Address at the Opening and Blessing of the Seminary of the Holy Spirit Residence and James Dixon House, Harris Park, 18 February 2017
It is with great joy that we gather here in order to bless and open this new diocesan complex, consisting of James Dixon House for our retired clergy and the Seminary of the Holy Spirit. It’s not quite like the progressive nursing home. But there is an integral connection between the two residences. It is our hope that the wisdom and experience of the old can complement the energy and enthusiasm of the young. It is our hope too that this place will be a seeding ground, a nursery and a school for authentic Christian disciples who will, in turn, make disciples of others. It is only through the gift of the Holy Spirit and our openness to accept that gift, that we recognise our calling and strive to follow Jesus and his Gospel.
The seminary training has come under intense scrutiny by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Fr John Hogan, the Rector of this seminary, has had his day before the commission, along with many others who are involved in the formation of seminarians and clergy. I, myself, will face the music in a few days’ time. What is clear through this intense scrutiny is that there needs to be a cultural change in the church, starting in the seminary, in order to facilitate the authentic and holistic growth of the seminarians who will be able to live and minister in the manner consistent with the servant leader model of Christ.
When Pope Francis began his pontificate, the people gathered at St Peter’s Square and many of them carried banners that read “Go and rebuild my church”. It was, of course, a reference to St Francis’ dream in which he was told to rebuild the church, which was falling to ruin.
Pope Francis, like his namesake, has dedicated himself to the task ever since that day when he bowed and asked the people for their blessing. It was a powerful symbol of a humble, listening and accompanying church. If the church is compared to the banquet, then we can say that the new wine of God’s unconditional love, boundless mercy, radical openness and inclusion needs to be poured into new wineskins of humility, mutuality, compassion and powerlessness.
That is what the Papacy of Francis points to. The old wineskins of triumphalism, authoritarianism, supremacy abetted by clerical power, superiority, and rigidity are broken. The servant leadership of Pope Francis is indicative of the new era of hope, even if we are struggling to find our way in the emerging and unfamiliar landscape.
It is my hope and my passion that the Holy Spirit Seminary, which is the pride and the future of our Diocese, will form men into servants of the humble, listening and accompanying church. It is my hope and passion that they will be like the new wineskins, capable of containing and channelling that new superior and abundant wine of God’s love, mercy and inclusion that the people are thirsting for.
Brothers and sisters,
Our celebration of this building complex is indeed a fitting metaphor of the emerging church that God has commissioned us, his disciples, to rebuild. Let our hearts expand to accommodate the ways of God and let us become catalysts for renewal and transformation through our commitment to and engagement with the Gospel values. May all who come and see where the Lord lives will experience the joy of discovering the Messiah. Then we can truly be the conduit of discipleship and the sign of hope for all.
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