Address to the Schools Event as part of the Sesquicentenary Celebrations at Brisbane Convention Centre
My dear young students of Queensland,
Welcome to this celebration of the Sesquicentenary of the establishment of the Diocese of Queensland in 1859, and the appointment in the same year of its first Bishop James Quinn of Dublin. The Roman Catholic Church is not alone in this celebration. We celebrate with the Anglican Diocese of Queensland, the State of Queensland, and the City of Brisbane, all established in the same year. Today I acknowledge also our indigenous people as representatives of the Traditional Custodians of this land, together with the generous presence of our Roman Catholic Archbishops and Bishops of Australia accompanied by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, Primate of Ireland, and his secretary Monsignor Paul Callan, who as our guests of honour represent that long line of Irish Bishops, Priests, Sisters, Brothers and lay people who played such a significant role in the last one hundred and fifty years of our history, most of whom now rest in the peace of God. All of you, especially the teachers and students of the Archdiocese of Brisbane under the leadership of Mr David Hutton host us today, and I am delighted to join them in welcoming you. However what fills me with the deepest joy and hope is the large number of young people drawn from the Catholic Schools of Queensland all of whom are destined in the future to play significant roles in the life of the Church and the State of Queensland, as did their great grandparents, grandparents, and parents before them. The superb presentation of our history this morning reminds us what we have achieved and the challenges that still remain. Over the years, Catholic Education has played a most significant role in the history of our Church and State, providing quality education within a context of faith. It would be remiss of me not to mention the excellent role played by those lay people, Religious Sisters and Brothers who laid the foundations of Catholic Education within the Queensland Church, and in doing so promoted the common good of our society, at the same time strengthening God’s Kingdom to which we belong. All of us are baptised into Christ, and are called to follow in His footsteps as we seek to bring to completion the magnificent vision proclaimed by Him in the Synagogue of Nazareth at the very beginning of His Mission. His words describe the marvellous new creation in which we live.
“The Spirit of the Lord has been given to me,
for He has anointed me.
He has sent me to bring the good news to the poor,
to proclaim liberty to captives
and to the blind new sight,
to set the downtrodden free.
To proclaim the Lord’s year of Favour.”
All of us young or old are meant to be caught up in the excitement of that vision so that we will play our own unique roles in loving God and making the world a better place for all. In doing so not only will we change the world, even if slowly, but we will also change ourselves in the process as we experience a fullness of life promised us by Jesus in John 10/10., “I have come to bring you life and life in abundance.”
The story of the five Bishops who led the Diocese of Queensland after 1859 describes their successes and failures over the past 150 years, as well as the unique role that educators played in the formation of the Church. Beginning with lay people, the role then passed on to religious sisters and brothers before being returned once again to lay teachers who today educate our young people throughout Queensland. Grasping the sheer brilliance of Christianity does not happen quickly. Rather it happens slowly as the Church through parents and teachers seeks to plant the faith in the hearts and minds of our young people. As Jesus explained in his parables, it is almost like finding after many years a pearl of great price, that once found can never be abandoned again. Five years ago, I read a book of Anglican Bishop Thomas Wright, “Jesus and the Victory of God” that had a major impact on my life. Wright’s book described the excitement of Jesus, but just as importantly the victory of God, won through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. It was a victory over evil that can never be reversed. As a result we live in a new world, God’s world, that came into existence through love just as we came into existence through love. Through his words and actions Jesus showed the authenticity of God’s love by dying for us, only to be triumphantly lifted up by God in resurrection that filled Jesus with new life and the world also. It is up to us today, as it was up to the Apostles in the time of Jesus, to see the goodness that drives this new world, all too often hidden beneath its surface. All of us are called into that new creation to bring it to completion by mutual acts of kindness, love, care, concern, forgiveness, towards our brothers and sisters in the one family of God, especially towards those who are less fortunate. But above all, what is needed today in our very secular world where so many people live without God, is to know and love Jesus Christ and then through Jesus Christ to know and love our creator God, as well as God the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life. Christianity never came into existence to make us miserable but rather to give us a new life full of energy and hope despite the crosses of our lives, out of which God, through the power of the Holy Spirit, gives us even greater life. My dear young people, today we celebrate a mere 150 years of the existence of the Church in Queensland, a young Church by far in comparison with the history of our indigenous brothers and sisters who have lived in this land for 40,000 years, and whose antiquity never failed to amaze Pope John Paul II. Nevertheless despite the comparative youth of our Queensland Church much has already been achieved over the past 150 years of which we are truly proud, and for which we are indebted to those who to the best of their ability followed in the footsteps of Jesus. It behoves us then today to continue to build upon the victory won by Jesus Christ, strengthened by the work of those Bishops, priests, religious and lay people who have led the way. May you the young people of today use the next 50 years leading up to our Bi-centenary to share your good news in word and action with all those people you encounter in life, especially the least fortunate.
Thank you my brothers and sisters for journeying here today. May Mary the Mother of Jesus, continue to direct us in the footsteps of her Son, and may Blessed Mary MacKillop, Patroness of this Archdiocese, inspire us by what she has done for the Church and for Queensland Catholic Education during her brief time with us. Inspired by her example may Catholic Education continue to provide quality education in a framework of faith as it has done from its very beginning. In a special way could I thank you young people present here today who will, with the help of God’s Holy Spirit, carry our Church and State forward into the future. God has loved each and every one of you into existence. Make sure you use the one life given to you by God for God’s greater glory and the benefit of all people.
Archbishop John Bathersby
July 30, 2009