I am officially assistant priest at St Mary’s Parish, Hamilton, although I actually live in Casterton, and minister to the parishes of Casterton, Coleraine, Edenhope and Harrow. This is the far west of country Victoria!
For a potted history, here are the remarks I delivered at my ordination Mass:
Remarks after Ordination
16 September 2011
Thanks be to God for the gift of Priesthood! I am conscious that this evening’s celebration is not all about me. This is a celebration of the whole Church. I’m very grateful to the cast of thousands who have contributed to tonight’s events, but I’ll thank them each personally, not publicly, in recognition that they have donated their time and energy not only for my sake, but for all of us — the Church in Ballarat — and also to praise and worship God.
What I will do is pay tribute to the people who have helped me to get here.
Bishop Peter Connors
It is a privilege to be ordained by Peter Connors. My first public event as a Ballarat seminarian was to assist with the Holy Week ceremonies in my third year. Then — as now — clerical abuse was in the headlines, and this is what people wanted to talk about.
During that week, I heard an array of opinions, some very critical of the Church. But the people I spoke to were unanimous in their gratitude to Bishop Peter for his efforts towards healing. It would be a shame to reduce his episcopate to a single issue, but I think his pastoral attention to victims of clerical abuse is a measure of the man.
Our bishop’s motto is “That we may be one.” This is an aspiration I, too, hope to embody as I start my life of service in this diocese. I am very grateful to God, and to you Bishop Peter, that you were the one who has ordained me into this ministry.
Priests and formators
There are many priests to whom I owe a debt of thanks. Some are formators: the staff at Corpus Christi College, and the staff at the Catholic Theological College. Not only priests — laity and religious as well; current staff members and former. Teachers at Damascus College and at St Francis Xavier College also deserve mention.
And then there are priests in Ballarat and Melbourne who were not my formators — who were in fact careful not to interfere with my formation — but whose hospitality and example and friendship were nonetheless invaluable.
I look forward to working with the priests of this diocese, who have shown me nothing but kindness, and from whom I have much to learn.
I thank the seminarians — past and present — at Corpus Christi College, who are not only dear friends, but my brothers.
Not every seminarian proceeds to ordination, and the departure of a seminarian is always a time of grief. Departures can challenge one’s own sense of vocation, especially in the initial years of formation. But as time passes, these departures are not only challenging, but also affirming, when they demonstrate that above all else, God wants each of us to be happy.
Via the seminary I have made close friends, some of whom are priests, some of whom are still in the seminary, and some of whom are serving God in other states of life. I have found that whatever their vocation, my brothers’ joy is my joy.
I owe particular thanks to Opus Dei, which has nourished my faith. It’s a little peculiar that I should discern a priestly vocation through Opus Dei, which is after all a lay apostolate.
But a good priest must first be a good Christian, and a good Christian must be (in my case) a good son, a good brother, a good student. Opus Dei first helped me to be these things at university, and I hope Opus Dei helps me, in the same way, to be a good son of my bishop, and a good brother to the priests of Ballarat.
Then there is the greatest of lay apostolates: the family. The Domestic Church. The Primordial Seminary.
Over the past seven years, my priestly calling has been nourished, and my commitment to celibacy sustained, by time spent with families. There are countless families in Melbourne, Warrnambool, and Ballarat who I would like to thank, but I especially want to mention Peter and Rose-Mary Peart, and Daniel and Michelle Attard. And then, of course, there is my own family.
When I was nine or ten, Mum gave me St Thérèse’s Story of a Soul to read. I loved it of course, but it was only in conversation with Mum afterwards, that its principle point hit me: all of us are born to be saints, and God makes this possible.
I think this is a typical example of the influence of one’s own family. We receive all sorts of information and influences from outside, but it is in the family that we assimilate these influences; it is through our families that we become the people we are. The generosity I have learned from Mum and Dad — parents of nine children — and the lessons I have learned from my brothers and sisters, is immeasurable.
First blessings to engaged couples
Finally, after this mass I will return to the sanctuary, where individuals may receive the personal blessing of the newly ordained priest. You’re welcome to queue up in the main aisle.
For reasons good and bad, the Catholic priest has lost his prophetic voice in the secular world. I think this mission now falls to husbands and wives, who can reach people the priest cannot reach, and witness to Christ’s love.
I’m currently preparing four couples for marriage. Two of those couples were able to accept my invitation to be here tonight. I’m sure no one would object if Lauren and Jake, and Jacinta and Jarrod, jumped to the head of the queue. I would be privileged to bless you in preparation for your wonderful vocations, just as I begin my own.