George Town Parish - 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time - Well Done Good and Faithful Servant

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Well done good and faithful servant
33rd Sunday in Ordinary time (A)

This weekend we are celebrating a significant anniversary for the parish of George Town. The parish is 60 years old.

Parishes are the bedrock of our Catholic life. They are the concrete expressions of belonging to the universal Church. At the centre of the parish is its church, or in this case its three churches – Our Lady Star of the Sea, George Town, Sacred Heart, Karoola and St Anne’s, Lilydale.

Stella Maris Church was built by Fr Ryan, Parish Priest of Invermay, when this district was part of the Invermay Parish. It was opened in 1953 by Archbishop Tweedy. The archbishop noted in his sermon that “unless a Catholic community has a church in its midst, it is rightly felt that something is lacking”.

The first church here was notable for the fact that it was a prefabricated church. And this parish church was also notable in that it was the first church in Tasmania to have permission to hold a Sunday evening Mass. Archbishop Tweedy gave permission to Fr Ryan following the decision of Pope Pius XII to allow an evening Mass where it was not possible to provide a morning Mass. 

The following year, 1954, Fr Vincent Shelverton was appointed as parish priest. A new parish was born. It was the 36th parish in Tasmania at the time.
The new parish priest had a church but nowhere to live. He bunked down in the tiny sacristy and eventually he secured a hut from Comalco. He was a true bush priest, often dressed in overalls and he drove a ute.

Today we remember the humble beginnings of the parish. The Sisters too had a challenging start in establishing a school. They too lived in workers huts until a convent was built.

George Town needed to become a parish because the development of the Bell Bay aluminium works brought new vitality to this previously rather sleepy area. Many of the workers were from overseas and brought new colour and character to the area and to the parish community.

Today is a time to give thanks to God for his blessings on this parish. It is a special day of joy for Fr Ed Zammit who has served here as Parish Priest for the past ….years.

Today in the Mass we have listened to a parable that is is well known to us. It is often referred to as the Parable of the Talents.

The master praises the servants who have wisely used their talents by saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant, you have shown you can be faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater; come and join your master’s happiness”.

These surely are words each of us would like to hear when we meet the Lord.

God has given each of us the gift of life. The circumstances of our lives, the personal qualities we possess, the opportunities that come our way, all vary from one to another. Each life is unique. The gifts we receive differ greatly. The Lord knows this. He just wants us to use what we have to the best of our ability. He does warn in another place that for those who have much, much will be expected. There is no place for complacency.

It is not what we have in life, it is how we use it.

One particular gift that each of us here today has is the gift of faith. Faith is a gift. We are not more intelligent than others who do not have faith. We are no better than they are. We have been given a gift, a treasure, our Catholic faith. It is not something we should take for granted.

Today as we celebrate the 60th anniversary of the establishing of this parish we recall how many would have worked hard to form a living and vibrant parish community. Many would have given generously of themselves, their talents, their time, to help the parish grow and prosper.

So it is today. A parish is what it is because of the people who make it up. It is lives because it lives in the hearts and lives of the members of the parish community.

A parish community, too, has a mission given to us by the Lord, and it is twofold. A parish has a mission to the poor, the sick and needy.

• As the Lord had compassion on those in need, so do we. Thus we visit the sick and bring them Christian consolation, especially by offering the Holy Sacrament to them.

• We show practical concern for the poor, especially through the St Vincent de Paul Society and we generously support agencies of the Church, like Caritas.

And a parish has a mission to spread the faith in our increasingly secular society.

• Thus, the Church is committed to Catholic Education and we have a wonderful system of schools which are instruments of teaching the faith.

• We have catechists who teach the children their faith.

• We have the RCIA program to provide adults who wish to become Catholics a formation in the faith.

• And we are being urged to develop the New Evangelisation as a means to reach out to our contemporary society and present Jesus Christ to them.

We must find the ways to bring our faith to our society – we cannot hide our light under a bushel! Our faith cannot be simply a private affair. We have a responsibility and an urgent task to bring others to know Jesus Christ.

• We need to witness to our faith. Firstly in the family – Grace before meals, a prayer with young children at end of the day. Also in our work and social situations – offering to pray for someone’s needs.

Thus are the talents of the members of the parish community to be exercised.  Each parish community has within it the talents needed to enable the parish to be what it is meant to be.

Today is an opportunity for each person to renew their willingness to help strengthen and build up the parish here.
May this parish of George Town in each of its members hear the words of the Lord: “Well done, good and faithful servant, you have shown you can be faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater; come and join your master’s happiness”.

Archbishop Julian Porteous
Saturday, 15 November 2014