'Duc in Altum': 125th anniversary of St Canice Church, Glengarry - Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)

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Home > Archbishop > Homilies > 'Duc in Altum': 125th anniversary of St Canice Church, Glengarry - Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)

There are five beautiful and identical stained glass windows on the ground floor of the bishop’s house in Hobart. Each of the windows features an Archbishop’s Coat of Arms. I always imagined that they were the Coat of Arms of the second bishop and first archbishop of Hobart, Daniel Murphy who built the house in the late 1880s. However, I discovered that they are the Coat of Arms of the third bishop and second archbishop, Patrick Delaney. He was bishop from 1907 to 1926.

My particular interest in the Coat of Arms is the motto on them: Duc in Altum, which can be translated “put out into the deep”. They are the words of the Lord to Simon Peter after he had finished preaching to the crowds: “When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out into deep water and pay out your nets for a catch.’” St Luke goes on to tell of the miracle of the huge catch of fish that followed. Simon Peter and his companions were completely overcome and amazed.

This motto which is taken from the Gospel we have just read has special meaning for me. I was ordained a bishop, Auxiliary Bishop of Sydney, in 2003 and shortly after I was able to go to Rome and there met the Pope, Pope St John Paul II. Following our brief few words together, he presented me with a pectoral cross and on the back were the words, Duc in Altum. I am wearing this pectoral cross today. In fact, I wear it every day.

This phrase was chosen by Pope St John Paul II as his personal word to the Church on the eve of the new millennium. The Pope urged the Church to embrace the new millennium with confidence and expectation. He wanted us to be unafraid and launch out into the deep. The Pope was confident that the third millennium would in fact be a new springtime for the Church. He had a sense that it would see a great new catch of souls.

This phrase has often inspired me. It has encouraged me to the look to the future with confidence. It has urged me to be bold and not hold back. It has given me the hope that there will be great results if we are obedient to this call of the Lord.

This admonition of the Lord would lead to a great result for the fishermen in the boat. However, as we read, Simon Peter was hesitant and said to the Lord, “We worked hard all night and caught nothing.” Their efforts had been unsuccessful. Simon Peter, though, acceded to the Lord’s request and said, “But if you say so, I will pay out the nets.” And a great catch resulted.

As I have opportunities to join parish communities around Tasmania as they celebrate significant milestones, as we are doing today, I often think back of those pioneer Catholics who built these churches. They were often poor and had few resources. Yet, they were determined to have a church where the Holy Mass could be celebrated. They stepped out boldly and achieved amazing things. This is a simple church. It cost just £165 to build, but it is a testimony to the faith and dedication of a small group of Catholics in this area in the 1890s.

And it was Archbishop Delaney whose episcopal motto adorns the bishop’s house where I live who travelled up from Hobart to solemnly bless and open this church in January 1894.  The Examiner records that Dr Delaney spoke about the establishing of the church in this district and – the newspaper reported – “congratulated the people on their generosity”.

The small community of Catholics in this area, 125 years ago, put out into the deep. They took on a debt and worked hard to eliminate it. They wanted a place where they could gather and offer their worship of God.

I note that the Archbishop made a parting request. This is how the Examiner expressed it: “He advised them to have their children educated, and intimated that he would make arrangements before leaving for a Sunday school to be opened every Sunday afternoon in the building, so that the children who attended the schools in the district could receive proper religious education.”

Twenty-five years ago the centenary of the church was duly commemorated. On that occasion Archbishop Eric D’arcy was in attendance. The community added a kitchen and meeting space to the church to mark the occasion. The community rallied around a new project. They set themselves a goal and achieved it.

Duc in Altum”, the Lord said to Simon Peter and his companions in the boat: “Put out into the deep.” They must have felt it was a waste of time as they had been fishing all night and had caught nothing. Often we can be trying to achieve things and nothing is happening. We can be tempted to give up.

Today I hear the Lord saying once again, “Duc in Altum”: “Put out into the deep.” I hear the Lord saying this to me as Archbishop: “Put out into the deep.” I hear the Lord saying this to the parishes and people of the Archdiocese: “Put out into the deep. Go forward, take some risks. Embrace the future.”

We are tempted to say, “But Lord we have been trying and we have had no results.” But this thinking makes us want to give up. So the Lord just looks at us and says again, “Duc in Altum.”

And we say, “Yes, Lord, we will not give up. We will step out and take some risks. We will do as you say.”

The Lord wants to do great things here in Tasmania. Let us embrace the future with confidence.

Archbishop Julian Porteous
Saturday, 9 February 2019