Information Bulletin 71

January 2005

{slide=Introduction} Dear brothers in ministry
So soon after the joy of Christmas, we were confronted with the shock and grief of the Asian tsunami. On New Year’s Eve I attended a Liturgy of Remembrance and Prayer for those who died or were affected by the disaster. The ceremony was held in the Anglican Cathedral in Newcastle (where I was home on holidays) and was attended by heads of local churches and representatives of other faith traditions. There was a special poignancy to it as the Bishop of Newcastle and his wife are Sri Lankan by birth. One prayer struck me as particularly moving, and would seem appropriate for many occasions:-

We come to offer this time to God and to bring ourselves to God’s presence. If you come in certainty or in confusion, in anger or in anguish:
All: This time is for us.
If you come in silent suffering or hidden sorrow, in pain or promise:
All: This time is for us.
If you come for your own or another’s need, for a private wound or the wound of the world:
All: This time is for us.
If you come, and do not know why, to be here is enough:
All: This time is for us.
Come now, Christ of the forgiving warmth,
Come now, Christ of the yearning tears,
Come now, Christ of the transforming touch.
All: This time is for you. {/xtypo_quote}
Peter Brock, Executive Officer
{/slide} {slide=How I celebrated Christmas - George Cardinal Pell}


St Mary’s Cathedral Sydney, the mother church of our continent, is at its best when full of worshippers at Christmas.
An annual task is to prepare my Christmas message. Trying to say something to express the mystery of the Incarnation freshly is difficult as the media usually want to ignore the spiritual dimension. So I try to restrict their options.
There are still plenty of confessions at the cathedral and most of the sinners are not over fifty.
My pre-Christmas routine is to have a meal with the retired priests. One of these was hosted by Fr Michael McLean at Cronulla and later that day I met with the first-year seminarians who had just finished their thirty day retreat with the Jesuits. The wheel continues to turn.
The cathedral was full for the seven Masses and at midnight they were spilling out the doors, many of them young adults. The hard work of the choir was rewarded with a quality performance.
Christmas still fascinates most Australians, although it provokes a variety of understandings. To many its message is more congenial than the redemptive suffering of Easter.
The challenge is to build on this Christmas peace and purify its uncertain faith. {/slide} {slide=How I celebrated Christmas - Fr Evan Penberthy} FR EVAN PENBERTHY, Australind WA
Christ The Living Vine Parish is in the fast-growing region of Eaton and Australind, on the outskirts of the Bunbury Parish. I have almost completed three years here.
The Vigil Mass opened with Joseph saying, “Mary, I can see the lights of Bethlehem!” The young people of the community then presented a
Christmas pageant and set the scene, as it were, helping us to focus and prepare to celebrate the Eucharist.
The Church was over-flowing with people. It was heartening to see so many family groups participating (specially, young families). The Christmas morning Mass, while not so many people were present, was also a great celebration. At the end of both Masses there are lollies for the youngsters. I always sense a wonderful atmosphere of joy and happiness at the Christmas Masses. People travel from all over to be with family and friends for Christmas. This creates a wonderful sense of belonging and being part of a group who has come together to celebrate.{/slide} {slide=How I celebrated Christmas - Deacon Gary Stone} DEACON GARY STONE, Enoggera Qld, (Military Ordinariate)
Christmas at St Joan of Arc Catholic Chapel Enoggera in Brisbane once again saw an overflowing community gathered. Our regulars linked up with occasionals as they arrived, to ensure they experienced our hospitality. Conscious of the many visitors, I chose an evangelistic approach for the homily, stressing the joy of communion and belonging as brothers and sisters in Christ – a Holy Family that thrives through regular interaction and nourishment. Our Christmas offering was committed in total to our partner parish of Atabae in Timor. I will deliver the collection myself in late January as I accompany and settle lay missionaries Nick and Jane Eager, who have generously offered two years service in the parish.
Particular prayers were offered for our troops and police serving overseas including my own son, Michael, spending his third Christmas deployed on peacemaking operations. In the absence of a resident priest, Bishop Max Davis has appointed me as Pastoral Director of this community, and local Vocations Director, Fr Ian Wren, generously presided for this evening Mass.
Christmas 2004 was a joyful spiritual celebration, enthusing us for a year of front line service as Soldiers of Christ in 2005. Twelve parishioners will commence a Cert. III in Christian Ministry in February to put some punch into our local missionary endeavours. As their deacon, I look forward to leading, inspiring and equipping them, for their own diakonia. {/slide} {slide=How I celebrated Christmas - Fr Michael Tate} FR MICHAEL TATE, PP Bridgewater and Claremont, Tasmania.
This was a Christmas of mixed emotions. I celebrated five Masses in three churches (not counting the two ‘Do I have to go on Sunday, Father?’). At all of them, I was singing carols with gusto but also with that sadness of heart which all priests experience. Like Joseph, I had been commanded to go on a journey just after celebrating the birthday. This was my last Christmas in the parishes of my four-year apprenticeship as a priest.
My two parishes are on opposite banks of the most beautiful capital city river in Australia. So, it was backwards and forwards over the aptly named Bridgewater Bridge four times over the course of the Christmas Masses. There was a common feature at each venue with many in their late teens and early twenties back from ‘the Mainland’ to celebrate Christmas with their families. Christmas is especially moving for Tasmanian parents sitting with their young adult children who go to Melbourne or Sydney for study or work after leaving school.
On reflection, I think the most moving aspect of the Christmas Masses was the singing. I am quite repulsed by the ‘Carols by Candlelight’ TV specials with the emphasis on megastars and extravaganza. Much better, the slightly off-key voices of parishioners one knows turned towards a little star of Bethlehem fastened above a manger set up by the ladies of the parish. {/slide} {slide=How I celebrated Christmas - Fr John Allen}FR JOHN ALLEN, PP Narre Warren, Vic.
Narre Warren, part of the Diocese of Sale, is in the heart of Kath and Kim country. Fountain Lakes (or as we locals call it, Fountain Gates) is the heartland of the parish. Narre Warren is a new suburb in the south-east corner of Melbourne. The market gardens are long gone, replaced by young families, many from Sri Lanka, India, Mauritius and the Philippines. Christmas brings with it a marvellous diversity and energy – music, children, women in traditional dress. As a priest it gives me a real sense of the faith calling so many diverse people into a real sense of unity, called together by the birth of the child at Bethlehem.
The weather was cool this Christmas Eve, a disappointment in that we could not show off our new cooling system, the fruits of our current thanksgiving program, but it enabled people to worship in comfort. Five Masses and all a different experience. The family Mass, all noise and excitement, the midnight, a huge crowd this year, but the real sense of reverence and quiet. One could sense that this meant a lot to all gathered in this place on this Christmas morning, whether they be parishioners, members of other churches or other faiths (and there were a few).
Christmas morning worshippers had the look of the exhausted! It had been a long night and an early morning, especially for young families. My work complete, I looked forward to having time with my family and, of course, the Boxing Day Test. {/slide}
‘…oft on this Calm Isle…’
Late last year, while visiting the Archdiocese of Hobart, I went for the first time to Port Arthur. In this beautiful place, which holds so many terrible memories, I went out to the little ‘Isle of the Dead’, where over 1500 people were buried, mostly convicts in unmarked graves. Among the few headstones and memorials, one stood out:
Sacred to the memory of The Rev.d George Eastman. For 26 years the faithful chaplain on Tasman's Peninsula and at other Institutions who departed this life 25th April 1870 aged 51 years. Long and earnestly the Pastor labored to bring souls to Christ, and oft on this Calm Isle, proclaimed to mourning groups the Christian's cheering hope - the joyful resurrection morn and glorious immortality.
  • Created: 15 January 2005
  • Modified: 20 September 2011