Thursday 30 August 2012

My third community in Sydney

After living for one year on campus at Campion College I was invited to live at the Seminary of the Good Shepherd. I was very grateful to the staff of the seminary for this invitation and for the way in which my Australian mission developed in a particularly priestly way. So, as well as my work at Campion College I was now taking part in some of the seminary Liturgies, hearing confessions and giving some evening seminars to the seminarians. And after a second year in Sydney the unexpected happened: I was asked to join the seminary staff full-time and to concentrate my efforts in the preparation of men for the priesthood in Sydney.
My work at the seminary included presiding and preaching at some Liturgies, being a Spiritual Director to individuals, hearing confessions, directing seminarian retreats, giving seminars to the different year groups, giving some liturgical formation and training in preaching.
I had never expected to find myself working in a seminary, still less the seminary of the Archdiocese of Sydney, yet our God is a God of surprises. More than anything that I was able to give to the young men preparing for ordination, the priestly enrichment which I received as a member of staff was utterly grace-filled. I became aware of the great generosity of the young men who were offering themselves to the Church, their desire for Christ and the life of grace, and their desire to embrace Christ’s mission in New South Wales. I was aware of their joy at stepping out of the secular culture and their eagerness to proclaim Christ’s Gospel. And that I should be a part of this enterprise, if only for three years, was enormously renewing for me.
The formation of, and the renewal of the Diocesan Priesthood has, for many years now, had a special place in my outlook, but my part in the life of the Seminary of the Good Shepherd has opened me more strongly to the greatness of the Diocesan Priesthood and the call which it is receiving from the Church today. So much was this the case that I am aware now that my four years in Sydney were in fact an extraordinary time of priestly renewal for me. Most people go out to Australia to work or to tour round; I was brought out by God for an intense experience of priestly life and grace!

Thursday 23 August 2012

My second community in Sydney

When I arrived in Sydney I was driven straight to Campion College where I would reside on campus for a whole year; my first endeavour there was to help build up the student body. On my second day I was visited by two very good friends, John and Niall of the St Patrick's Community in Ireland who had been giving talks during WYD. With them was one of the leaders of the Servants of Jesus Community together with one of his sons. So it was that I came into contact, for the first time, with a Covenant Community.
Extraordianrily the Servants of Jesus Community were based a little over a mile away from the campus of Campion College. They were, at that time, looking for priests who could celebrate a Sunday morning Mass with them. I was happy to oblige. For almost four years I was part of roster of priests who celebrated a Sunday Mass at their centre.
The congregation of some hundreds welcomed me so warmly that a wonderful relationship developed between us - I was very much at home with them. Not only now did I have the community of Campion College to underpin me, but I had a second community with whom I could put down roots. God in his providence is never outdone!
The friendship which developed there was grace-filled. I have never before celebrated the Mass for such a loving, attentive and supportive congregation. I was struck particularly by three features of the community: the way in which they welcomed  and embraced new members, helping them to make strides forward in the life of grace, and secondly by the number of young people, especially young men, who were part of the community and whose life of faith the Community nurtured. Thirdy, I delighted in the number of families who were a part of the Community, and the way in which the formation of the family was engendered, and the atmosphere in which the faith was handed on to younger generations.
Now that I am back in England I will miss my contact with the the Servants of Jesus Community and their support for me. Perhaps God will enable us to do a mission together in the future. After my final Mass for them just a couple of weeks ago our parting was very poignant. I was overwhelmed with their gratitude for my small part in their lives. The above photo shows the cake which they made in my honour and which we eat together before I left. I hope that the Community will go from strength to strength, and that we will all meet again.

Tuesday 21 August 2012

A chaplain down under

Arriving at Campion College near Parramatta at the end of July 2008 I was just in time to start the second semester, but I had missed WYD SYD. I remember wondering what God's purposes were, that He had brought me to the other side of the world. Nevertheless, I was keen to be the best priest that I could be to my new but small community at Campion College.
I had heard about Campion College a couple of years earlier, and indeed, I had posted about it on this blog. I was, and am, convinced of the mission of the new Liberal Arts Colleges that have been inaugurated in recent years in various parts of the world. That while much of secular culture is putting its roots behind it, these pioneering places of learning are guardians to an immensely important heritage.
My first delight at Campion College was to be welcomed by, and to get to know the students - my first real contact with Australians. And secondly, to integrate myself as a member of staff so that I could better dispose myself to the mission of being the first full-time chaplain.
The celebration of Holy Mass, adoration, confession, spiritual direction, seminars, trips out and, of course, cooking and BBQing were the staple ingredients of my life. The student community was quite small so I was soon able to get to know the whole student body. It was a huge joy for me to come to know these young Catholics and to experience their hopes and ideals, their faith and their love for Christ and for His Church, and to serve and support their life in the Church. 
As those first weeks went past I began to realise just what a great impact WYD had had on the young Catholics of Sydney. Sydney was aglow with the grace of WYD! I became aware of lots of initiatives, many of them set up by young Catholics, as a response to the Holy Father's presence at WYD in Sydney. I was soon being called upon to take part in events being organised in both Parramatta Diocese and the Sydney Archdiocese. Then, after just two years at the College I was called to take part, full-time, in the preparation of men for the priesthood at the Seminary of the Good Shepherd in Sydney.
I will always be grateful to Campion College for its part in bringing me out to Australia. I hope that my small part in the life of the College at its inception might bear good fruit, and I hope that the College goes from strength to stregth, establishing itself in the great mission of the New Evangelisation.

Friday 17 August 2012

Another Yorkshireman in Australia

Never in my wildest dreams ever think that I would live and work in Australia. When, in February 2008, I first received word that Campion College, Australia, were thinking of me for their first full-time chaplain, I wondered how I would take to Australia.
I loved Australia from the very first day and found my new appointment - at the other side of the world - one of the easiest to adjust to. There are so many things that I could say here about Australia but I will confine myself to what I regard as the most important.
For me, the best thing about Australia is the personality of the people. Coming from the natural reservedness of the English, I immediately took to the openness of the Australians, to their positive, 'can-do', and friendly approach to life.
Secondly, and in paying tribute to them, I was struck by the enthusiasm of young Catholics in Sydney for Christ and his Church. I arrived in Sydney just as WYD was finishing and I experienced, during the subsequent four years, the response of young people to the Christian life. I was amazed to see how many young Catholics have moved to the forefront of the Church, how much provision for their Christian formation has been set in place, and how stronly the new generation are claiming genuine Catholic life.
But the greatest experience of all which I had as an English priest working in Sydney, was the response of Australians to me when I was out and about on the streets. Becuase I was always dressed as a priest, if I was on foot I would often be approached by people, for confession, for a blessing, for spiritual direction or just for a chat. I never experienced anything like this in England and am convinced that a priest could have a part-time ministry at least, by making himself available on the street. So much did I find this to be the case that I would often walk rather than use the car, and try to appear not busy, and not to be rushing somewhere. What I found in Australia was a whole reservoir of faith ready to be untapped, and because of the openness of Australians, a great ease of communication. 
Would I return to Australia, if I had another opportunity to do so? Absolutely.

Tuesday 14 August 2012

From Australia with love

I arrived in Australia at the end of July 2008 not knowing what lay ahead of me, not knowing how my apostolate there would develop or come to an end. After just over four years, four wonderful years of priestly life and grace, family responsibilities call me to end this period of work abroad and return to England.
The call to go to Australia came out of the blue, literally. I was asked to become the first full-time chaplain of Campion College, Australia; a position I held for two years. During this time, and for three years, I moved to live and work also at the Seminary of the Good Shepherd in Sydney.
My mother's diminshing health has convicted me that I should now be more available to the family back home.
My Australian experience has been so marvellous that I would like to make a series of posts here. In this first post I simply want to enumerate the pricipal people with whom I was involved and to whom I am indebted:
Firstly, Bishop Manning (now Emeritus) of Parramatta for his very warm welcome.
The Campion Foundation, and the staff and students of Campion College.
His Eminence Cardinal Pell, and the staff and students of the Seminary of the Good Shepherd.
The Officers of the Marriage and Family Life department of the Sydney Archdiocese.
The Theology on Tap team.
The iWitness team.
The Queensland Catholic Home-Schooling Association.
The National Asspciation of Catholic Families, Australia.
The Servants of Jesus Community.
The Catholic Youth Services of Sydney Archdiocese.
The leaders and members of the Youth Formation Course of the Sydney Archdiocese.
The Nashville Dominican Sisters.
The Dominican Fathers of the Sydney Archdiocese.
The Immaculata Sisters, the Immaculata Youth Community, and the leaders and members of the Immaculata Formation Course.
The Chaplaincy of the University of New South Wales.
The Schoenstadt Sisters of Mulgoa.
The priest members of the Australian Confraternity of Catholic Clergy.
The Sydney priests of the Fraternity of St Peter.
The Jesuit Fathers of Brisbane.
Auxiliary Bishop Julian Porteous  of Sydney and the members of the Credo Office of Evangelisation of the Sydney Archdiocese.
Archbishop Coleridge of Brisbane.
Bishop Jarrett of Lismore.
Bishop McKenna of Bathurst.
Bishop Fisher of Parramatta.
Bishop Mathys (now Emeritus) and Bishop Kennedy of Armidale.
Auxiliary Bishop Comensoli of Sydney.
My involvement in the Church in Australia was so wonderful, and I will rejoice in it for a long time, that I will endeavour to follow this with some appreciative posts. Watch this space!

Friday 3 August 2012

The great teaching on spousal love and conscious parenthood

Support the prayerful petition to the Holy Father and the Bishops honouring the Encyclical Letter Humanae Vitae and asking that its whole content be taught anew with confidence. This petition has been inititated by The Bellarmine Forum.