For two days, the precinct around Canberra’s cathedral evoked something much smaller and low key but still similar to World Youth Day. I think several factors contributed to this.
Firstly, the ordination and First Mass were both in Canberra’s cathedral, which is quite central (insofar as Canberra has a centre at all). Before and after both masses, the surrounding restaurants and cafés were filled with people who were attending Fr Paul’s ordination. Many of them were dressed in clerics or habits, which naturally attracted the curious attention of passers by.
Secondly, the Corpus Christi seminarians attended in great numbers. This is the Melbourne seminary’s greatest claim to fame, I think: students cultivate a genuine fraternity, which means that guests of one seminarian enjoy the hospitality and attention of many seminarians, and when a man is ordained, his brothers will make every effort to attend. The spectacle of so many seminarians, who are both young and enthusiastic, left an added impression on passers by, quite apart from the vision of Roman collars and religious habits.
Thirdly, Canberra is a long way from Melbourne, which means that visiting clergy, religious, and seminarians stayed and socialised. Ordinations in Melbourne and Ballarat and Bendigo don’t have quite the same impact because many visitors make a beeline for the event, and then quickly return home. It is entirely understandable, and I did this myself when I attended Fr Ashley Caldow’s ordination in Bendigo. But when an ordination is in a more remote place like Canberra or Bathurst, that option isn’t available, and the alternative lends itself to something of a spontaneous Catholic festival.
I must say, the weekend was a wonderful celebration, and a great opportunity for Catholic witness. I had several conversations with curious locals — in the cathedral precinct itself, at the airport, and on the flight home. I can only imagine other priests and seminarians had similar conversations.
I might add, Pope Francis was often raised in these conversations. His words and gestures, like the “spectacle” of Fr Paul’s ordination, evidently made a positive impact on the people who spoke to me. Such encounters can hopefully contribute, in a small way, to the edification of God’s Kingdom. I always keep faith in the mysteries of grace!
I hope that we will see something similar unfold in Adelaide some time next year. Michael Romeo will be ordained a deacon for the Archdiocese in a few weeks time, which means that he will probably be ordained a priest in 2014. Then we have all the ingredients for another weekend like Fr Paul’s.
Pray for Fr Paul Nulley, and for Michael Romeo, and for the men who will be ordained transitional deacons for the Archdiocese of Melbourne this Saturday: Michael Kong, Linh Pham, Minh Tran, and Sang Ho. Ad multos annos!