Diocese of Parramatta
Second Bishop of Parramatta, Most Rev Kevin Manning DD, third Bishop of Parramatta, Most Rev Anthony Fisher OP, and first Bishop of Parramatta, Most Rev Bede Heather DD at the Silver Jubilee Mass celebrations.
Photo: Alphonsus Fok & Grace Lu
The faithful gathered in their hundreds in St Patrick’s Cathedral on Thursday 19 May 2011, as the Bishop of Parramatta, Most Rev Anthony Fisher OP, where Mary MacKillop was proclaimed the patron of the Diocese.
The proclamation of St Mary of the Cross MacKillop’s patronage was read by His Excellency Giuseppe Lazzarotto, Apostolic Nuncio to Australia.
Jubilee Mass celebrates Diocese’s 25 years
The faithful gathered in their hundreds in St Patrick’s Cathedral on Thursday 19 May for the Catholic Diocese of Parramatta’s Silver Jubilee Mass of Thanksgiving, where St Mary of the Cross MacKillop was announced as the patron of the Diocese.
The announcement of St Mary of the Cross MacKillop’s patronage was made by His Excellency Giuseppe Lazzarotto, Apostolic Nuncio to Australia.
Bishop of Parramatta, Most Rev Anthony Fisher OP, presided at the Thanksgiving Mass, which was concelebrated by His Eminence Cardinal Edward Idris Cassidy, His Excellency Giuseppe Lazzarotto, Bishops of the Greater Sydney Region, the Presbyterate of the Diocese of Parramatta, visiting Presbyters from Religious Institutes and Dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral, Rev Wim Hoekstra.
The General Intercessions for the Mass were read in a variety of languages, including Vietnamese, Chinese, Arabic and Samoan, celebrating the diversity of the Diocese.
Prior to the Mass, the congregation reflected on some aspects of the past 25 years, as told by Parishioners representing Parishes established since the Diocese came into being.
Thankful to God for growth and consolidation
It was on 8 April 1986 that the Catholic Diocese of Parramatta was created by Pope John Paul II.
The area bounded by the new Diocese was previously part of the Archdiocese of Sydney. Since its creation, the Parishes of Kenthurst, Cranebrook, Glenmore Park, Stanhope Gardens/Glenwood and Rouse Hill have been established within the Parramatta Diocese.
The first Bishop of Parramatta, Most Rev Bede Heather DD, was installed on 19 May 1986. He was succeeded by Most Rev Kevin Manning DD (1997-2010). Bishop Anthony was installed as the third bishop on 4 March 2010.
Today, the Diocese is home to around 330,000 Catholics in one of the fastest-growing areas of New South Wales. The Diocese is made up of 49 Parishes. More than 45,000 students attend one of the 83 Catholic schools in the Diocese.
Parramatta was chosen as the seat of the Diocese due to its role in the early European settlement of Australia, its size as a commercial and administrative centre, and its pivotal position in the communications that link the west with other parts of Sydney.
It is contemporary urban Australia in miniature. It has Parishes as old as Parramatta, founded in 1827, Windsor in 1832 and Penrith in 1839. The newest Parish – Rouse Hill – was founded in 2007.
The story of the Diocese’s first 25 years has been one of growth and consolidation. For that we are thankful to God, but also ready to embrace the challenges that await us in the future.
With God’s grace and the leading of the Holy Spirit we will continue to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Jubilee Mass Image Gallery
St Mary of the Cross MacKillop
proclaimed Patron of the Diocese
PROCLAMATION: PATRON OF THE DIOCESE OF PARRAMATTA
Saint Mary of the Cross MacKillop
Read by His Excellency Giuseppe Lazzarotto, Apostolic Nuncio to Australia, during the Mass of Thanksgiving for the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the Diocese of Parramatta on Thursday 19 May 2011 in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta
The faithful people of the Diocese of Parramatta remember and continue to honour Saint Mary of the Cross MacKillop, Virgin. She was born of Scottish parents who were immigrants to Australia. Although she lacked especially distinguished schooling, yet from her earliest youth she carried out a teaching task and at the same time cared for her family.
In performing her own special role she recognised the dire needs which were the lot of Catholic children, especially those children of country parents, without real benefit of religious or human formation.
So she began the Institute of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart, which has become so widely spread.
Wherefore His Lordship, the Most Reverend Anthony Fisher OP, Bishop of Parramatta, has approved of those people recording the wishes of the community, in consultation with priests and people, to choose Saint Mary of the Cross, Virgin, as heavenly Patroness of the above-mentioned Diocese. Thus in a letter dated 4 February 2011, he earnestly asked that this choice and approval be confirmed according to the norms for appointing Patrons.
Henceforth the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, by the power of the faculty granted by His Holiness Benedict XVI, having considered the proposal, being convinced that the choice and approval have been carried out according to the canonical requirements, with great pleasure gives its consent to the wishes expressed, and confirm that they are in accord with all rubrical and liturgical laws. Notwithstanding anything to the contrary.
From the Office of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, 18 February 2011.
Antonius Card. Canizares Llovera, Prefect
Josephus Augustinus Di Noia OP Archbishop
Silver Jubilee in the News
The Catholic Diocese of Parramatta’s Silver Jubilee (1986-2011) has been making headlines in the local media.
In an interview with the Parramatta Advertiser on his first year as Bishop of Parramatta, Most Rev Anthony Fisher OP spoke of the recent Silver Jubilee Mass (19 May) where St Mary of the Cross MacKillop was proclaimed the Patron of the Diocese.
In an interview with The Parramatta Holroyd Sun, Bishop Anthony said the Diocese had much to be thankful for to Mary and her Josephite sisters, including “the network of schools that they established here and for the witness of their consecrated life”.
Honouring St Mary of the Cross MacKillop
St Nicholas of Myra Penrith Parish Priest Very Rev Chris de Souza EV has also spoken of the Diocese’s 25 years and St Mary of the Cross MacKillop’s patronage, in an interview with The Western Weekender.
“To have Mary MacKillop named as as patron is wonderful news because she has such close ties to the area,” Fr Chris said.
8 April 1986: Parramatta becomes a Diocese
By Vivienne Keely CHF
“The bishop will locate his See in Parramatta, the principal city of the region, and there he will place his Chair, in the Church of St Patrick, to which we grant the honours of a Cathedral”, so reads the Decree of Pope John Paul II by which the Diocese of Parramatta was established on 8 April 1986.
It’s a fair bet that the Irish convict and government surveyor, James Meehan, had no idea that he was marking out a future cathedral when he marked out the site of St Patrick’s in the 1820s.
Provisions of the Decree
It’s interesting to see what topics are covered in the Decree. It gives the reasons for which the new Diocese was established, the geographic extent of the Diocese, where the centre of the Diocese will be, the sources of revenue.
It stipulates that a College of Consultors be formed, that the provisions of the Second Vatican Council be followed in the formation of seminarians, and gives the criteria for deciding which priests belong to which Diocese, Sydney or Parramatta.
The final section is devoted to the preserving of the official documents and the sending of copies to the Congregation for Bishops.
There are no surprises when it comes to the reasons for setting up the new Diocese. The Decree states that the new Diocese is a response to a request from Archbishop Clancy to divide his extensive Diocese for the “benefit of the people”.
The request was granted taking into account the views of the Australian Bishops and the advice of Archbishop Barbarito, a former Apostolic Pro-Nuncio in Australia, and in the conviction that “the more sacred pastors that there are, the greater will be the fruits of their labour”.
Genesis of division
The idea of dividing the Archdiocese of Sydney had been around for almost 20 years. The Sydney Council of Priests had suggested a division into several dioceses as early as 1968.
Three years later, the then Archbishop Freeman was advised that the Holy See was considering establishing two or three new dioceses.
Inevitably, there was some opposition to the division of the Sydney Archdiocese and, equally inevitably, in 1972, a committee was set up to make recommendations! There was also a general invitation to send written submissions to The Catholic Weekly or to the Council of Priests. *
Two options emerged: division into dioceses or the development of regions looked after by an auxiliary bishop, often called the ‘regional’ bishop. The second option prevailed and, in 1977, the Archdiocese was divided into five pastoral regions.
Several years later, the new Archbishop of Sydney, Edward Clancy, noted that regionalisation presented difficulties chief of which was a fragmentation of the Archdiocese as many Catholic people tended to regard the ‘regional’ bishop as the bishop of a diocese.
In May 1985, the Australian Bishops agreed to the proposal to divide the Archdiocese of Sydney and Archbishop Clancy made the proposal to the Holy See. Decrees establishing the Diocese of Parramatta and the Diocese of Broken Bay were signed by Pope John Paul II on the same day, 8 April 1986.
Archbishop Chancy later applied to the Holy See for a more detailed description of the areas and boundaries and this was supplied by the Congregation for Bishops 8 August 1986.The area of the new Diocese of Parramatta corresponded with the local government areas of Parramatta, Blacktown, Holroyd, Penrith, Blue Mountains, Baulkham Hills Shire and the Shire of Hawkesbury.
This was sent under covering letter by Archbishop Brambilla, Apostolic pro-Nuncio 26 August 1986 and acknowledged by Bishop Bede Heather 11 September 1986.
The installation of Bishop Bede was set down for 19 May 1986 but up to a week before, the Papal Bull, the decree establishing the Diocese, had not arrived.
Archbishop Brambilla wrote to Bishop Bede on 14 May, “since the Papal Bull carrying into effect the decision of the Holy Father has not yet arrived, in virtue of the special faculties given to me by the Holy See, I hereby grant you permission to take canonical possession of the Diocese of Parramatta, even though you may not have the Apostolic Letters”.
Concelebrating at the Solemn reception and Ifnstallation of Bishop Bede as first Bishop of Parramatta were: Cardinal Freeman, Archbishops Clancy, Rush and James Carroll, Bishops Cremin, Murphy (the new Bishop of Broken Bay), Heaps, and Robinson.
The Deacon was Rev Peter Lamont now parish priest of Rydalmere and Fr Brian Larkey read the mandate of appointment. The cover image of the Mass booklet is reproduced on this year’s Silver Jubilee commemorative calendar.
* John Luttrell fms, A New Light in the East: a history of the Diocese of Broken Bay 1986 – 2001, Diocese of Broken Bay, pp. 10-13.
Growing up in the Diocese: a parish priest’s tale
An account from St Bernadette’s Castle Hill Parish Priest Very Rev John Boyle EV, on growing up in the Catholic Diocese of Parramatta.
Mum and Dad, Mollie and Jack, had been married in St Patrick’s Church on 26 February 1944. They moved into their new fibro Housing Commission house in Prince Street on my third birthday.
My mother never joined any of the parish sodalities. Dad’s introduction to mainstream social life began when, aged 19, he was asked to join the Knights of the Southern Cross.
He told me later how intensively he was involved with the Movement. Dad was a committed trade unionist and a member of the ALP. He was also a Holy Name man.
Carmel, my sister, and I were both baptised in St Patrick’s Church and we both followed our mother to St Patrick’s convent and made our Holy Communion there.
I became an altar boy and Carmel, like her mother before her, a child of Mary. We both made the nine first Fridays – a number of times.
After the 6.45am first Friday Mass, most of us would go to the fish and chip shop in Church Street up the road from Aylwood and Kennedy’s and Munro’s the butchers, opposite Granger’s bakery. We’d buy breakfast there.
We would come back to school on the north side of Victoria Road, past the two-storey house occupied by Amy Dellow. Now the diocesan offices occupy part of her property.
Mrs Dellow was the parish organist and she was unaware that the boys were ‘borrowing’ the pipes from the pipe organ. The smaller organ pipes made great tin whistles that were traded in the school playgrounds. We knew it was death if Monsignor McGovern found out.
My maternal grandmother, Mary Helena Dubois, was a major force in our young lives. Her son John was killed in a train accident aged only 18. As a result, she joined a committee to petition the State Government to fit all the Sydney trains with automatic doors.
When she moved to Parramatta she organised concerts in all the Parramatta institutions. Carmel and I would sing and recite poetry for the inmates in Parramatta jail. We loved going to the Parramatta Mental Hospital, as it was then, and we took part in the concerts at the Girls Industrial School in Fleet Street.
It was over the building of the Parramatta Leagues Club that Dad ran foul of the Church establishment in Parramatta. A site had been chosen to build a one-storey licensed club next to St Patrick’s primary school on the corner of Trot and Ross Streets.
Monsignor McGovern opposed the development because of its proximity to the school and the matter went to court. Parishioners were asked to sign a petition. Dad refused to sign. This was seen as a great act of disloyalty.
On the day of the court case, continuous rosaries were prayed by the two-and-a-half-thousand school children who occupied the school sites. The Leagues Club lost and a new site had to be found.
Monsignor McGovern did a service to the club because the site at Ross Street was most unsuitable. But in Parramatta’s oral history, he was blamed for the 34-year-long failure of the Eels to win the premiership. The story still had currency when the Eels won the Grand Final in 1981, 17 years after Monsignor McGovern’s death.
This article is slightly abridged from the account which appeared in ‘Lot One: St Patrick’s Parramatta’ and is used with permission of Fr Boyle.
1846: St Patrick’s land grant
By Vivienne Keely CHF
The grant for St Patrick’s Parramatta, Lot 1, was made in 1846. Why did it take such a long time when land had been allocated to the Catholic Church in the early 1820s?
The main reason was that the whole system of grants and leases was not well regulated.
Some people held land by means of ‘permissive occupancy’. Getting some order into the recording of grants and leases was one of the priorities of Governor Macquarie.
A major intervention came in May 1823 when Macquarie announced, by proclamation, that those who held land in towns could obtain a lease for 21 years.
Land holders or occupiers who could afford to pay 21 years ‘quit rent’ or had spent more than £1,000 on improving their land, that is building something on it, were entitled to a grant. The leases expired in the 1840s.
In the meantime, successive surveyors were busy measuring lots to ensure that the leases and grants were the same in area as that recorded in the surveyors’ books from many years earlier.
Brownrigg surveyed Parramatta and submitted his survey in 1845. When St Patrick’s land was granted the following year, James Pye was the largest individual land owner on the site and held most of the site the Diocese is set to purchase, the area bordered by Victoria Road, then Pennant Street, and the present O’Connell Street.
The Cathedral and old King’s School land were part of one site granted to Governor Bligh and called Mount Bethem in honour of Bligh’s wife, Elizabeth, whose maiden name was Betham.
James Pye was a local lad, born in Toongabbie in 1801. He followed his father into fruit growing, grew oranges in Seven Hills, gradually adding to holdings by acquiring orchards in the Field of Mars, North Rocks, and Seven Hills and came to be recognised as an expert orchardist.
An early convert to climate change, in evidence to a government committee inquiring into disease in fruit trees, Pye held vehemently that the outbreak of disease was due to a change in climate.
In the elections in 1856, Pye was elected to the Legislative Assembly but was defeated two years later by George Oakes. Pye alleged election fraud claiming that voters had been intimidated and that £100 had been paid to the credit of the Speaker of the House. The subsequent inquiry found against Pye but averred that his appeal was not vexatious.
Turning his attention to municipal government, Pye served as alderman at Parramatta from 1862-1884, with a term as Mayor of Parramatta in 1866-67. He did much to promote education and to secure a water supply for Parramatta.
Just after Christmas 1884, he died as the result of an accident – an out-of-control horse and cart knocked him from his horse. He was buried in St John’s cemetery.
Sources: Online Australian Dictionary of Biography, Parliament of NSW website, St Patrick’s Cathedral Revised CMP, 2001
A future of trust and hope
Holy Name of Mary Rydalmere Parish Priest Rev Peter Lamont is celebrating his 25th year of priesthood in the same year as the Catholic Diocese of Parramatta’s Silver Jubilee (1986-2011). Fr Peter looks back on the early days of the Diocese – and forward to a future guided by God’s plan for each of us.
Twenty-five years ago in May 1986, Most Rev Bede Heather DD was installed as the first Bishop of Parramatta. He invited me to be the Deacon for the Mass of Installation, which was indeed a great honour.
I had studied for the priesthood at St Patrick’s College, Manly, as a student for the Archdiocese of Sydney. Blacktown was my home, so coming to the Catholic Diocese of Parramatta was, for me, a natural progression.
There was a buzz of excitement at the Mass itself, especially with the reading of the proclamation establishing the new Diocese. Bishop Bede spoke of the future with its many hopes and dreams. The Catholic Church in Western Sydney, like the area itself, was continuing to grow and expand.
In May 1986, I was exercising my diaconate at Sacred Heart Parish, Mona Vale. My thoughts were constantly centred on my own priestly ordination just six months away.
I was eventually ordained a priest in St Patrick’s Cathedral by Bishop Bede on 22 November 1986. It was an occasion of profound joy. I felt the abiding presence of Our Lord and Our Lady.
Jesus Christ has always been with me, and has walked with me my entire life. As a priest I have the immense privilege of bringing Jesus sacramentally and personally to the people of God, and indeed to all people.
I thank God for my silver jubilee of ordination to priesthood, my late parents and family, Bishops Bede, Kevin and Anthony, and the many priests, religious and people who have been part of my life.
After 25 years our Diocese can look to the future with trust and hope in God’s loving plan for each of us.
25 years of Catholic Education in Parramatta
By Br Aengus Kavanagh FSP
Major structural changes in the leadership and management of Catholic schools were underway in the greater Sydney area in the 1980s.
Prior to 1986, the present Dioceses of Parramatta and Broken Bay were Pastoral Regions within the Archdiocese of Sydney. In the early 1980s, a process to decentralise the administration of Catholic education had commenced, leading to the establishment of up to five regional offices.
What is now known as the Diocese of Parramatta corresponds closely to what was then known as Sydney’s Outer West region with Bishop Bede Heather as the regional bishop.
The regional presence in the outer west commenced in a spare office at the newly opened John Paul II Senior High School, Marayong, in 1981, then moved to an upstairs apartment in Dunmore Street, Wentworthville, in 1982.
Meanwhile, a vacated Presbyterian Church on the corner of Flushcombe Road and Marion Street at Blacktown was acquired, refurbished and opened as the first Catholic-owned Education Office in the region in May 1986. These premises are now occupied by the Parramatta Institute for Mission.
For many years the Sydney Archdiocesan Catholic Education Office (CEO) had been located behind St Benedict’s Church on the corner of Broadway and Abercrombie Street in the Sydney CBD.
By today’s standards, the CEO was very lean in staffing and it was a long way from Broadway to the outer west heartland. As a consequence, a majority of Catholic schools in the outer west region felt isolated and had tenuous connections with the CEO except for occasional visits from a thinly scattered number of primary school advisers.
Up until the end of the 1980s, all Catholic school finances were administered by the Catholic Building and Finance Commission, a body separate from the CEO.
Catholic schools generally, and especially those more physically distant from the CEO, were much more autonomous 25 years ago. That was an age of more modest staffing of CEOs and an age less beset with the present day multiplicity of regulations, compliances and accountabilities.
With the rapid expansion of Catholic schools in the 1970s and 80s, and with the decline in vocations to Religious life, the proportion of lay to Religious staff in the schools had increased dramatically.
Nevertheless, more than 70% of the 65 Catholic schools in the region, up to the mid-1980s did have Religious as principals. Today, there are only three Religious principals in our diocesan schools.
In general, the setting up of a regional office in the outer west was warmly accepted by the Catholic school communities and by the clergy. Bishop Bede became a great friend and patron of the office.
Due of the region’s distance from Sydney CEO, a shortage of capital grants, and because of the rapid expansion of outer western suburbs, there was a serious under-provision of schools for many Catholic communities.
A major challenge for the limited staff in the growing regional office was to collaborate closely with local parishes in the acquisition of sites, the planning, funding, building and staffing of new schools.
Applications for capital funding and negotiation with the Catholic Building and Finance Commission were major agenda items in this period.
There was little, or no, specialist expertise among regional office staff. As the Regional Director, I and my Assistant Director, Terry Keogh, found ourselves on a sharp learning curve.
The 1980s witnessed what was probably the most rapid expansion of Catholic education in any given area at any given time in Australia. The 14 new schools opened across the Diocese from 1981 to 1988 shows just how rapid this expansion was.
The 1980s were heady days in the system of Catholic schools in the embryonic and early years of the Diocese of Parramatta.
Br Aengus Kavanagh FSP was the inaugural Regional Director of the Outer West Region from 1982 to 1986 and is still working in Catholic Education in the Diocese in the areas of leadership and formation.
25 years of Catholic Education in Parramatta
By Paul Worthington, Director Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD)
As this year marks the 25th anniversary of the Catholic Diocese of Parramatta, I decided to do an interesting exercise to line up a comparison of statistics from 1986 with 2011.
CCD figures for this exercise began in 1988:
No. of parishes 44
No. of state primary schools attended 181
No. of special state schools attended 8
No. of state secondary schools attended 30
No. of Religious involved full time 42
No. of priests teaching SRE full time 10
No. of lay catechists involved full time including 119 student catechists from Catholic high schools 872
Total catechetical ministry nos. 924
No. of parishes 49
No. of state primary schools attended 194
No. of special state schools attended 1
No. of state secondary schools attended 21
No. of Religious involved full time 21
No. of priests teaching SRE full time 1
No. of lay catechists involved full time including 119 student catechists from Catholic high schools 989
Total catechetical ministry nos. 1016
Some interesting facts from 1988 in our CCD office archives:
- In Emerton Parish the catechist team (1 priest, 2 Religious and 17 lay catechists) attended 12 state primary schools with 2,440 primary Catholic students attending Scripture and 57 Catholic students in 3 out of the 4 state secondary schools in the parish boundaries attending term seminars.
- St Mary’s Parish had 7 primary and 2 high schools with 1,069 primary Catholic students catered for.
- Growth areas were Castle Hill, Blacktown and South Blacktown, Greystanes, and Marayong;
- Penrith Parish attended 11 primary schools and one of the high schools catering for 1,171 primary students. There was 1 Religious and 70 catechist supporting this parish team.
- Richmond and Windsor Parishes combined catered for 25 primary state schools and 3 out of the 4 secondary schools with the Motor Mission, 2 Religious, 3 priests and a combined 55 catechists across these schools.
- Motor Mission and Brothers were involved in high schools.
- This ministry was marked by approx. 96% of female volunteers.
- Curriculum for primary was ‘Joy for Living’ and a conglomeration of titles for secondary.
- Scripture/catechism a common term used for this work
Some interesting facts in 2011 from our CCD archives:
- Growth areas of north-west and south-west regions of Diocese.
- Special Religious Education (SRE) the new term under the Department of Education and Training guidelines. Child Protection Guidelines and training more heavily enforced with volunteers. Since 2007, all new SRE personnel have to do Level One Accreditation.
- Numbers of SRE students dropping in inner areas of the Diocese while growth continues further west.
- Average age of SRE teachers is lowering. Factors include: both parents working to pay mortgage; babysitting their grandchildren; changing classroom. Other factors: increasing vocational call on senior Catholic students to share their faith with younger students in state schools. University students are also involved for semesters in their years of study.
- 12% of SRE teachers are retired men compared to the earlier trend of 96% women’s ministry.
- Volunteering is a harder call due to economic circumstances and the call on grandparents by their own children for support with child-minding.
- Curriculums used are ‘Christ our Light and Life’ for primary and a more concentrated program selection with the various High School modes of time allocation with: Understanding Faith multimedia resource; Diocese of Broken Bay Secondary modules and ‘Christ our Light and Life’ (7-10 lessons).
- In recent times the demands on SRE personnel have increased with up-skilling in multimedia, societal expectations, and alternatives to SRE classes in some NSW schools.
Many of our catechists/SRE teachers/Scripture teachers have been involved in this ministry for 25 years or more and are still in the role and still representing their parish team in this evangelising mission.
Parishes across the Diocese are hugely indebted to more than 1,000 SRE personnel for the wonderful work they continue to perform. Congratulations to all our pioneers on this Silver Jubilee milestone.
Raising St Patrick’s Cathedral
catalyst for unity
By Most Rev Kevin Manning DD, Bishop Emeritus of Parramatta
In responding to an invitation to write ‘something’ about the 25th Anniversary of the Catholic Diocese of Parramatta, I had to restrain myself from writing solely about the rebuilding of St Patrick’s Cathedral, which had been destroyed by fire in February 1996, 10 years after it had become the Cathedral Church of the new Diocese.
But then I remembered that the purpose of sacred architecture is to offer the Church a fitting space for the celebration of the mysteries of faith, especially the Eucharist.
And I also recalled that it was the Christian faith which inspired artistic creations, the most elevated of a whole civilisation: the cathedrals which were a renewal, a rebirth, an upward surge, and an invitation to prayer.
As Pope Benedict XVI said, the Christian faith “inspired one of the loftiest expressions of universal civilisation: the Cathedral, the true glory of the Christian Middle Ages” (General Audience November 15, 2009).
It was not without a sense of trepidation that I came, in 1997, from a safe haven in Armidale, where I had spent six very happy years, to Murphy House, which abuts St Patrick’s Cathedral, and which was considered somewhat of a fish bowl whence the local clergy might study and assess the new bishop. My predecessor, Bishop Bede Heather had resided at Blacktown – a safe enough distance from the Cathedral!
The welcome by the people of Parramatta was overwhelming and enduring and totally supported by the local Council whose support continued throughout my 13 years in the city.
In no time I was involved in a regular Sunday night dialogue with 15 young people and invited guests from time-to-time, discussing the world’s problems. These gatherings continued during my time in Parramatta and many of these young people now form a solid, educated, and dedicated Catholic nucleus in the Cathedral Parish.
From this initiative I was introduced into the Catholic/Muslim dialogue, which enriched my life and that of many others. Firm friendships were formed and prejudices overcome, through meetings in churches, mosques and homes, especially during the observance of Ramadan.
I treasure the Kahlil Gibran Award I received from the Arabic Heritage League and the inaugural Australian Affinity Award for Interfaith Dialogue.
One of the richest aspects of the Diocese is its multicultural nature – a veritable United Nations without the political and nationalistic elements, but bound together in a living Christian charity.
The Diocese is privileged with its institutions: the Catholic Education Office, with its openness to new ways of education; the Institute for Mission with its outreach to, and embracing of, all sections of the community, extending their knowledge of, and adherence to the Church; and the Seminary of the Holy Spirit, training young men in the environment in which they will work as priests.
Parramatta boasts major assets in her directors of the various agencies which make up the administration of the Diocese; Justice and Peace, Ecumenism, Liturgy, Prison Chaplains, Catholic Charismatic Renewal, Catholic Commission for Employment Relations, Young Christian Workers among them. It was a pleasure to work with such dedicated people.
The rebuilding of St Patrick’s Cathedral was the catalyst for uniting the people of the Diocese who came from the different parishes to help with fundraising and planning. This gave them a common goal and a sense of belonging to the Diocese.
Our approach to the rebuilding was animated by a sense of sharing and energy and a conviction that the Cathedral would be a place where the living community would worship the living God, and open itself to the city of which it was part, but from which it would stand apart.