Bishop Pat Power officially retired as Auxiliary Bishop of Canberra and Goulburn on 7 June, 2012.
For tributes to the retired Bishop Power click here.
19 November 2013
It is a great joy and privilege for me to be speaking tonight at the end of a wonderful day of celebrations for the seventh Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn, Christopher Prowse. History and geography were not my strong points at school but I have picked up a bit in the meantime, some of which I wish to share with you all on this happy occasion. Any glaring mistakes or omissions on my part will be noted by our historical experts, Fathers Bill Kennedy, Paul Bateman and Brian Maher.
Our new Archbishop could be excused for finding his appointment to this see quite daunting. The Diocese of Goulburn was established by the Sacred Congregation of the Propagation of the Faith on 17 November 1862 and we have just concluded a year of rather low-key sesqui-centenary celebrations. However, it wasn’t until 10 March 1864 that the Bishop of Adelaide, Franciscan Patrick Bonaventure Geoghegan, was named Bishop of Goulburn. At the time, he was seeking medical help for a throat condition in his native Ireland and on 9 May that year he died following an operation in Dublin. The search for a new bishop rivalled some of the intrigues of modern day politics but eventually concluded with the appointment of Fr William Lanigan, Parish Priest of Berrima, even though in the latter stages of the selection process the new bishop was unsure whether he was to be Bishop of Goulburn or Armidale! He was duly consecrated Bishop of Goulburn on Pentecost Sunday 9 June 1867, nearly five years after the establishment of the diocese. So our 18 month wait for you, Christopher, has not been too bad in comparison. And Monsignor John Woods did a brilliant job as Archdiocesan Administrator as we waited patiently for your appointment.
But having arrived here safely and in seemingly good health, you can take heart in the knowledge that of your six predecessors as Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn only one, Thomas Vincent Cahill, died in office. What might be more worrying to you is that your three immediate predecessors, Edward Bede Clancy, Francis Patrick Carroll and Mark Benedict Coleridge are still living. I cannot recall a stage in Australia’s Catholic history where four occupants of a see were all alive at the one time. But I can assure you, Chris, that your three predecessors are all perfect gentlemen and will cause you no interference whatsoever.
While the Diocese of Goulburn was established in 1862, where we are sitting now remained part of the Archdiocese of Sydney until 1918. That was the year in which a large segment of the western part of the Diocese of Goulburn was ceded to form the Diocese of Wagga Wagga with the parish priest of Temora, Joseph Dwyer, named as its first bishop. It was then that Queanbeyan, the Monaro and the coastal part of the diocese became part of the Diocese of Goulburn.
Since 12 March this year, Canberra has been basking in some wonderful centenary celebrations. Not to be out-done, my home town of Queanbeyan is celebrating its 175 years. My father used to say that Queanbeyan was the mother of Canberra, but it was a case of the child out-growing the parent. Certainly in ecclesiastical terms, the Parish of Queanbeyan gave birth to Catholic Canberra. Established as a parish in 1842, remembering that it was part of the Archdiocese of Sydney, Queanbeyan welcomed in 1912 a 22 year old newly ordained Sydney priest, Patrick Haydon, as assistant to Father Matthew Hogan. When the diocesan changes took place in 1918, Fr Hogan decided to return to Sydney and Fr Haydon was made parish priest of Queanbeyan. Canberra, still not a parish, was very much part of Father Haydon’s beat. When St Christopher’s Canberra was established as a parish in 1928, the much loved Father Haydon was appointed as the first (and it turned out to be the only) parish priest. He had the good fortune to have the ministrations of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan who had been part of the Queanbeyan scene since 1879. Just a few weeks ago, Fr Brian Maher escorted a small group of us to Springbank Island just across the lake from the National Museum. It was on the Springbank property that the Sullivan family and others offered hospitality to the Queanbeyan priests who travelled there to celebrate Sunday Mass.
The erection of St Patrick’s Parish in Braddon in 1955 was the beginning of a burgeoning of parishes in the national capital as the Church has battled to keep pace with the rapid growth of Canberra. Although there are still more parishes in the country part of the Archdiocese, Canberra boasts the larger part of the Catholic population.
It is wonderful to witness the continuing renovation of St Peter and Paul’s Old Cathedral in Goulburn, the seat of the original diocese and the first inland city in Australia. In the meantime, St Christopher’s, where Archbishop Christopher’s installation took place this morning has progressively graduated from church in 1939 to pro-cathedral, to co-cathedral and to cathedral with its extension under Archbishop Cahill in 1973.
I am probably showing my personal bias when I say what a splendid area our Archdiocese covers. Yass the producer of some of Australia’s finest wool is our oldest parish with its beginnings in 1839 and the claim that Melbourne was at one stage part of its territory. Cooma is the gateway to the Snowy Mountains and the snowfields, Cootamundra is the birthplace of Don Bradman, Paleface Adios hails from Temora and Grenfell has its claims on Henry Lawson but also on Edward Bede Clancy whose father taught at Holy Camp a settlement out of Grenfell which still remains dear to the Cardinal’s heart. Archbishop Christopher, if you wish to savour some delicious stone fruit in the next few weeks get over to Young to taste the cherries and down to Araluen, the Valley of Peace, to bring home a box of peaches. Make sure before too long you get out to your furthest outpost, Lake Cargelligo. While you are there try to get across to Rankin Springs. I put in a plug for them because to my shame I have never made it there in my 48 years as a priest of the Archdiocese. Of course, nothing will hold you back from the enchanting strip of coast-line from Batemans Bay to Eden where a little further on at the border you will touch on your former diocese of Sale. It was off the coast of Eden where the Lyee Moon was shipwrecked in 1886 taking the life of Mary MacKillop’s mother, Flora, and sixty others. The future saint was always grateful to the people of Eden for caring for her mother’s body. I am told that a Mrs Power was the principal carer, but I cannot claim any relationship to the good woman. What is factual is that the future Bishop, Fr Patrick Geoghegan baptised Mary MacKillop in Melbourne in 1842,having celebrated her parents’ marriage a couple of years earlier. Our Archdiocese has been particularly blessed with the presence of both streams of the Sisters of St Joseph who officially came together on the feast of St Joseph this year.
The Archdiocese also owes a great debt of gratitude to the Sisters of Mercy who have lived up to their name in all sorts of challenging situations and still continue to be found among the poor and struggling in our midst. They too have merged nationally with other streams of their congregation. I have already mentioned Australia’s home grown order, the Good Samaritans. Over the years, the Brigidines, the Presentations, the St John of God Sisters, the Little Company of Mary, the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, the Carmelites and Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity have all witnessed powerfully to the Gospel in our midst. We honour those Orders who staffed secondary and primary schools in Canberra providing solid foundations for a Catholic education system of which our Archdiocese is justifiably proud. Jenny Jeffery has just launched as a Canberra Centenary project, Ringing in the Years, a comprehensive and colourful account of Catholic schooling in Canberra. Preaching at the Sesqui-centenary Mass in Goulburn just over a year ago, I spoke of Catholic Education as the “jewel in the crown” of our Archdiocese, now almost totally staffed by highly dedicated and competent lay people, very much aware of their vocation within the life of the Church. I pay tribute also to the Signadou campus of the Australian Catholic University which is going from strength to strength. An historical overview such as this needs to acknowledge Bishop John Cullinane’s leadership in the famous 1962 Goulburn Schools Strike which was to play a significant part in achieving justice for Catholic schools funding across our nation.
Our Archdiocese has been similarly blessed with the male Religious who have served the Church and the wider community so well: The Christian Brothers, De La Salle and Marist Brothers, the Passionist Fathers, Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, Dominicans, Jesuits, members of the Society of Christ and most latterly the Missionaries of God’s Love about to become a Congregation of Diocesan Right.
The death last Friday of Redemptorist, Fr Joe Carroll just as the clergy of the Archdiocese were concluding our annual retreat was a poignant reminder of the spiritual oasis Galong monastery has been to our own and surrounding dioceses.
On 15 October last year, we mourned the death of Fr Joe Staunton. It was the first time in our diocesan history we had been without the ministrations of the Irish clergy. In fact, it was sometime in the early 1950s, some say with the ordination of Fr Neville Drinkwater in 1954 that for the first time in our diocese the number of Australian born priests outnumbered the Irish born. It was fitting that when Fr Brian Maher wrote his authoritative history of our Archdiocese that he gave it the title Planting the Celtic Cross thereby acknowledging the great debt of gratitude we owe to the Irish Church. But bereft of this Irish presence, the Archdiocese now counts among its ranks priests born in Vietnam, India, Singapore, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Indonesia, Samoa, Lebanon, Croatia and Korea, not to mention the chaplains to the ethnic communities.
Archbishop Christopher, you are inheriting a loyal and dedicated group of priests and deacons even if they are diminishing in number. You will find in them brotherly collaborators willing to give their all in the service of God and his people. The priests are faithful pastors to their people and the biblically seven permanent deacons bring much needed flexibility to the life of the Archdiocese. But I have to say that they are being stretched to the very limit as is the case in most countries in the western world.
A few weeks ago, I sat in on a meeting at the Australian National University of about 50 people from different parts of Australia looking towards renewal in the Church. They examined a statement which looked at the call to be disciples. They pleaded for a Catholic Church that reflects Jesus’ message of love, justice, equality, peace and forgiveness
A Catholic Church in which all people are directed by their conscience and assume their responsibility for the mission of the Church
A Catholic Church which inspires its people to recapture an experience of the mystical and the spiritual
A Catholic Church where God-given authority is used widely and justly to propagate the teachings of Christ, and respects the role of the People of God
A Catholic Church where all people, men and women, single and married minister in a spirit of co-responsibility for the Church
A Catholic Church that influences Australian society to be ever more just, compassionate and egalitarian.
Archbishop Christopher, on 11 October last year, I was part of the congregation in St Peter’s Square while you and the other members of the Synod concelebrated with Pope Benedict the Mass marking the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council. I derived great hope from the Mass that the gifts of that great Council would be freshly received. The election of Pope Francis reinforced those hopes. I see your appointment as our Archbishop as further reason for hope. I always remember the speech you gave at the bishops’ meeting in 2005 when you were honoured for your 25 years of priestly service. It was clear that your priestly heart was still very much to the fore in your ministry as bishop. Your demonstrated commitment to ecumenical and interfaith relations, your yearning for greater closeness to our indigenous people and your enthusiasm to take up Pope Francis’ call for us to be a poor church for the poor brings us all closer to the heart of Jesus.
Our Archdiocesan Synods of 1989 and 2004 with their themes of Coming Home in Christ and One in Christ Jesus were based on wide consultation similar to what Pope Francis seems to be asking for in regard to the international synod on the Family. However, our Archdiocesan experience would indicate that much more time will be needed if the consultation is to be effective. There is no doubt that the gifts of all the People of God need to be drawn upon as my friends at the ANU seemed to be suggesting.
Your recognition of being Christopher, Christ-bearer, in St Christopher’s Cathedral and all that it represents is a worthy challenge not just for you personally but for all the People of God in our Local Church. Just a week ago today, members of the newly elected Federal Parliament gathered in prayer in St Christopher’s asking God’s blessings on their leadership of our nation. The Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn has unique opportunities to be a significant part of the national discourse. You will be a humble, yet articulate partner in that important conversation. You will have similar opportunities in the local community as well. Canberra for many reasons has been comparatively free of the sectarianism which has at times bedevilled other parts of Australia. Much of our thanks for that goes to our friend Monsignor Haydon who was held in such high esteem by the whole community, to some outstanding Catholic laypeople and politicians as well as a fine body of clergy and religious who have engaged with respect and friendship members of the wider community.
Archbishop Christopher, we welcome you to the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn as our chief pastor, we wish you well and we promise you our loyalty, our love and our prayers. Ad multos annos.
St Christopher's Cathedral, 19 June 2012.
Last year, the 25th anniversary of my ordination as bishop, the 18th of April, fell on the Monday of Holy Week, the day we celebrate the Chrism Mass here in the Cathedral. Because of my anniversary, Archbishop Mark kindly invited me to be the principal celebrant. I said on that occasion that when I made my First Holy Communion in St Christopher’s on 24 April 1949 and when I was confirmed here on 3 May 1953, I never imagined that I would be ordained bishop in this cathedral church on 18 April 1986. I was confirmed by the first Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn, Terence McGuire, ordained priest by his immediate successor, Eris O’Brien, and I was secretary to the next three Archbishops, Thomas Cahill, Edward Clancy and Francis Carroll before becoming Auxiliary Bishop to Archbishops Carroll and Coleridge. I think it is a lovely twist of fate that has me serving my last days as Auxiliary Bishop under the diocesan leadership of Monsignor John Woods who was my altar boy when I arrived in this parish as a newly ordained priest early in 1966.
When I became bishop, I took as my motto GOD IS LOVE and I have been alluding to that in my Confirmation homilies in the past few weeks as a way of highlighting the Year of Grace, the observance of which we began on Pentecost Sunday. I first experienced the unconditional love of God through the love of my dear mother. The enduring memory of the countless examples of her love and goodness continues to enable me to see such grace in the lives of people I meet every day. I often say that never a day goes by without me thanking God for the gift of the priesthood which has enabled me to witness such grace in so many ways, in good times and in bad. When we are open to the God of Surprises, we find grace in many unexpected places and in the most unlikely of people. It is when we try to put God into a box, that we fail to see him in the people around us. I have been sharing with the Confirmation children a quotation from Pope John Paul II that I have only recently discovered “If we have Jesus in our hearts, we will see his face in every person we meet.”
Professor Manning Clark lived just up the road from here and sometimes dropped in to St Christopher’s. He was not a Catholic and sometimes struggled with the whole notion of belief, but he was very much a searcher. He enjoyed a warm friendship with his fellow historian, Archbishop Eris O’Brien, even before the both of them came to Canberra. In 1990, Manning Clark wrote a book called The Quest for Grace. I would hope that all of us here this evening are engaged in a quest for grace. Each of our life’s journeys and our journeys of faith have been different, but all have been under the influence of God’s grace even when we may not have recognised it. As I look into this congregation I see so many of you who have powerfully and heroically witnessed to God’s love in your lives and have shared that love with one another. My sisters and brothers of other Churches present tonight remind me of the many blessings which have come into my life through their friendship and powerful witness to the values of the Gospel. What I have learnt from you has brought me closer to the heart of Jesus. My brother priests and deacons have been veritable companions on the journey.
The Gospel of this evening’s Mass speaks to us of Jesus returning to his home town of Nazareth and going into the synagogue where he would have worshipped with Mary and Joseph as he was growing up. He applies to himself the words of the prophet Isaiah: “The spirit of the Lord has been given to me, for he has anointed me. He has sent me to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives and to the blind new sight, to set the down-trodden free, to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour.” At the beginning of his public ministry, Jesus was proclaiming what his vocation was all about. In the three years of his public ministry, he consistently lived up to the promises he was making that day. He constantly sought to do the will of his Father and continually called his disciples into relationship with the Father under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Through his words and actions he gave comfort, healing, strength and hope to all with whom he came in contact. St Luke’s Gospel from which we read this evening in a special way shows the compassionate heart of Jesus.
If my mother taught me the unconditional love of God, it was my father who showed me what it meant to stand up against injustice and to be in solidarity with people who are struggling. Growing up in Queanbeyan, I never objected to it being called Struggletown because I felt that term epitomised many of the most admirable of my home town’s qualities. I saw my father as a Justice of the Peace not just witnessing the signatures on people’s documents but particularly in helping them find their way in their search not only for grace but sometimes for survival. He and Mum were particularly welcoming to many of the post-World War II refugees affectionately called New Australians, many of whom were starting a new life in Queanbeyan. Dad had a real heart for the people needing help through the St Vincent de Paul Society. He never had a driver’s licence and one time my sister, Maria, was driving him around to do some of his St V de P calls. She sat in the car while Dad went into a house and a lady emerged smoking a cigarette. When Dad came back to the car, Maria said “That is a bit rich. Here she is taking charity from the St Vincent de Paul Society yet she can afford to smoke.” Dad replied simply “Even poor people are entitled to the little pleasures of life.”
At times, I feel a bit embarrassed when my name goes up in lights for what I have done in the pursuit of justice. So often I have been invited by a group of dedicated people to join in solidarity with them in supporting people at risk in all kinds of situations: our own indigenous people, refugees and asylum seekers, the Palestinian people, the Tamils, the East Timorese; here in Canberra, homeless people, the union supporting the cleaners, most of whom are migrant and women, residents of the Long Stay Caravan Park being threatened with eviction in 2006, my friends with whom I pray on World Aids Day each year, and in their annual service at Weston Park those mourning the death of family members and friends from illicit drug use. In those and in many similar instances, I have been humbled to witness the hours of tireless dedication put in by people with extremely generous hearts. I see these people who often make no claim to any religious affiliation and I think of Jesus’ words “As often as you did this for one of the least of my brothers and sisters you did it to me.”
May I repeat what I said at last year’s Chrism Mass. If my joy is in all of you present tonight my sorrow is in those who no longer feel at home in the life of the Catholic Church. In my ministry as bishop, I have tried to reach out to those who are at the edges, both in the Church and in the wider community. I don’t think any of us can be comfortable in the family of the Church without asking what is causing so many of our sisters and brothers to walk away. So often, I hear the heart-felt plea “I haven’t abandoned the Church, the Church has abandoned me.”
My hopes for retirement are that leaving aside the burdens of meetings and bureaucracy, I will be freer to support my brother priests and deacons who are hanging in there for the long haul, to catch up with other friends and family members and to have a special outreach to those on the outer, both in terms of the Church and the wider community. I promise to continue to listen to your stories and to be uplifted by your example.
I hope that in this Year of Grace as we celebrate the 50 years since the beginning of the Second Vatican Council, we may reclaim what it means to be part of the People of God and to help the Church be its best self in showing the face of Jesus to every person in our midst. May the Holy Spirit be with us all in our quest for grace.