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Bishop Anthony Homily: Papal and Diocesan Awards, St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta, Friday 8 August 2014

19/08/2014

Homily - Solemn Vespers for Papal and Diocesan Awards, St Patrick’s Cathedral, Solemnity of St Mary of the Cross MacKillop, Friday 8 August 2014
Photography: Alfred Boudib

Homily of Most Rev Anthony Fisher OP - Solemn Vespers for Papal and Diocesan Awards, St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta, Solemnity of St Mary of the Cross MacKillop, Friday 8 August 2014

On my first day at school, at St Therese Lakemba, I returned home to report to my mother that the nun who was my teacher was very old. “How old dear?” she inquired. “I think she’s older than you!” I declared. My mother was 26 at the time! No doubt the lovely Sr Paul Michael seemed to me old enough to have known Mary MacKillop; indeed old enough to have taught her. But if, as I suspect, she was only in her twenties herself, she never knew the sainted foundress.

Who knows the influence they have? An eminently practical woman named Mary Helen MacKillop saw a need and started a religious community to address it. Her daughters took her mission to the young and ignorant to every corner of this land, including to Lakemba. In due course a little boy was first taught by one of those Josephites and then by a lay woman, Miss Tierney, the following year. He ended up Bishop of Parramatta and petitioned Rome, on behalf of the Diocese, for Mary MacKillop to become patron of a Diocese in which she laboured and in which her daughters, along with many other religious, have had a very significant influence.

Homily - Solemn Vespers for Papal and Diocesan Awards, St Patrick’s Cathedral, Solemnity of St Mary of the Cross MacKillop, Friday 8 August 2014
Photography: Alfred Boudib

Tonight, as we celebrate Vespers, the sunset Prayer of the Church, we solemnly sing the praises of that patroness of our country and of our diocese. Of course, to praise her is to praise God first of all, for it was His grace that shone in her as it does in all the saints. As we heard in the short lesson, “All those who from the beginning were known to Him, he has destined from the beginning to be moulded into the image of His Son, who is thus to become the eldest-born among many brothers and sisters. So predestined, He called them; so called, He then justified them; so justified, He has glorified them.” (Rom 8:23-30) We give thanks to God for Mary MacKillop’s intercession and example of service to the poor and ignorant, to God’s children, Christ’s brothers and sisters. As our only recognized saint so far, she is an inspiration for Australian Catholics and has had an influence far and wide beyond anything she could have imagined. As we recognize tonight our own Diocese’s exemplars of dedicated service, we ask God to raise up more saints for our land and our diocese.

This brings me to 32 of our relatives, friends and colleagues who tonight will receive papal and diocesan honours. They are all examples of people called to action by God, who have responded by way of serving Church and community in Western Sydney, and who have done so with such distinction that they tonight receive a tiny foretaste of the glory Paul tells us God has in store for His friends. They have served in fields such as:

  •  in the arts, liturgy, music ministry or devotions, on parish councils, finance councils and parish administration and maintenance teams, RCIA or sacramental teams
  • in communications, fundraising, including for the rebuilding of this Cathedral, organisation and leadership in parishes
  • in education, catechesis, pastoral care, health including administration, aged care
  •  in social justice works with asylum seekers, migrants or the disadvantaged
  •  in visitation to the sick, elderly and bereaved
  • in ministry to youth, Indigenous Australians, prisoners, with the St Vincent de Paul Society, the Legion of Mary, the Catholic Women’s League and Kairos Outside the Walls

As we hear the citations read we will be struck by the extraordinary gifts of the people of Western Sydney and the generosity of these ones in “giving back” to God and the community.

Accompanying me tonight as we acknowledge these achievements I am pleased to recognize: the Vicars-General, (Very Rev.) Peter Williams and Chris de Souza; the Episcopal Vicar for Clergy, (Very Rev.) Paul Marshall; the Episcopal Vicar for Evangelisation and Pastoral Planning and Director of the Institute for Mission, (Very Rev.) Paul Roberts; the Chancellor of the Diocese (Rev.) Ron McFarlane; and other priests of the Diocese. I also welcome the Provincials of the Ursuline Sisters, Sr Ruth Durick osu, of the John of God Brothers, Br Timothy Graham oh, and of the Parramatta Mercies, Sr Catherine Ryan RSM; our Director of Schools, ‘Sir’ Greg Whitby; our Social Justice Coordinator, Sr Louise McKeogh fma; our Diocesan Business Manager, Mr Michael Digges; our CCD Director, Mr Paul Worthington; and our Comms and Development Director, Mr Michael Cowdroy.

Homily - Solemn Vespers for Papal and Diocesan Awards, St Patrick’s Cathedral, Solemnity of St Mary of the Cross MacKillop, Friday 8 August 2014
Photography: Alfred Boudib

I salute several existing Papal and Diocesan award winners present here tonight. I record my particular thanks to Fr Arthur Bridge, Chairman of the Diocesan Honours Committee, and his Committee, for their efforts in collecting, assessing and otherwise assisting me in identifying people in the Parramatta Diocese worthy of this recognition.

Above all, I commend the recipients of tonight’s awards, their families and friends. With that most practical of saints, St Mary of the Cross, and this Diocese of which she is patron, I extend my heartfelt congratulations and gratitude for your work and service.

Go to Papal Awards & Diocesan Medals of Honour 2014 Photo Gallery


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