Presbyteral Jubilee 2005
Statement Released: Friday, July 01, 2005
For the Pius XII seminarians of the 1940s, 50s and 60s the 29th of June was a special day for a variety of reasons. For those in their final year it was their day of ordination, a day that they had longed for since entering the seminary, for most 7 years earlier, for some 11 years earlier, and in one particular instance 14 years earlier. It was the end of a long journey that at times seemed absolutely impossible, before the beginning of a new life not without frustrations, pain and suffering but overwhelmingly balanced by the joy, satisfaction, and the very deepest peace of working as a preacher of the Word. I doubt that I was the only seminarian on the night before ordination who walked impatiently up and down the newly laid cement path on top of the seminary hill, and gazed through the darkness at the flickering lights beyond of a then much smaller Brisbane. For those still awaiting ordination, June 29th was the beginning of the mid Winter seminary break but filled with the added satisfaction of watching our friends and fellow students whose pain and joys we had shared, being ordained in St Stephen’s Cathedral accompanied by the marvellous melody of Decora Lux. On the very same evening priests from the Archdiocese would trickle back to the seminary regaling the students enclosed for the holidays with stories of how tough the seminary had been for them only 10 years earlier. In a seminary that I myself found enormously challenging June the 29th was for me the happiest day of the year apart from the final day when we taxied down the front drive to begin the Summer holidays smoking busily as we departed. Only this year Fr Clem Hodge cleverly suggested to our class of 1961 that we should celebrate 50 years of “entering the seminary” rather than fifty years of ordination, in case some of us might never reach that exalted goal. We accepted this suggestion and had a marvellous evening together with former students who had entered with us and later left, as well as some who were ordained with us but chose another life. All of us, perhaps because of the closeness of Seminary life, remembered those early days as if they were yesterday. I’m sure all of us at some stage that evening asked ourselves why did God call me, why did I respond, why did I remain? It is a question no one can really answer apart from the answer given by the Psalms “Who can understand the mind of God?”
Today we gather not to solve these unsolvable questions but to rejoice in the mysterious ways of God, to congratulate and applaud the Jubilarians and to give thanks to God for the manner in which God has loved us into existence and then loved us into ministry for the sake of the Kingdom. The feast of Sts Peter and Paul is a magnificent day to celebrate ordinations and a magnificent day to celebrate Jubilees. There is both a certain fittingness and irony in grouping these two great apostles together. Scripture suggests they did not get on well with each other. They were two very different characters and yet both of them great apostles. Their manifest strengths at times frighten us, while their manifest humanity consoles us. Peter was named “the Rock” perhaps because of his genius in recognizing a Messiah who differed from popular expectations. Sadly this early recognition of Christ did not later stop him from denying Christ when he was frightened, nor resorting to the violence of the sword as he forgot his earlier confession of Christ. Paul’s rejection of a Christ he had not then met was later radically changed when he recognized the risen Christ in all those people he served, as we also try to do in his footsteps. Nevertheless despite the failings manifest in their common humanity both apostles gave their lives for Christ, which fills all of us with hope as we try to serve Christ as they did. Perhaps the Acts of the Apostles which we read today describing Peter’s escape from prison also indicating symbolically Peter’s journey to conversion through the prayers of the Church, just as we too have grown in Christ through those same prayers. All of us are on a never ending journey of conversion. In the words of St Paul’s letter to Timothy we too must say in our weakness “The Lord stood by me and gave me power so that through me the whole message might be proclaimed for all to hear.” Our God is a God who magnifies our humble efforts and uses them for the benefit of others. Most of what we achieve remains unknown, revealed only occasionally by the accidental revelation of people who casually indicate our influence on their lives. This is true of all of us and most certainly would be true of the Jubilarians we celebrate today – some present, some unable to join us. Could I mention in the first place Fr Morgan Howe who celebrates 60 years of priesthood this year. His ill health prevents him being here today. We recognize also Fathers Tim Norris, John Halloran, Ivan Hernon, Gerry Dore, and Fr Len Bibo celebrating 50 years of priesthood, together with Carmel Micallef unable to be present today. I also congratulate Fr Bernie Nolan and Fr Michael McKeaton, almost youngsters, who are celebrating 25 years of priesthood. They are joined today by Martin Kenny from Cairns celebrating with us. Dr Pat Kenny and Fr Jack Rosenskjar also are celebrating 65 years this year and we congratulate them for their marvellous example of commitment. We are very proud of all of you. Thank you for what you have done for the greater glory of God. Could I personally thank the Jubilarians of the Archdiocese for what they have done and continue to do. May God bless you abundantly now and in the years ahead.
All of us ordained or not ordained have received calls from God and responded to the best of our ability. Today however in a special way we celebrate the Jubilarians and thank Sts Peter and Paul for the inspiration they have provided for those priests who have followed in their footsteps to work for the Kingdom of God. Let us now continue with our celebration of the Eucharist that has been the very foundation of all our lives, as we once again meet Christ here in the Liturgy and ask God’s holy spirit to help us continue to walk as closely as possible with Christ as we promised with all our heart 65, 60, 50, 25 years ago on that unforgettable day of ordination. Today I thank the Jubilarians once again as I thank the members of their families who supported them, and the parishioners whom they served so loyally and who have responded to that dedicated service with love, friendship and prayerful support over the years.
Released by the Catholic Communications Office