Information Bulletin 77

February 2006

{slide=Introduction} Dear Brothers in Ministry
You will have seen in the last Bulletin that Peter Brock has resigned from the position of Executive Officer of the National Commission due to ill health. The news of his resignation was received with great sadness by all who knew of his tireless work for the bishops, priests and deacons across the country.
Peter's health continues to be a matter of concern. Following successful surgery and skin grafting on his shoulder, he developed what appeared to be facial cellulitis. A week or so later, after a spell in hospital, he was diagnosed with shingles (or something similar) which is still causing constant pain and ear ache on that side of his face. He will not return to ministry in his home diocese until after Easter. In the intervening quiet time he hopes to write up and publish his retreat talks. (He has an article on clergy retreats in the latest Australasian Catholic Record).

His address is c/o P.O. Box 780 Newcastle 2300 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

We have included four tributes to Peter here, as well as five brief accounts of how a bishop, a deacon and three priests celebrated Christmas. I am grateful to the participants who wrote about Christmas for agreeing to write their experiences for us and to Peter for arranging this before he left.
With personal best wishes

Frank Devoy, Executive Officer
{/slide} {slide=Thank You Peter}

THANK YOU, PETER

Fr Mark Freeman Devonport TAS
It has been my great privilege to work closely with Peter for the past 3½ years. I believe the bishops, priests and deacons of Australia have been served marvellously well during Peter's time as Executive Officer of the Commission. He has been tireless in his efforts to be with, encourage and support the clergy of Australia. He has become a great friend to all. Through his reflections, messages, programmes and retreats, Peter has opened up God's Word for us. But more than this, he has modelled that Word for us by the way in which he lives. Peter has nourished our lives. We have been richly blessed.
Fr Matt Digges Balgo WA
With a parish the size of Victoria, and the nearest priest 600km away, you get used to surviving on your own. It doesn’t mean you don’t need priestly fraternity or company; you just don’t often have the opportunity. During my six years in the Tanami Desert, Peter has emailed and visited, grappling with my take on the issues of ministry in remote aboriginal communities. He has been interested enough to run the gauntlet of flooded and impassable roads, flying when necessary, to spend some time with all of us in the remote Kimberley parishes and missions.
Peter, you have encouraged us to take continuing formation seriously. You have made us feel important and reminded us that our lives are not in isolation from the joys and struggles of the rest of the Australian presbyterate in ministry and life. Thank You.
Fr Greg Bennet Melbourne VIC
Peter, I often used to wonder how you could live out of your car boot for weeks on end as you travelled across the Great Land of the Holy Spirit. Living in such a detached way you were an extraordinary witness. It spoke of your deep commitment to your role as
Executive Officer, but more so of a generosity of self of which the simple man of Galilee had much to say.
Like your favourite Australian saint, Blessed Mary MacKillop, Peter you are a traveller who has seen and heard of the diverse needs of the Church. You carry the hopes, vision, challenges, disappointments and opportunities of the priests you have met - including my own. You have shared your passion for priesthood and have shown us that priesthood is about daring to love Jesus Christ, learning to risk and self-generosity. Your listening ear and reassuring words bring refreshment to your fellow pilgrims.
Peter, thank-you for showing us what Blessed Mary MacKillop meant when she said, “remember we are but travellers here." Unexpectedly and sadly the traveller must rest. May the intercession of Blessed Mary and the prayers of all your pilgrim friends bring you healing so that you may take-up your journey renewed and refreshed.
Fr Peter Bianchini Perth WA
The role of the Executive Officer for the National Commission of Clergy Life and Ministry is a very unique position in the Church of Australia. I believe that Peter Brock has brought his own style and individuality to this role. He has shown great concern not only for the clergy of Australia, but has an incredible way of valuing each individual Bishop, Priest and Deacon in Australia. Peter’s adventures across Australia in his car, have made him aware of the many and various situations in which the clergy work and struggle. He has shown a great empathy and appreciation for the clergy of Australia. I have been privileged to work with him and along with every one of us, wish him good health and “thanks” for his love and concern for each of us.
{/slide} {slide=Christmas Around Australia}

CHRISTMAS AROUND AUSTRALIA

Fr Michael Kennedy, Albury
With Christmas falling on a Sunday this year, I was looking forward to a lighter workload than last year when we had the Christmas - Sunday double header. The vigil Mass was overflowing, with the school choir and many of the children dressed as angels and shepherds gathered around the altar. The midnight Mass was more solemn with the Philippino choir leading us in carols. Climbing into bed after Midnight Mass, I was kept awake by the rock band at a nearby hotel, the doorbell ringing at 5am and the telephone at 6am, and up again to say morning Mass.
My visit to the local hospital later in the morning saw me hot on Santa’s heels, as we each made our way around the wards. The rest of the day was for ‘partying’, first with a family of parishioners for lunch, and then with my own family in the evening.
The week before Christmas I spent two hours ‘in the box’ each day as people came to make their Christmas confessions. It was a privilege to see Advent produce so many genuine conversions.
Fr Joe Taylor, Kennington, Victoria
At the final (and first!) music practice for our children-focussed Christmas Eve Mass things seemed to be progressing very slowly. The key was eventually found, the music leads from the seven microphones were finally located, and then just as we just began music practice the fire siren sounded! That was the end of practice as all the men took off to their respective places in the Axe Creek Fire Brigade. Fortunately the grass fire was contained within 20 minutes and they were back in 30. Advent preparation always seems to be filled with such stories.
St Therese’s Parish has four churches and we celebrated seven masses for Christmas. The main Mass at 6.15 pm, was in a huge indoor gymnasium with room for a 1000 people. It was great liturgy with the children leading in song, dance, and prayer. The single child’s voice singing the verses to the psalm was most moving.
The Church for the main mass (8.00 pm) was magnificently decorated with lots of gold cloth and candles. Our newly installed DVD projector enhanced our liturgy in lots of ways. One of the highlights was the participation of so many young adults who had come home for Christmas.
Bishop Pat Dougherty, Bathurst
Christmas begins with Midnight Mass in the Cathedral. I celebrate another Mass during the day.
In the morning I visit the sick in Bathurst’s two hospitals, and in the afternoon the “oldies” in two of the Nursing Homes/Hostels. If I have been informed that someone is sick in his/her own home, I try to pop in there too. On my way I might call on some aged people or some family. A brief visit to any priests gathered for lunch is always included in my schedule.
Sounds like a pastoral day? I try to make it such, and quietly so. I am fortunate that my circumstances permit this pattern. When I put up my feet about 6.00 pm I am happy to have in some small way practised what I preach – outreach to those whom Christmas finds suffering, and sharing the lot of those who are away from home, family or community or festal food on Christmas Day.
My Christmas day ends as it began, at the feet of the Lord…though, this time, alone. A restful Boxing Day awaits.
Deacon Shane O’Dea, Adelaide
I work in a cluster of three reasonably affluent parishes in the inner suburbs of Adelaide. As a deacon my focus is directed towards developing relationships with people (often on the fringes of our Eucharistic community) and being with them as they discover God in their midst. A major focus of Christmas for me was inviting people to celebrate liturgically within our cluster parishes.
I wrote personalised letters to the many families who have had children baptised during the past five years, and also visited the local shopping centres during the weeks before Christmas. There I met many people from the fringes of our community.
The Children’s Vigil Mass at Kingswood Parish was “wall to wall” young people and parents with a large number of older people. I attended this Mass with my spouse and 2 year old son.
I exercised diaconal ministry at Midnight Mass at the Kingswood Parish. This was a more meditative celebration reflecting upon the relationship between Jesus’ birth and our lives in 2005. Interestingly, a large number of men and women (aged 20 to 35) arrived for this Mass alone.
Following this Mass I spent some time talking with young professional people who were still there. They were quite reflective about the link between the Mass they’d just celebrated and their lives seeking to be in communion with God and their relationships with other people.
On Christmas Day I took part in Mass at our Colonel Light Gardens Parish.
Fr Matthew Moloney, Rockhampton South
I celebrated the Christmas Vigil with the faith community of Westwood, a small community 60kms west of Rockhampton. Because of the number (the Church only holds about 30) we gathered under the shade of the Coolabah tree beside the Church with a backdrop of the local mountain ranges. In the past, Frs John Daly, Tony Mannix and the Pastoral Minister have shared travelling to this small rural community once a month.
Each time after Mass we gather for a meal and this Christmas Eve we continued to celebrate outside the Sacred Heart Church for all the people and families who had come, about 60 people all up. It was a wonderful evening.
This was the final time I was to celebrate Mass with this community before I move to my new appointment in Bundaberg in January 2006. {/slide}
  • Created: 01 February 2006
  • Modified: 25 April 2009