Thursday 27 August 2009

Awaken the hearts of young men

The Seminary of the Archdiocesan Seminary of Sydney has done a very timely re-vamping of its website. The Year of the Priest is very much being embraced by this Seminary in order to really develop its vision as a major seminary in today's Church. I do recommend this site to you and would be interested to hear your comments. Visit I particularly recommend the page "How did I get in here?" which contains audio-visual clips of some of the seminarians speaking about their vocation. May this website be a channel of grace for many.

Friday 21 August 2009

A former Yorkshireman

I have recently enjoyed reading the remarkable Autobiography of Archbishop Ullathorne, one of the last Vicars Apostolic of England and the first Archbishop of Birmingham. Previous to these posts he was first Vicar General to the whole of Australia for eight years, 1832 - 1840. What an extraordinary appointment! Before ever there was a Bishop in Australia, Ullathorne was given ecclesiatical authority over a continent whose size is larger than the greater Europe!
William Ullathorne was from Pocklington in East Yorkshire and although I am a native of Hertfordshire I have spent much of my life in Leeds and so align myself somewhat with him. My experience of coming to Australia bears little in similarity with that of Ullathorne except in the essentials - he and I came here on mission as priests. (Indeed, the Annuaire of the St John Vianney Society states that I am en mission en Australie.) Ullathorne's experience of being on mission is Australia was very challenging. He arrived just fifty years after the founding of the colony; the convict system was firmly in place and his ministry was largely with convicts. My experience has not been like that - indeed, I have been inserted into a very vibrant Church and been received by a very warm and hospitable people. Ullathorne is a much more important figure in the Australian Church than I will ever be and he is a great witness and model to priestly life and ministry. Ullathorne lived at a time when the Church in England was very aware of being on mission, and his being sent to Australia is a sign of how missionary the English Church was back then. My sense of the Church in Sydney is that it is aware of the need to really embrace that attitude and identity - being a Church of Mission.
A very remarkable detail from Ullathorne's life was the visit he made to see Fr John Vianney in Ars in 1854. He went to seek the counsel of the saintly Cure and spoke to him about how difficult is was to evangelise England. St John Vianney, listening, sat with bowed head. When Ullathorne finshed speaking he at last looked up and said "Ah yes, but that will not always be the case." Let's hear it for the New Evangelisation! Australia, I think, has the lead on England today.

Tuesday 18 August 2009

Living in the sanctuary of the Catholic faith.

I don't know how many of our Bishops - or priests - have published or are about to publish books on the Priesthood during this Year of the Priest, but one of the auxiliary Bishops of Sydney has done just that.
Bishop Julian Porteous has just published the book "After the heart of God", about the life and ministry of Priests at the beginning of the Third Millennium. After a brief appraisal, at the start of the book, of the changes in the Church in recent decades and their influence upon priests, the reader senses a shift to a level of undertanding and proclamation about the nature of the priesthood which we have previously glimpsed and overheard in the life and teaching of the both the late and the present Holy Father.
This is a book written by a Bishop who lives, breathes and desires a renewed Priesthood. The Priesthood, he says, "is more than a function: it is a radical re-orienting of the whole reality of the person. He is changed at the level of his being." The author presents, simply and clearly, a whole panorama of the life and identity of the Diocesan Priest, and he does so using the language of the New Evangelisation. Implicit in the book is a call for a renewed Priesthood - an essential ingredient of the New Evangelisation.
Bishop Porteous speaks particularly powerfully about Priestly fraternity as a basis for the daily mission of the priest. He renews the call for priests to make the preaching of the Gospel their primary focus, and for priests to become missionaries not managers.
This is a book which I would recommend to priests, to seminarians, to young men who are discerning a vocation, as well as lay people who themselves look to better undertand the nature and challenges of the Priesthood at this moment in history and who, in this Year of the Priest, wish to better support their own priests who live their lives "in the sanctuary of the Catholic faith."
Thank you Bishop Porteous for this immensely encouraging book - a book whose language, style and message has flowed out of your own priestly heart.

Saturday 15 August 2009

"The child leaped in her womb"

This morning, on the Feast of the Assumption, Bishop Porteous lead a Vigil outside Sydney's oldest Abortuary. There is a joy and hope in the heart of the Church which no darkness can eclipse - and She, the Queen of Heaven, is very powerful - She leads the overthrow of the culture of death.

Thursday 13 August 2009

The English Section

How nice it was to have had my first visitor to Sydney from England. As you have read and seen from previous posts, Fr Julian came out to Sydney to take part in the SCENE Congress. I marvelled at his courage and tenacity in making that return journey within the space of just nine days. However, once here we were able to join in fraternity and offer ourselves to the Congress as the entire English Section of the St John Vianney Society. Of course, I was delighted to share some of my experiences of Australia with a friend from back home, and to work together again in the Sydney Congress as we have done so many times before in England.
The photo shows Fr Julian preaching in the Cathedral in Sydney at a Congress Mass on the Feast of St Mary Magdalene. In this sermon he spoke about how the Magdalene is a model for us today in the New Evangelisation. He preached twice during the Congress, gave one Workshop on Paul VI's letter "Evangelii Nuntiandi", shared another one with me on "The Priesthood in the New Evangelisation" and took part as a panel member in the Congress Forum. His interventions in the Congress were very well received by all the delegates. These days were days of grace for both of us, given during this Year of the Priest, to strengthen the fraternity in which we both share - a fraternity separated presently by the huge distance between the UK and 'down under', but now brought together again by the New Evangelisation.

Friday 7 August 2009

A timely Congress

One year on from WYD and a portion of the Church in Sydney was ready for the next step forward which God had planned. A Congress of the New Evangelisation is an unusual event - to say the least. However, the Church in Sydney is further ahead than might appear to the casual enquirer. For to bring together an eclectic planning team, to invite foreign religious and missionaries, to envisage an eight day event which was extremely difficult to describe or convey any real sense of, before the event itself, to plan an event which was itself an interweaving of many sub-groups and sub-events; this set the Congress apart for success. From day one there was a sense of joy that the Church was truly revealing herself - the Church of the New Evangelisation - a revitalised Church, revitalised becuase she had taken the Gospel to her heart, but not so as to keep it to herself but to make it available, as she had been asked. Frankly, the Congress was a whole Christian culture, and to be immersed in it as we were was to be filled with a joy and a life which witnessed to an outpouring of grace on the Church and on the city that week. Many said that the Congress had been a far greater grace to them than WYD had been!
The Congress revealed the Church of the New Evangelisation in Sydney. A Church made up principally of young people, the new movements and a small number of older people who thirst for the renewal of the Church. The Congress revealed at the same time who is not a part of the New Evangelisation - the clergy, the parishes, the schools and many, many rank and file Catholics. The Congress revealed in some way the capacity of the Church in Sydney for the New Evangelisation - the 'can-do' mentality set next to a tremenous talent pool enabled an expression of Catholic life and mission far greater than had been envisaged or planned by the planners.
The Congress was God's Congress. We had opened ourselves to God and allowed ourselves to be used by Him. What took place during those eight days far exceeded our competence and skills. The life and mission of the Church in Sydney has been changed by the Congress. The embracing of the New Evangelisation has changed those who allowed themselves to be influenced in this way by the Gospel. This is the part of grace in our lives - this is the gentle power of grace which gave to the Church, on the first day of Pentecost the ability to live and breath the life of Christ. Here in Sydney we felt that power again.

Wednesday 5 August 2009

Catholic Underground

Frs Christopher, Loius and Anthony CFR came out from New York for the Congress and were present on the streets of the city evangelising each day, they gave workshops, took part in the pub talks and on both Saturdays of the Congress led a floor-packed Catholic Underground. Upwards of 500 young people took part in these two evenings. A first for Sydney and hopefully a kick-start to Sydney's own burgeoning Catholic music movement.

Vocations Expo

During WYD SYD a huge Vocations Expo was held on Darling Harbour, during the Scene Congress a smaller but very enterprising Vocations Expo was held in Martin Place - the central pedestrian precinct of the CBD. Around fifty Communities, Movements and groups in the Church established themselves in the heart of the public domaign for three days of the Congress. On the first day, Monday, there was a sense of surprise in the air, that Catholics had 'taken over' this important area of the city, but over the course of the next two days the mood relaxed and many who were either curious, intrigued or simply very interested came to investigate and to speak with those who were running stalls.

The Vocations Expo was a tremendous success - a success in terms of the Church presenting herself with a friendly face in the heart of the city. We were grateful to veteran street evangelisers like the Friars of the Renewal for their presence. And of course, there were the stories which came back each day. One about a group of three smartly dressed Sydney businessmen who had approached the Friars and asked how they could join the Community. Another, of a business who on being handed a Miraculous Medal, at first put it in his pocket, but later came back to the giver and asked for it to be blest before secreting it more carefully in his wallet. The Martin Place Vocations Expo represents the 'can-do' mentality which is prevelant in the Australian Church. Street Evangelisation took place in other parts of the city and was often animated by musicians who gave of their time and talent. Even late on into the evening you could encounter large groups of delegates who were so enthused by the Congress that they had wanted to share their enthusiasm and grace with other city users.

Tuesday 4 August 2009

Special thanks

During the Scene Congress two people particularly put in a tremendous ammount of work as the MCs of every Congress session. Special thanks to Lewi and Jovina who animated the Congress sessions from the start of each day till our break for lunch after Holy Mass. Lewi is a seminarian of the Archdiocese and Jovina is a Sydney Medical student and both brought much grace and professionalism to the Congress.

Monday 3 August 2009

Fidelity of Christ, Fidelity of Priesthood

"Dear priests, Christ is counting on you. In the footsteps of the Curé of Ars, let yourselves be enthralled by him. In this way you too will be, for the world in our time, heralds of hope, reconciliation and peace!” B16
St John Vianney, pray for all priests, pray that in this Year of the Priest, God may do great things through His priests, that this year may be a new springtime for them all.

Teaching and testimony

Each day of the Congress was based round a theme which was really a very simple unwrapping of what the New Evangelisation is. Each day the delegates heard a testimony followed by a teaching given by a Bishop. On Monday Bishop Julian introduced the New Evangelisation. He set in relief the contemporary phenomenon of the spread of secularism and proposed a simple three-step plan; to seek personal holiness, that we can no longer be anonymous Catholics but witness to Christ, that we should be prepared to give a verbal testimony for Christ.

Tuesday's theme was Conversion and On-going Conversion. Bishop Chris Prouse (above) gave a catechesis which was also a Lectio Divina on the Emmaus passage of St Luke's Gospel, revealing the whole life of conversion which is proper to the Christian. Conversion, he reiterated, is not a noun but a verb!

Wednesday's theme was Proclaiming Christ, spoekn to by Bishop Joseph Grech (above). His catechesis was based upon JPII's famous words about the NE in the early eighties: the NE, he said is new "in ardour, method and expression." Christ, he said, is the centre of the NE.

Thursday's theme was the Great Commission and Bishop Anthony Fisher (above) delivered a catechesis upon the question of the formation of Christian disciples.

On Friday the structure of the morning changed and we welcomed Mike Willesee to the Congress who led a Q&A session with a panel made up by Bishop Julian, Fr Julian, Sr Madeline OP, Jovina Graham and Lewi Barakat. The panel focussed on questions of the heart and the ways in which the panel members had discerned God's presence in their lives and how they had responded to it. This Forum session led by Mike Willesee brought the Congress to a place where I believe God wants His Church to be right now - very personally and attentively to be open to Him and to the world so that many more people might have a personal encounter with His Son through us.