50th Anniversary Celebrations

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Church of the Apostles, 16 July 2012

A little less than three months after the ordination of our Jubilarians in July 1962, the Catholic Church witnessed the opening of the first session of the Second Vatican Council by Pope John XXIII. It was an occasion when he called upon the Church to open up the windows to the world and to respond to the signs of the times in a world which was witnessing a great deal of change in the aftermath of the conclusion of the Second World War less than 20 years earlier.

Our Archbishop of the time, Archbishop Guilford Young, the ordaining celebrant in the case of three of our Jubilarians, was a very enthusiastic participant in the Council, which, as we know, lasted much longer than originally anticipated. The bishops were to journey back to Rome for three more sessions before they could rest easy in the belief that they had, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, responded to the call of Pope John.

Just what has been the impact of the Council over this half century is a matter of discussion and debate. At the same time, the world has moved in directions which we would never have anticipated, especially in the fields of communication and technology. And these is still more change to come.

In the course of their deliberations, the Fathers of the Council redirected the thinking of the Church in a number of ways. They spoke of the Church as being the “People of God,” giving greater emphasis to the place that each and every baptised person has in the mission of the Church from the moment that Baptism is received.

They spoke of Mary as being the Mother of the Church, very much linked in everything to her Son Jesus. Today we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Mt Carmel, one of the most ancient of all the ways in which Mary is venerated, but the underlying message is still that of Mary being first of all the Mother of God and Mother of the Church.
I believe that the Bishops of the Council also found a new emphasis for those ordained to the priesthood, linking them in their vocation to the People of God as Shepherds, Teachers and Leaders, but still very much priests within the community of the People of God.

Our five Jubilarians are priests of the transition. They, like me, prepared for the Priesthood very much in accordance with the approach which had been prominent through the period from the previous two Councils, Vatican I and the Council of Trent. Each of them could explain, if so requested, just how the experience has been for them, to begin to move down a new path, almost from the day they were ordained.

I believe it is a matter to be acknowledged that they have done it so well, in times which have been very challenging and where some issues to be faced could never have been imagined at their beginning of their priestly lives now 50 years ago.

When we reflect on the direction of the lives of each Jubilarian as a priest, it can be truly said that the “spirit of the Lord has been given to them.” Little would each of them have envisaged fifty years ago, how their individual lives as priests would unfold. It is quite remarkable just how diverse and special their individual paths have been. And it has not always been easy either.

In his early years of priest, Fr Graeme had the responsibility of forming young people as members of the Young Christian Workers and the Young Christian Students, the beginning of what today we know as Catholic Youth Ministry. He was also involved as the Diocesan Director of Catholic Mission, offering encouragement to people to think more widely as the universal People of God. Sadly, that ministry was not able to continue, because of the persistent health problems Graeme has faced, but here he has been able to give us a strong reminder of what it means to suffer with acceptance and with perseverance.

The priestly path of Fr John gathered significant momentum through his entry into the field of Catholic Education, which culminated with a lengthy term of 15 years as the Director, and it was during that time that he also chaired the National Catholic Education Commission, the peak body in Catholic Education in Australia. After beginning his life as a priest in parishes, he then returned to them in the later years, until entering into retirement just a few weeks ago.

We are here today in the Church where Fr Terry Southerwood was baptised, confirmed, received the Eucharist for the first time, where he was ordained a priest 50 years ago, and where he served the last eleven years of his active ministry as the first Parish Priest of the enlarged Parish of Launceston. There were a number of parish appointments along the way, including some large parishes such as Kingston, Sandy Bay and Bellerive. At the same time, he has been able to pursue his interest in the history of the Archdiocese, and his 26 publications continue to be a valuable resource for us still.

The great feature of the priestly life of Fr Pat was that he was a tireless home visitor in every parish to which he was assigned. His has been the widest geographical coverage of the Archdiocese, from Circular Head down to the West Coast, from Franklin up through the Midlands of Brighton and Oatlands as well. He has shown a continuing concern for the poor and the underdog, as well as an acceptance of limitations which ill-health has brought about.

Finally the religious priests, who have played such a part in the life of the Archdiocese, are represented by Fr Gerald Quinn. Little would he has imagined, I suspect, at the commencement of his priestly life, that so much of it would be spent here in Tasmania, and in particular as the Catholic Chaplain at the Royal Hobart Hospital for nearly half of that time. Doctors, Directors, nursing and administrative staff at the Royal have come and gone, but Fr Gerald has outlasted them all and given a strong witness to Christian faith and belief to staff patients and family members in times of ill health, and sometimes of death.

In a sense the five priests were like the 72 others in the gospel, going out to different towns and places, bringing a message of peace to the people with whom they have been in contact. They have brought the Kingdom of God very close to people in a wide variety of different circumstances. Today we give thanks to God for having chosen them to be the messengers of God’s peace, and we thank them for their dedication and commitment to this uniquely priestly calling.