Mass celebrated by Archbishop Denis Hart at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Melbourne for his Golden Jubilee of priestly ordination
Saturday 22 July 2017 at 11am
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Thank you for coming with great rejoicing to accompany me, as I humbly thank God for the gift of priesthood received here in this Cathedral at the hands of Bishop Arthur Fox, fifty years ago today, with my classmates.
In welcoming you all, I recognise the present of our Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Adolfo Tito Yllana, whose presence is a sign of our unity in faith and love with Pope Francis.
Mary Magdalen, the saint whom we celebrate, was the first to see the empty tomb and carried the message of Jesus Risen to the Apostles. She is renowned for her personal love of Jesus Christ and her journey of devotion to him. She in particular has accompanied me in the work that I have sought to do for people as priest and bishop.
Today I gather all your prayers with mine as we praise the wonders of what God has given, by his own initiative and through so many people, whose part in my life I so deeply appreciate.
The Gospel we have just read rings of the personal relationship between Saint Mary Magdalen and Jesus the Lord. Her sense of loss at seeing the empty tomb, her obvious emotion and then her joy at recognising the Risen Jesus who called her by name, are all indicative of the journey which each of us makes throughout our earthly life. As a result of that encounter, Mary rushed to tell the Apostles of Jesus' rising and of her love for him.
The Church has long honoured her as the first witness to the Lord's rising from the dead. However, only last year did Pope Francis give a new solemnity to this feast because of Mary Magdalen's place in bringing the Good News of Jesus Risen to the Apostles and to the world. We Catholics have long honoured Mary, the mother of the Saviour, who brought Jesus to us, nurtured him and accompanied him to his Cross. We realise too that with Mary the Mother of Jesus, Saint Mary Magdalen, likewise with him at the Cross, was the first to announce his risen reality and to adore him. It is a very fitting day therefore as we thank Jesus, Mary his mother and Saint Mary Magdalen for the gift of priesthood and the call to announce the Good News of the Gospel.
I have never ceased to wonder at the goodness of God shown so powerfully in people throughout my journey; my wonderful parents and the brother and sister I had. The goodness of the Marist Brothers at Saint John's, the Jesuits in Hawthorn Parish, at Xavier and in the seminary were a wonderful influence to help me to see the possibilities that God was giving me, even though I did not imagine them at the time.
After a wonderful foundational year at North Balwyn I was called to the Cathedral, and I have spent 39 of my 50 years in Cathedral or diocesan administration.
I have been nurtured by the wonderful friends from the Mercy Hospital, the encouragement of young people, the comradeship of my brother priests and, in 1975 the work in the Marriage Tribunal, on the international scene with the International Commission on English in the Liturgy, in assisting priests in challenging situations and in the service I was able to perform as part of a great team welcoming Pope John Paul II to Australia.
The Holy Father never forgot the length of the journey. I never forgot his engagement with people; to be seen talking to an individual and giving them all his attention. He later called me to be Bishop and Archbishop after I had spent ten wonderful years as Parish Priest in West Brunswick. Twice I said to the then Archbishop Pell that I was very happy where I was when he wanted to make me Vicar General. However, diocesan needs prevailed and I came into another privileged area of service where people have inspired me and assisted me to use my talents with them and for them.
The unexpected calls to be Bishop and Archbishop led me to a great realisation that, although I was being asked to undertake significant work for God and his people in teaching, sanctifying and caring for them, it was the great tradition in Melbourne and the people with whom I have worked continually; their dedication, their love of God, their commitment to truth and to people which has carried me along, even amidst some challenges.
When I was asked to be Archbishop, I had it very firmly in mind that I would only accept by understanding that I was only one of many people who were working for the joy of the Gospel and the care of people throughout this great Archdiocese. We have a wonderful tradition of people; women and men, young people, teachers, priests, workers, administrators and carers who, if given the capacity to use their gifts, do so exceptionally well. Indeed I have been most fortunate in my Auxiliary Bishops, my three Vicars General, my Deans here at the Cathedral and my brother priests who are always so active and generous in working together.
At the end of this year I will have been a Bishop for 20 years and have enjoyed the collaboration, honest dialogue and service of my brother bishops, here and overseas. For thirteen years I was privileged to be a member of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy, and more recently I have been asked to share on three committees of the Holy See.
All of this brings each of us back to Saint Mary Magdalen, because she gave herself so completely to Jesus Christ, grieved at his passing, wondered and adored at his resurrection, and then carried the message of the Good News of perfect love, as Saint John says, which casts out fear to people. So I know that each of us is invited to carry that message while we thank our great God for being near to us in our words and deeds, and enabling our humble gifts to be used for the good of all.
Today I ask Saint Mary Magdalen, Apostle of the Apostles, to be with me as I hear her words of love and truth that the Lord is risen. We are a people of hope, destined for eternal life, to shape our world in true peace and love.
+ Denis J Hart
ARCHBISHOP OF MELBOURNE