocesan Pastoral Plan aims to revitalise our faith and sacramental life especially in the Mass, our Pastoral Plan wants to make our communities places of prayer, welcome and outreach; our Plan aims to spread the Good News of Jesus in new ways through our living, working and teaching so that we all act with greater love and care in all our communities, including our work for social justice and for the dignity of humanity and the dignity of the whole of creation. As faithful stewards of God’s gifts, we want to serve this calling in the love of the Father, by living the Gospel of Jesus Christ and guided by his Holy Spirit.
Our Pastoral Plan exists because we recognise that, as the Body of Christ, we can do so much more together than if we were isolated.
The Catholic Guy Ministries specifically exists to reach those who do not connect with the Church, so that these people may come into an ever deepening relationship with Jesus Christ through the building up of parish and church communities to which people will be attracted.
If we are to reach people who are alienated from the Church, firstly we have to listen to them. They have to know that we understand where they are at, and why they are where they are at: we have to know how they think, how they feel, that we understand, because we want to hold on to the disconnected person who feels they've tried church and rejected it. The challenge is to be able to attract them sufficiently, and long enough, for an opportunity to be given to share faith with them. We want to give them cause and reason to listen again, or possibly to listen for the first time to the claims of Jesus Christ.
So we have to present to them what is fully Catholic and in keeping with the tradition of the Church, but in a new way. A way that is sensitive to those who are seeking the Lord. To make religion palatable by a new way of presenting the Good News of the Gospel that is going to capture their attention and bring them to a change of mind and heart about Jesus Christ and his Church. The reality is that 88 per cent of our Catholic people no longer come to Mass. Reaching out to them is essential, otherwise we are not being faithful to the mission of Jesus Christ and his Church.
If you are a committed practising Catholic, you may be surprised by the approach taken by Bruce in this new way of reaching out to evangelise, but stop and remember, we're speaking to people who possibly rarely pray, are not actively committed or who rarely come to Mass, but they belong to us and identify as Catholic; they send their kids to our schools. We are looking for new and different ways to communicate to them the message of Jesus saving us, redeeming us, forgiving us, because Jesus loves you and me much more than we could ever imagine.
All of this beautifully matches Pope Francis’ announcement of the Jubilee Year of Mercy which commences on 8 December this year, to mark the 50th Anniversary of the end of Vatican II; a year with the Mercy of God at its centre.
The Pope is convinced that a year in the light of Jesus’ words: “Be merciful just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36) will help the whole Church to find, in this Jubilee, the joy needed to rediscover and make available the Mercy of God with which all of us are called to give consolation to every man and woman of our time.
The whole Church, dioceses, parishes, schools, welfare agencies, lay people, teachers, catechists, religious and clergy, have to be a witness to God’s Mercy. Pope Francis said it is a journey that begins with a spiritual conversion which is what Bruce is on about.
The Pope knows, as we do, that many scandals and problems in the Church in our time have left so many people hurt and left so much hurt. The Church is a Mother: so the Church has to go out to heal those who are hurting, with finding a form of mercy for all. We have no other choice because the Lord never tires of forgiving.
Tonight, I entrust our Diocese’s journey with The Catholic Guy Ministries, to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the Mother of Mercy, so that Mary might turn her gaze upon us and watch over this work of making her Son Jesus, better known and loved.
Bishop Ingham announces Australia’s newest Catholic parish in Oran Park
Bishop Peter Ingham announced today that the Catholic Diocese of Wollongong has established Australia’s newest Catholic parish in Oran Park. The parish is also the first new territorial parish in the Diocese in over 21 years. The parish will be known as St Mary MacKillop Catholic Parish, named after Australia’s first canonised Saint.
Bishop Peter said: “It is indeed a joyful time for those living in this beautiful part of South West Sydney, one of the fastest growing regions in Australia. Many families are blessed to have lived in this area for years, and now we welcome another pioneering generation as new suburbs are opening all around. The establishment of St Mary MacKillop Catholic Parish reflects the vibrancy of the Diocese and its more than 190,000 Catholics.”
Bishop Peter has appointed Fr David Catterall as the founding priest of the new parish. Fr David is 42 years old and has been a pastor for over fifteen years ministering in Wollongong, Nowra, Camden, Campbelltown, Rosemeadow and most recently in his home parish of Albion Park.
Fr David said: “It is an exciting prospect starting a new parish as we ‘launch into the deep’ and discover fresh ways of being the hands and feet of Jesus in our local area. I believe it is fitting that our new parish is named after Australia’s first canonised Saint, St Mary MacKillop. Mary famously said: ‘Never see a need without doing something about it.’ I am excited that we can now take up Mary MacKillop’s challenge together in Oran Park! I also look forward to working alongside the other Christian churches and civic leaders in the area.”
St Mary MacKillop Catholic Parish Oran Park will include the suburbs of Oran Park, Catherine Field, Harrington Park, Harrington Grove, Gregory Hills, Leppington, Marylands, Lowes Creek and parts of Bringelly, Rossmore and Leppington North. Fr David will be living as part of the community in a residential street in Oran Park Town rather than in a traditional priest’s house next door to a church.
Work will soon commence on a new parish centre and worship space (next to the site of St Justin’s Catholic Primary School) which, amongst other things, will be used for the celebration of Mass. The building is planned to open in late 2015 and is best described as a purpose-built structure that will operate as the church and parish centre until a permanent structure is required as the community grows. There is also the likelihood that further parishes will need to be established in the area over the coming years.
For now, Fr David will set up a parish administration centre on the site next to St Justin’s Catholic Primary School and will celebrate Sunday Masses at 10am at the OOSH Centre at St Justin’s from 19 July 2015 as well as celebrating Sunday Masses at 8am at St Mary Mother of God Church Leppington from this weekend onwards which is also now part of the new parish.
Fr David said: “No doubt you’ve heard the phrase, ‘it’s not a house, it’s a home,’ and the same applies to a Catholic parish. A parish is not just a church building; rather, it is the people who make up that community. Pope Francis describes a parish as, ‘the Church living in the midst of the homes of her sons and daughters … in contact with the homes and the lives of its people … not a useless structure, but an environment for hearing God’s word, for growth in the Christian life, for dialogue, proclamation, charitable outreach, worship and celebration.’” (Evangelli Gaudium, 28)
The establishment of the new parish has been welcomed with great excitement by the two newest Catholic schools in the Diocese, located in Oran Park – St Justin’s Catholic Primary School and St Benedict’s Catholic College. Mr John Milgate, Principal of St Justin’s said: “It is wonderful news for our students, parents and staff! As of today we belong to a new Catholic parish family. There’s a real buzz around the school following Bishop Peter’s announcement. I’ve known Fr David for some time and I can’t wait to begin working closely with him as we strive together to nurture the faith and spiritual dimension of our children while providing them with a comprehensive and balanced curriculum.”
Mr Michael Hanratty, Principal of St Benedict’s Catholic College, also expressed his delight on hearing the announcement. Michael said: “The creation of this new Parish is a significant milestone in the story of the St Benedict’s school community, itself in its formative years. I look forward with great hope and anticipation that together as Church, school and parish will better serve the families and young people of this area, growing them in faith and connectedness to God and to the Good News of Jesus Christ.”
Although acknowledging the daunting task of being entrusted with the pastoral responsibility and care of the Diocese’s first new parish in over two decades, Fr David said: “I am reminded of the old saying that we can see further if we stand on the shoulders of those that have gone before us. I am grateful to Fr Michael Williams and the local clergy, as well as the parishioners of St Paul’s Catholic Parish Camden, for the pastoral care and support they have given to the people and school communities in the region. They have provided a solid platform that will enable the successful launch of our new parish.”
St Mary MacKillop Catholic Parish
94 Oran Park Drive
Oran Park NSW 2570
Phone: 1300 947 810
Email: oranpark [AT] dow [DOT] org [DOT] au
Papal encyclical appeals for a new dialogue about shaping the future of our planet
His Holiness Pope Francis has challenged ‘every person living on this planet’ to enter into a new dialogue toward building a better future in his encyclical letter Laudato Si’ – ‘Praise be to you’, released today in Rome.
In dialogue with all people about our common home, the encyclical challenges us to ask ‘how anyone can claim to be building a better future without thinking of the environmental crisis and the sufferings of the excluded’ (13).
Pope Francis also drew attention to pressing environmental concerns such as pollution and climate change and the use of fossil fuels. “Climate change is a global problem with serious implications, environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods; it represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day” (25). The Australian Catholic Bishops have strongly supported this statement.
President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Archbishop Denis Hart, welcomed the Holy Father’s encyclical, Laudato Si’. Archbishop said he was pleased to see that the letter critiques our weak response to ecological and social issues. ‘Pope Francis calls on people to seek new ways to understand the economy, condemns our throwaway culture and dependence on technology, and is calling on people to reassess the dignity of humanity and the integrity of creation in finding solutions to the ecological crisis.’
The Pope draws upon bishops’ statements from around the world, including the Australian bishops.
Director of Catholic Earthcare Australia Jacqui Remond said Laudato Si’ is a game-‐ changer for the Catholic Community and it offers us in Australia a powerful moral and spiritual imperative for environmental and social action. This encyclical calls on us all to embrace a new lifestyle that respects all of creation, and asks our leaders to commit to effective global agreements.
The Pope refers to a broad range of topics including pollution and its effect on the poor, urban chaos, drug trafficking, refugees and human trafficking.
Pope Francis points to the ‘intimate relationship between the poor and the fragility of the planet, and the conviction that everything in the world is connected’ (16). He highlights the fact that local individuals and groups can make a real difference. They are able to instil ‘a strong sense of community’, ‘a readiness to protect others’ and ‘a deep love for the land’. He calls us to listen to the voices of our Indigenous peoples because for them, land is not a commodity but a sacred space and a gift from God.
At this crucial time, the Australian Bishops and Catholic Earthcare Australia invites the Catholic Community and the wider Australian Community to address the challenges and opportunities in Laudato Si’. We must move past this throwaway culture and embrace a new lifestyle, thereby “bringing healthy pressure to bear on those who wield political, economic and social power” (206).
Ethics, Poles, Wires and the Dalai Lama
Will someone please tell the truth about Special Education in Ethics (SEE) and the NSW Public School enrolment form? It seems the only people getting any airplay, have a good public profile, but little knowledge about the topic.
Even the Dalai Lama got drawn into it last week. He’s a good man, a man of peace, poise, wisdom and love. As a Catholic, I’m a fan, just as many non-Catholics are fans of Pope Francis. But I wouldn’t ask either of them to fix my computer. No disrespect to them, I just doubt they’d have the knowledge to be able to do it.
In the same way, I’m not sure why the Dalai Lama was asked about the current furore about Ethics and the enrolment form. But then it dawned on me, the light bulb went off, well it got brighter anyhow! This isn’t about facts, or asking people who might actually have some knowledge or something sensible to say, it’s about world views, politics and a powerful little club in some mainstream print and electronic media who seem hell bent on doing away with religion in schools. If they can do that, then they can focus on getting rid of religion completely in the ugly little Orwellian world they are attempting to manufacture.
Soon after I saw the Dalai Lama hooked into the debate, I got an email from NSW Labor asking for donations to fight the good fight for ethics in NSW schools. Apparently they need funds to fight the great injustice being perpetrated on SEE by those nasty religions and the NSW Government. What a load of absolute rubbish, but no one else is saying so in this fantasy land.
I don’t know whether to laugh or cry, such is the misinformation being thrown around at will. Probably the latter. Why? Because SRE, this wonderful strength of NSW public schools is being denigrated and used as a political and media football. Why else? Because in our multicultural, multi faith (and non-faith) society, SRE and SEE both have a valuable and valid place. Who would want to undermine access to clear choice for parents to have their Children formed in the faith and ethics of their family? Hopefully no one, but in relation to SEE, a simple fact is getting left out, you shouldn’t offer something that isn’t available.
Some facts about SRE and SEE
No parent in NSW who wants their child to do SEE in NSW is being denied that choice for their children, if it is offered in their local school. SEE is well advertised as an option for those who opt out of SRE classes.
Nevertheless, it is pointless to offer something on the enrolment form which isn’t available. I’d be annoyed if I was for example offered woodwork and then was informed, no sorry, we don’t offer woodwork. My simple response would be, ‘well why did you offer it to me’?
Herein lies one of the problems with Ethics classes and why it needs to be removed as a tick option from the enrolment form.
In 2014, SEE was offered in 256 of the 2100 Public Schools in NSW. It is not offered at all in Secondary Schools. Around 800 SEE teachers saw 16,000 students. They are doing a good job for our community and public Education, and I for one am glad they have a presence in a growing number of schools. By comparison, SRE Providers have a presence in most schools and see around 240,000 students a week and that figure increases to over 300,000 when you include seminar style delivery of lessons.
The reality for SEE is that it is not in at least 1800 of the 2100 Public Schools. Parents whose sons and daughters go to those 1800 schools are nevertheless being offered it, only to find that it doesn’t exist. Now that’s just bizarre, and extremely misleading for parents, many of whom then need to negotiate a maze to get reoffered SRE.
What’s even more bizarre is that the DEC’s own consultative committee for SRE, made up of representatives of all the major faiths, were not consulted about the final changes to the enrolment form. Surely that’s what consultative committees are for! If it had been consulted, this debacle would never have ensued.
SRE providers quickly recognised that this was a very questionable change that ignored the Legislation, the 2012 SEE Parliamentary Inquiry Recommendations, the SRE Policy and the SRE Implementation guidelines. I assume that Primary Ethics would similarly be concerned that roughly 680,000 young people who they can’t cater for, are being offered SEE classes. I am unaware if Primary Ethics had any input into the enrolment form, but faith groups were certainly were not given the opportunity to explain the consequences of the changes. Media commentators do not seem keen to ask questions about this lack of process, which is in itself very interesting.
Finally, this is not about poles and wires. To suggest so is an offensive lie. SRE providers have been talking to each other, the DEC, to the Minister, and Politicians across the political divide about this since the new form appeared last June. Agreement on the need for the confusion to end via a repaired enrolment form was reached in December 2014 with the Department.
Some non-facts about SRE and SEE
I won’t say lies, because perhaps those who are writing most of the rubbish about SRE and Ethics have simply fallen into the trap that some of my former History students used to, not doing any study! Sure they’re good at churning out articles expounding their personal views, but like some former students, their essays and reports are still ‘a fail’ when they have such little basis in fact.
Firstly, SEE doesn’t exist to compete with SRE. Primary Ethics was established to cater for students who opted out of SRE. Therefore, regardless of the fact that it simply isn’t offered in most schools, it should not be set up alongside SRE on a form. Once parents have opted out of SRE they are then given the choice of SEE if it is available at a local level where it is well advertised.
Secondly, SRE does not regard SEE as the enemy or a threat. SEE teachers are good people offering a valid and valuable alternative to non-scripture in a small but growing number of schools.
Finally, SRE is not struggling as per Dr John Kaye’s (Greens NSW) recent and ongoing venomous assertions and misinformation regarding SRE. The 12,000 multi faith, well trained, well-resourced volunteers across the State are doing a mighty job forming students in the teachings and ethics of their family’s faith tradition, seeing well over 240,000 students a week in the process.
So what are SRE providers asking for?
A return to an enrolment form that removes the misinformation and confusion.
A form that doesn’t offer something to parents who then later find out that it is not available at most schools.
A form that gives the parents the option to choose Religious Education and, just as importantly, to opt out of that choice. SEE can then be offered at a local level if it is available.
This isn’t about poles and wires, this is about giving parents correct information and valid choices for their children. Whilst it is tough to get correct information out there via the media, thank goodness the NSW Government and DEC are at least now trying to get it right on the public school enrolment form.
Mr Jude Hennessy
Diocese of Wollongong
12 June 2015
Statement by Bishop Peter Ingham in relation to Gerald Ridsdale
This week the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse held a public hearing in relation to the Diocese of Ballarat.
Former Ballarat priest, Gerald Ridsdale appeared before the public hearing via video link from a Victorian gaol where he is serving a sentence for abusing a number of children. In the course of his evidence he stated that while working at the Catholic Enquiry Centre Sydney in 1983, he relieved the parish priest over three weekends at St Joseph's Parish Bulli. He had with him a young boy whom he had brought from Sydney. Sadly, he abused this young boy at Bulli.
This evidence came as a complete shock to me and is a cause for deep shame and sorrow. The victim was not a parishioner of St Joseph’s Bulli and the Diocese did not receive any complaint at the time and there has never been any indication that any other person was abused in Bulli by Ridsdale.
I offer my sincere apology to those who have suffered abuse at the hands of a member of the clergy or indeed, any person representing the Catholic Church. The Diocese supports the important work of the Royal Commission to help create better protection for children into the future. I wish to assure you that the Diocese of Wollongong is committed to the protection of children and young people and to addressing with sensitivity and determination any concern or allegation brought forward. As a Diocese, we have in place a rigorous process for dealing with complaints of abuse and we cooperate fully with police investigations.
I strongly urge any person with a complaint of mistreatment or abuse to come forward to the appropriate authority. If the complaint is of a criminal nature, please notify the police through the Police Assistance Line on 131 444. You may also contact the Royal Commission Support Line on 1800 099 340. Should you need assistance with this, or if the matter is not of a criminal nature, I ask you to contact the Diocese on 1800 225 922.
Pastoral Letter from the Catholic Bishops of Australia to all Australians on the ‘Same-Sex Marriage’ Debate
As the debate about ‘same-sex marriage’ gains momentum nationally, the Australian Catholic Bishops believe it is important to highlight the meaning of marriage.
Given the implications of redefining marriage, today we are issuing a Pastoral Letter to the Catholic community.
You will be aware this week, in the context of the Irish referendum, both the Labor Party and the Greens have announced they will introduce draft legislation to allow two people of the same sex to marry.
Marriage is both a personal relationship between a man and a woman, and the protective institution for their children. Marriage includes an emotional union, but it goes further than that. It involves a comprehensive bodily and spiritual union of a man and a woman.
This union of a man and woman is the natural reproductive and protective environment for raising children. Marriage is the foundation of the family unit, which is in turn the first cell of society.
If the union of a man and a woman is different – not the same - as other unions, then justice demands that we treat that union accordingly. If marriage is an institution designed to support people of the opposite sex to be faithful to each other and to the children of their union it is not discrimination to reserve it to them.
The Christian tradition teaches that every human being is a unique and irreplaceable person, created in the image of God and loved by Him. Because of this, every man, woman and child has great dignity and worth which can never be taken away. This includes those who experience same-sex attraction. They must be treated with respect, sensitivity and love.
Redefining marriage in the way now proposed would see marriage reduced to a committed, affectionate sexual relationship between any two people. All marriages would come to be defined by intensity of emotion rather than a union founded on sexual complementarity and potential fertility. Husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, will be seen to be wholly interchangeable social constructs, as gender would no longer matter.
Chair of the Bishops Commission for Family, Youth and Life, Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP said, “It is unjust, gravely unjust, to legitimise the false assertion that there is nothing distinctive about a man and a woman, a father or a mother; to ignore the particular values that real marriage serves; to ignore the importance for children of having a mum and a dad, committed to them and to each other for the long haul.
Children have a right to grow up with their natural mother and father, where possible. We should not be redefining marriage so as deliberately to exclude a child growing up with either their mother, their father, or both their parents.
“If the civil law ceases to define marriage as traditionally understood, it will be a serious injustice and undermine that common good for which the civil law exists.
“Surely there are other ways of honouring the friendships of same-sex attracted and other people without further deconstructing marriage and the family,” Archbishop Fisher said.
- Journey 58 - Autumn 2015 | READ ONLINE NOW!
Chrism Mass 2015 | Bishop Peter Ingham's Homily
My Brother Clergy, Religious Brothers and Sisters, People of the Diocese
Today’s joyful celebration of the Chrism Mass transports us back to the Last Supper on the first Holy Thursday because to that occasion we trace the origins of the Eucharistic Sacrifice of the Mass and the origins of the Priesthood. The Chrism Mass is only celebrated once a year, in only one church in the diocese, the cathedral.
Just as in every other diocese throughout the world, each of us bishops, like Pope Francis, together with our clergy and the people of God from around the diocese, celebrate the Mass of the Chrism. It is also sometimes referred to as “the great concelebration.”
This is a unique event in the life of the local church of a diocese, because tonight we clergy renew the promises of our ordination day, to be more closely united with the Lord Jesus, to be faithful stewards in the various ministries we have been given. But we also pray to be faithful as ministers of Jesus Christ, our High Priest, so that we may lead our people to Jesus, the source of our salvation.
On this same occasion of the Chrism Mass, the Oil of the Sick, the Oil of Catechumens which are used for the sacraments are blessed, along with the Oil of Chrism, which is consecrated. Remember “chrism” is the same word as “Christ.” Jesus is called Christ because he is the “anointed one” of God. Through that Oil of Chrism, those who are baptised and confirmed, as well as those ordained bishops or priests, will have that oil put either on their foreheads, their hands or their heads, to show that they are being set apart in a very special way as lay witnesses or to minister to the people of God as the ordained. We, the ordained, are dedicated so as to bring Christ to you, the people whom we have been sent to serve as ministers of the Word of God and ministers of the Sacraments of Salvation.
You know, the olive tree is the most common tree in Palestine and grows most abundantly in Galilee. Its oil was widely used: in the preparation of food; as fuel for lamps; for healing and massage; as a cosmetic to make the skin lustrous; and to prepare a body for burial.
The use of oil in sacred rites was common in the Semitic world of the Old Testament. Jacob (about 1800 BC) erected a pillar at Bethel where God had appeared to him, and he anointed it to be a sanctuary – the house of God (Genesis 28:10-22.) When Aaron (about 1250 BC) and his sons were consecrated as priests, they were anointed, as were the Tent of Meeting and the Arc of the Covenant (Exodus 30:22-31.) Kings were also anointed – Saul, David (about 1000 BC), Solomon – either by priest or prophet (1 Sam 16:12.) The purpose of anointing was to dedicate a person or object as sacred in God’s service.
In Sacred Scripture we learn the spiritual symbolism of oil. For instance, Psalm 23:5 says, “You anoint my head with oil,” signifying favour and strength from the Lord; and Psalm 45:8 reads, “You, David, love justice and hate wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above your fellow kings,” signifying the special designation from God and the joy of being his servant. Moreover, to be “the anointed” of the Lord indicated receiving a special vocation from the Lord and the empowerment with the Holy Spirit to fulfil that vocation. Jesus, echoing the words of Isaiah, said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; therefore he has anointed me.” (Luke 4:18.)
St Paul emphasised this point, “Remember it is God himself who assures us all, and you, of your standing in Christ, and has anointed us, marking us with his seal and giving us the pledge, the Holy Spirit, whom we carry in our hearts.” (2 Cor 1:21) Therefore the symbolism of oil is rich: making us holy; healing us; strengthening us; enriching us; dedicating us; and consecrating us.
Given this heritage, the early church adopted the use of olive oil for its sacramental rituals. St Hippolytus, in his work called the Apostolic Tradition (AD 215), wrote of an anointing of the candidates immediately before baptism.
So you and I have been anointed with the Oil of Catechumens, the Oil of Chrism and some with the Oil of the Sick. By these anointings, you and I have entered into communion with Jesus Christ; through our baptism we have been adopted into God's family and have received a share in Christ's life.
So do not ever think this blessed Oil of Catechumens, Oil of the Sick or this consecrated Chrism, is simply ordinary oil and nothing else!
After the invocation of the Holy Spirit, it is no longer ordinary oil, but the gift of Jesus Christ who, as the eternal Son of God, makes the holy oil the instrument through which you and I receive the Holy Spirit.
While this sacramental oil visibly anoints our foreheads, our hands, or our head, our souls are made holy or sanctified by the life-giving Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is sometimes referred to as “the oil of gladness” because the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, is the source of our spiritual joy.
Origins of the Priesthood
Tonight is also a celebration of the origins of the priesthood, inextricably connected with the Last Supper when Jesus, our High Priest, left us a way of recalling and celebrating in a sacrament his saving sacrifice on the Cross and glorious resurrection from the dead, which is right at the heart of our faith. We see the beginning of the Christian priesthood in Jesus telling his disciples “Do this in memory of me!”
Father Donald Cozzens is an American diocesan priest who has written extensively on the changing face of the priesthood in our contemporary world. He points out what we all know – priests are ageing and our numbers are dwindling. Some question whether there is a place for married men to be ordained; some parents dissuade their sons from giving their life to be priests, so we have fewer seminarians, though we're blessed at the moment with Stephen Varney, Michael Dyer, Victor Vincent and James Arblaster preparing for the priesthood.
But Father Cozzens says what has buffeted and humbled the priesthood, and our own Royal Commission has evidenced, is the shocking, staggering sexual abuse of children and adolescents by some clergy and Religious and the corresponding lack of understanding of the criminality of the issue or even the cover– up of the abuse by some people in authority in the Church.
The fallout from all of this has done irreparable damage to the lives of victims and their families, it has deeply wounded the credibility of the Church and humbled the priesthood. Yet we have to face the truth of our past and work for justice for victims and their families and continue to pray that the healing love of Jesus, expressed particularly through our compassion and care, will bring peace and ease suffering and give victims and their families the strength to experience healing.
And so the humbling of the priesthood that we are currently experiencing is not a bad thing. It is a necessary thing. It is a wakeup call for us to begin to look at the role of the priesthood in our society in a fresh way.
One of the great contributions of the Second Vatican Council was its emphasis on the Church as the pilgrim people of God, and that all the baptised, clergy and religious included, in terms of spiritual dignity, are equal members of the Church. Baptism is our common denominator. Only in a metaphorical sense, then, is the priest a man set apart. While we are ordained to be the pastoral leaders of a parish community, we are not the only leaders. Yet our ministry as preacher, as Minister of Word and Sacrament, and as servant/leader remains essential to the health and vibrancy of the Church. The ordained ministry is essential to the church community.
But, of course, we priests and bishops are not the only ones anointed by the Holy Spirit with gifts and talents for the good of the Church. Finding our place alongside the Deacon, the Lay Pastoral Minister, the Consecrated Religious, and the variety of people who minister in our parishes, has in fact been an ongoing challenge for us priests and bishops of the Church since the Vatican Council 50 years ago.
One of my jobs in the Bishops’ Conference is being the liaison Bishop to the Council for Australian Catholic Women. In that regard Father Cozzens says engaging and relating to educated, thinking, believing Catholic women can be a daunting challenge for some clergy. Some of us don't quite know how to engage pastorally with the articulate, well-read women of our parishes, while we would all admit that a church that doesn't hear God speaking through the voice of women remains skewed and limited.
What our own Bishops said in their Social Justice Statement of 2000, Pope Francis has further emphasised in his letter “The Joy of the Gospel.” He said “I readily acknowledge that many women share pastoral responsibilities with priests, helping to guide people, families and groups and offering new contributions to theological reflection. But we need to create still broader opportunities for a more incisive female presence in the Church. (Evangelii Gaudium paragraphs 104-105) The Pope also spoke about the role women should play in decision-making in different areas of the Church’s life.
Father Cozzens says we priests sense that the power differential between lay people and clergy has changed. Many Catholics have come to imagine God differently in the Church since the Second Vatican Council. Many no longer imagine a wrathful God. We have known for some time now what recent surveys have made clear: more than three quarters of Catholics do not celebrate Sunday Mass every week. The majority of the faithful who fall into this category tend just to see their local priest more like a chaplain – someone on the margins of their lives whom they can call on for baptisms, weddings, and funerals. It is not this way in many of our healthy, vibrant parishes, but that mindset is there for a large number of Catholics.
Yet without a fundamental sense of the sacred, a sense of the hidden presence of God, Catholicism loses its oomph. That's why the sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist, are central to the life of faith. If we are not in touch with Mass on a regular basis, and if we rarely pray or go to Reconciliation, our faith will weaken.
The presence of the Holy Spirit, the grace-filled spontaneous touch of the sacred, is there in the Word of God and in the sacramental life of the Church. Yet, reflective Catholics also discover the presence of God in their homes through their marriage, in the wonder of their children, in the goodness of people who share our workplaces, our shopping malls, in our cities and suburbs, and also in the silence of the bush or the roar of the ocean.
We experience the sacred in our cathedrals and churches and monasteries and retreat houses, as well as in hospitals and nursing homes and in caring for the poor and needy, through CatholicCare – our Catholic welfare agency, and through the St Vincent de Paul Society. School students speak about finding a sense of the sacred on their service trips with the Vinnies Van to feed the homeless, or through Project Compassion or Catholic Mission. Still, I suspect a sense of the sacred, a sense of God’s presence, remains more elusive in technology driven and financially obsessed countries like our own.
Having by God’s grace, a sense of the holy, we priests and bishops should, by our presence, foster a sense of the sacred, perhaps as much by the integrity of our lives as by our preaching and ministry. We priests and bishops would hope to prompt people to wonder at the hidden presence of the divine. We all know priests who do this, but we must never mask our humanity behind the persona of the priest and so never seem to be quite real.
My Brother Priests, everything I have just said about the humbling of the Priesthood and how our exercise of the ministry is constantly facing new challenges and perceptions in society about the value of our role, could appear unsettling and critical. Please do not take it that way. I and everyone else here tonight know and appreciate your dedication to your ministry; your commitment to your flock as good shepherds; and your deep love of Jesus Christ our High Priest – and I thank you for that and for your collaborative ministry.
We have to embrace these new challenges with outstretched arms and rediscover the original spark that lit the fire that led us to the priesthood and, as Pope Francis says, become missionaries for Jesus Christ.
- Catholic Holy Week Ceremonies and Reconciliation Times 2015