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Bishop Anthony Homily: 60th Anniversary of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth, Our Lady of Czestochowa Chapel, Marayong, Sunday 27 July 2014


Homily of Most Rev Anthony Fisher OP - Mass of 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A, on the Occasion of the 60th Anniversary of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth, Our Lady of Czestochowa Chapel, Marayong, 27 July 2014


Welcome to this very happy celebration of sixty years’ of ministry in Western Sydney by the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth.

I acknowledge the presence of several diocesan officials: the Vicars-General of the Diocese of Parramatta, Very Rev Peter Williams and Very Rev Chris De Souza; the Chancellor of the Diocese and Parish Priest of St Andrew’s Marayong, Fr Ron McFarlane; the Vicar for Religious, Sister Ailsa MacKinnon rsm; and the Executive Director of CatholicCare Social Services, Mr Otto Henfling.

Amongst the clergy concelebrating with me today are: Fr Wieslaw Slowik sj, Rector of the Polish Catholic Mission in Australia; Very Rev. David Austin OSA, Provincial of the Augustinian Fathers; Fr Shane Reade sdb, Rector of the Salesian Community in St Mary’s; Fr Henryk Zasiura SChr, Rector of the Polish Chaplaincy, with several priests of the Society of Christ; and other clergy. There are leaders of representatives of several other religious congregations with us today as well. Above all the stars of the show: the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth, led by their General Assistant, Sr Helen Tereba csfn, their regional superior, Sr Grace Roclawska csfn, with Associates and Friends of the Sisters.

Amongst other Church leaders present today I acknowledge: Mr Andre Heyko-Porebski, Chairman of the Board of Holy Family Services and Board Members; Mr Kevin Rocks, CEO of Holy Family Services, and his executive team; Mr John Farrugia and Dr John De Courcy of the Catholic Education Office Parramatta; and Mr Nicholas Vidot, Principal of St. Andrews College and Mr Richard McGuiness, Former Principal of St Andrew’s Primary School.

Amongst our civil dignitaries I welcome Ms Dorota Preda, Vice-Consul of Poland; and Cr Jacqueline Donaldson of Blacktown City Council, representing the Mayor of Blacktown. To everyone present today, a very warm welcome to this diamond jubilee party.


Homily - Mass of 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A, on the Occasion of the 60th Anniversary of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth, Our Lady of Czestochowa Chapel, Marayong, 27 July 2014

Ollala Oliveros was a well-known Spanish actress and model. When visiting Fatima, where Our Lady appeared to three shepherd children a century ago, she had what she describes as an “earthquake experience”. She saw herself dressed as a nun and couldn’t shake the image. When she realized this was God calling her, she acquiesced: “The Lord is never wrong,” she said, “He asked if I would follow him, and I couldn’t refuse.” Swapping the catwalk for a habit, she recently entered the semi-cloistered Order of St Michael. She echoed Colombian model, Amada Rosa Pérez, who caused a sensation when she became a nun a few years back. “I grew tired of being a model of superficiality,” she said, “tired of a world of lies, appearances, falsity, hypocrisy… a society that exalts violence, adultery, drugs, alcohol, fighting… riches, pleasure, sexual immorality and fraud.”

Such announcements leave the celebrity columnists gobsmacked. In today’s Gospel, Jesus tosses out a similar conversation-stopper. The Kingdom of Heaven, He says, is priceless: all the wealth, success, honour and power in the world are cheap and nasty by comparison (Mt 13:44-52). To possess it is to find true value; to invest yourself in it returns infinitely more than any super fund. Ollala and Amada grasped this: though the world may be dumb-founded, they know what gives life real and lasting meaning; they know that the world’s trinkets are so often worthless, superficial, even harmful. They’ve put radical loyalty to Christ before all else (cf Mt 19:21). They’ve taken seriously Origen’s dictum that “to gain Christ is to gain the one pearl of great price” (Comm. Mt 10:9-10).

The Sisters of Holy Family of Nazareth centred here at Marayong know the priceless value of possessing that pearl that is Christ, that land that is His Kingdom. Like Ollala and Amada, the sisters have renounced the allurements of the world in favour of the moth- and rust-proof treasure that Christ offers (cf Mt 6:19-21). Pursuing faithfully their motto “Fiat voluntas tua – Thy will be done”, they have given up all – even good things like that family life they honour in their title and work – given these up for themselves so they can serve them in others and so serve Christ and His Kingdom. In the words of our Psalmist today, they have delighted in the Lord’s will, loving His commandments above any silver and gold (Ps 118). They have been symbols for Western Sydney of that eschatological (other-worldly or end-times) outlook that sees God’s reign as all-important and already begun and promising so much more to come. Their very presence amongst us reminds the world of the question of eternity, its promise and fulfilment.Yet however much these sisters point to a world still unfolding and yet-to-come, their service is very much in this world. These are not heads-in-the-clouds nuns! Blessed Franciszka Siedliska was a Polish noblewoman, whose religious name was Mother Mary of Jesus the Good Shepherd, founded the Holy Family Sisters in 1875. Deeply spiritual, she modelled her congregation on the Family of Nazareth, that greatest exemplar of a total gift of the self to God. Jesus, Mary and Joseph and their hidden, humble lives at Nazareth, became the lodestar for her order. By performing whatever works the Lord required she wanted her daughters to radiate the love of that Holy Family and to support all the little families that are living icons of it. She foresaw that in modernity the family would need extra help: how prescient, how providential that insight was! At a time when we witness unprecedented attacks not just on the daily living of family life, but on the very concept of the marriage-based family, God has given us in these sisters an order dedicated to serving the family in its manifold needs.

And God has given these wonderful nuns to Western Sydney. Sixty years ago some intrepid members of Holy Family Sisters came to the missionary territory of Marayong at the very time when many other Poles were also gracing our shores. True to their Polish roots, they served the local migrant community that burgeoned after the Second World War. They established a convent and a home for children. Their ministry expanded into primary and secondary education in the 1950s and ‘60s. By the late 1980s they had added Before and After School Care and Vacation Care. In 2006 they opened a long day care centre, looking after 39 children. Meanwhile they enlarged their concern beyond Polish émigrés to Vietnamese refugees, Filipinos and the other waves of newcomers to our shores. Not content with supporting newcomers and their little ones, they also turned their loving gaze to the elderly, opening the Holy Family Nursing Home, the Blessed Frances Retirement Village and Holy Family Services. Our own CatholicCare will team up with Holy Family Services to continue this service. And they have engaged in university chaplaincy and other ministries too. I can say with great confidence that they are much loved by young and old in our part of the world!

Perhaps the greatest gift that our beloved Holy Family Sisters have given us is being an image of the love and service that the Holy Family of Nazareth lived. Like Solomon in today’s first reading, they have put God at the centre of everything, humbly seeking His wisdom in their work (1Kgs 3:5-12). The fruits of their mission in the Diocese of Parramatta are evidence not just of hard work inspired by love, but of God’s work multiplying their efforts as St Paul promises in our epistle. “We know that by turning everything to their good, God co-operates with all those who love Him, with all those that He has called according to His purpose. They are the ones He chose specially long ago and intended to become true images of His Son, so that His Son might be the eldest of many brothers” and sisters in the emerging multicultural Western Sydney (Rom 8:28-30).

The nineteenth century hymn writer and spiritual author, Frederic William Faber, once remarked of the Holy Family that, as far as we know from Sacred Scripture and Tradition, they were a family in which words were few and far between: “silence reigned there deeper than in the loneliness of tears or a Cistercian monk’s monastery”. Joseph and Mary did not drown out Jesus with endless chatter: they listened to the words from His mouth, the mouth of God, that dropped like priceless pearls. The Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth likewise have allowed the words of Jesus to penetrate their hearts and govern their conduct. They have allowed Jesus pride of place for sixty years in their mission in Western Sydney. For that I, as Bishop of this place, am very grateful. We look forward to the next sixty years with confidence. You now have a much loved Polish pope-saint to intercede for you alongside your blessed Foundress. With them I pray: Ad multos annos!

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