Homilies

Mass for 175th anniversary of the sisters of charity in Australia - Saturday 22 March

MASS CELEBRATED BY ARCHBISHOP DENIS HART FOR THE 175 YEARS OF THE SISTERS OF CHARITY IN AUSTRALIA AT SAINT PATRICK’S CATHEDRAL, MELBOURNE, ON SATURDAY, 22ND MARCH 2014 AT 10.00 A.M.

My dear Friends,

On the last day of 1838, fifty-two years after the Charity Sisters had been founded in Cork in Ireland with the birth of Mary Aikenhead, five Sisters volunteered and came to Sydney in response to the request of Bishop Polding.

The founding work there and elsewhere in Australia was among conditions of abject poverty, providing help, consolation, encouragement and inspiration.  Your motto ‘Caritas Christi Urget Nos’ reminds all of the call to bring the love of God to people, especially the poor.  Indeed the vow of service to the poor is another way of describing a call to establish social justice.

In his Lenten Message Pope Francis has emphasised the love which Christ showed in becoming poor:  “Christ the eternal Son of God, one with the Father in power and glory, chose to be poor; he came among us and drew near to each of us; he set aside his glory and emptied himself so that he could be like us in all things.”

The reason for God’s becoming human is his love, generosity and a desire to draw near.  The Pope reminds us that charity is sharing with the one we love in all things, creating equality, eliminating distances.  Just as it is the logic of love that inspired the incarnation of the cross, Christ came not because he needed repentance and conversion; he did it to be among people who need forgiveness and to take upon us the burden of our sins.  In this way the Pope says:  “He chose to comfort us, save us and free us from misery.”

It is not surprising then that the Ignatian spirituality sees in the words of Saint Ignatius that God is present and can be found in all things, in all events and in every moment.  From Ignatian faith in Jesus, the Sisters see they are on a pilgrim’s path, respecting each person’s life journey and God’s direct dealing with each.  Fostering a personal relationship the religious is invited to reflect on how God is present in our daily lives and prompts us to ask ‘what have I done for Jesus?’, ‘what am I doing for Jesus?’, ‘what ought I do for Jesus?’.  There is always a call to reflect upon one’s life, to decide what is being asked and to journey forward.

Mary Aikenhead’s abiding sense of the presence of God:  “May the great mercy and powerful aid of Divine Providence be with you and around you. Amen.”

Here in Melbourne since the arrival of the Sisters in 1889 and the opening of Saint Vincent’s Hospital in 1893 from the time of its founding has had particular outreach to the poor, a gifted clinical school from 1909, clinical specialities that have been developing strongly over the years, which since the formation of Saint Vincent’s Health have expanded to other sites and other services.

Of similar importance has been the Sisters of Charity contribution in education through Saint Columba’s College and Catholic Ladies’ College and a wide range of primary schools in the northern part of Melbourne, many of which have been transferred to lay hands.

Truly it can be said that the charity of Christ urges us on in gifted education, in compassion and care for the poor, and in a Christlike vision of those with whom we live and work.

As Archbishop I am greatly proud of my friends who are Sisters of Charity and of all that they have been to so many people and to me over all my years of priesthood.  May Jesus live in our hearts forever.

 

ARCHBISHOP OF MELBOURNE.

+ Denis J. Hart,

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