Celebration of 35th Anniversary of Broken Bay

Celebration of the 35th Anniversary
of the founding of the Diocese of Broken Bay

Homily given by Most Rev Anthony Randazzo
Bishop of Broken Bay
Our Lady of the Rosary Cathedral
8 April 2021

Who celebrates 35th anniversaries, you might be asking yourself? By modern Australian standards, 100 years is considered a relatively long period of time and worthy of remembrance. In the Church, where we measure history by 50 or 100 years, it is quite short. So how and why do we measure 35?

In our context in Broken Bay, I take inspiration from our Indigenous brothers and sisters, who from ancient times, have valued the richness of telling the story, recounting the sacred narrative that spans time, but is not limited by time.

Our gathering today is in that same spirit. It is the very same spirit that urged the People of Israel to tell and retell the story of their liberation and Exodus from slavery in Egypt. It is the same spirit that animated the Emmaus disciples as they encountered the risen Christ. They told their story of what had happened on the road and how they had recognised Jesus at the breaking of bread (Luke 24:35).

So, we rightly pause to do the same. We acknowledge those who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith, we celebrate this moment in the present, and we look humbly yet confidently to the future filled with Christian joy and hope. Above all, we give thanks to Almighty God for His unfailing love and mercy.

In 1986, 35 years ago, the population of Australia was a little over 16 million. As of yesterday, the population has surpassed 25.7 million inhabitants. In 1986, John Paul II was Pope; Elizabeth II had been on the throne for 34 years; Bob Hawke was Prime Minister; Cardinal Clancy was Archbishop of Sydney and Bishop Patrick Murphy was named the first bishop of Broken Bay.

In that same year, Halley’s Comet crossed our skies; The Australia Act 1986 came into effect, granting Australia legal independence from the United Kingdom; Crocodile Dundee was a smash at the Box Office; Tennis champion Rafael Nadal was born; the Space Shuttle Challenger disintegrated 73 seconds after launching; Petrol was 52 cents per litre at the bowser; the first case of Mad Cow Disease was identified; and the Paramatta Eels defeated the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 4-2 in the Grand Final.

This was the world into which the Diocese of Broken Bay was born. A community of the church drawn from 144,000 Catholics, across 39 parishes under the pastoral care of 54 diocesan priests and five communities of religious order priests.

The presence and mission of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan, Sisters of Mercy, Sisters of Saint Joseph, the Loretto Sisters, and several other Institutes of Religious women along with the Christian Brothers and the Patrician Brothers were well established in the community of the new Diocese in 1986.

Catholic education and charitable works of mercy were ministries already active in the local communities, often under the guidance and leadership of committed lay women and men alongside the priests and religious. From the very beginning this local Church has been blessed by an active lay apostolate reaching beyond the parish into the more critical and challenging areas of mission.

In 2001, to mark the 15th anniversary of this local Church, Bishop David Walker commented that “Our story is important… and is necessary to understand the communion of disciples of Jesus… the history is the story of people” (Luttrell, A New Light in the East, page iii).

The story of our Catholic people is inseparable from salvation history by which we are joined as the People of God to the living body of Christ. Through baptism and confirmation, the people, deacons, and priests of this local Church are incorporated into Jesus Christ and animated for mission by the power and grace of the Holy Spirit.

Such a rich patrimony of faith is indeed worthy of remembrance, and we give thanks to God. We also recall the shadow parts of our story, remembering with shame and sorrow the times when members of our community were neglected or harmed. We ask forgiveness and we recommit ourselves to safeguarding every member of the community, especially the young and the vulnerable.

The words from the Scripture that we have heard today are particularly meaningful for us at this time. They remind us of the first moments of life in the Spirit of Jesus risen from the dead. As disciples of the Risen Lord, we too are called to exercise a ministry that is more wonderful than that of the prophets of old, because it is a ministry of the new covenant of love, revealed through the death and resurrection of Jesus and made possible by the gift of the Holy Spirit.

In the Acts of the Apostles, and in Luke’s recounting the narrative of the disciples on the road to Emmaus, we understand how the early church was alive in the Spirit. The faithful lived as one, sharing what they had – their goods and possessions were held together for the common good. The domestic church was the locus of welcome, concord, and companionship in the Lord. Together, families and members of the household would gather in prayer, offering praise and worship to God. However, that was not where it ended. As disciples of the Lord who formed the community of the church, they were filled with confidence that urged them to call others to life in Christ.

These first Christians did not call and accompany people to life in the Spirit because they were more sophisticated or better than others. They did so because God had made them capable for this ministry. As women and men, imbued with the Spirit of the Risen Christ, they preached the new covenant of love by lives filled with love, joy, and peace.

My brothers and sisters, this is what we are urged to do in our time, in this place, at this moment in history. As we imitate Christ, we follow in the footsteps of the first disciples, because we too have been renewed by the Spirit of the living God and the risen Christ. All who are baptized into Christ are called to the mission and ministry of proclaiming Christ to the world, whether they realise it or not. It is the work of God proper to those who live life in the Spirit.

As the community of the Church of Broken Bay, we have been given the gift of the spirit to recognize the mystery and wisdom of God – Jesus Christ crucified and risen from the dead. How might we use this gift, my sisters and brothers? How might we live according to the grace which has been given to us? How might we discern where to speak, how to act, when to reach out, whom to love?

This is as much a part of our 35th anniversary as is recounting the story of our Church. It is only by asking these questions in the light of faith that we will be authentic disciples of Christ in the world.

Living the life of Christ according to the Spirit will draw out the very best of our Christian community. We are seen to be authentic in our faith and mission when we joyfully undertake acts of charity. When as a community we have care and concern for all people, regardless of where they come from or what their joys or sufferings might be. Like the early Christians we will want to foster and promote family life where each member can discern their vocation to holiness.

All of this, my dear people, flows from Christ and returns to Christ in our prayer and worship of God. As spiritual people we are gifted with the Spirit who enables us to discern and live out the Christian vocation in our homes, our schools, our places of mission and mercy, in our Ecclesial movements, in our parishes, and in the world. As we look to the future mission of this community of the Church, we do so with joy and hope because this is the work of God and we have been called to it.

The Spirit animates us for communion in the body of Christ, upon whom we are built. Jesus Christ, who is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. This is, of course, the story of our salvation. This story includes our conversion, our past, our present and our future.

As we glorify God in this Eucharist, we also praise God for the women and men, for the clergy and religious, and for the bishops of this diocese who have, in the words of Bishop Peter Comensoli, been the foundation for the work of our Church in the mission of forming “neighbourhoods of grace”.

May this 35th anniversary year provide an opportunity for profound and prayerful contemplation upon our past. May it be a blessed time of festival and delight in the present. And may it be a Spirit-filled time of renewal to animate us to live and proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ the risen Lord into the future. Amen.