Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Isaiah reminds us that we are in the service of the Lord, who invites us to continue to search for justice and with Saint Matthew to learn from Jesus Christ, because true Christian greatness is in service.
With continued proposals for assisted dying, a term used for euthanasia without all of the compassion for which Catholic palliative care is known, we as Catholics witness to the unique value of each human life against immense public opposition. The sacredness of what is God-given is something which remains at the heart of Saint Vincent’s.
Once we understand this, ours is a beautiful and God-given charge. There can be no question that for everyone at Saint Vincent’s this must be a total lifetime commitment. I am grateful for your goodness, your skill and your public witness, whether in delicate clinical work, in the medical care that you provide, the research that you do, or in the very challenging and demanding work of nursing, cleaning, administering and caring for the people who come here.
For over one hundred and twenty-five years Saint Vincent’s has had the highest standards of respect for the human person. The particular involvement that this hospital has always had with the people of Fitzroy through the Sisters of Charity and their collaborators has been a particular example of the fact that you recognise clearly the dignity and uniqueness of each human being. Life is your very watchword and for this I thank you.
However, there is more. We live at a challenging time when the Christian underpinnings of the value and purpose of human life, our relationship with God and how that inspires all that we do are at the risk of being trampled on by pragmatic or draconian measures in society.
The Gospel today speaks of God as father and teacher – and of the humility which will help us save our brothers and sisters. You in your profession have a vision of a humanity made new. With every patient with whom you work there is the story of growth, success, or facing the cross in their lives and sharing it with them. There is the cross too of being a person of integrity and courage, the cross of being a witness to values which are not out of date, but which are the very foundation of our society.
I thank you for your daily faithfulness in working, nursing, caring and inspiring those with whom you associate to the broader beautiful vision of what we can become.
Just as in this season of Lent by prayer and fasting and works of love we seek to direct our attention towards God and towards others, this can be an opportunity for each of you to be motivated in the service that you perform which is highly esteemed by the Church and the community and by me, as archbishop, to give of your very best.
All of us dealing with patients know also that there are challenges of longer suffering and of death, as well as the wonderful moments of resurrection and hope when a patient after a long struggle finally makes a recovery or comes to a new peace of life and vision.
Indeed, it can be said that you walk with people as the mystery of human existence unfolds, carrying their burdens, renewing their life and by your clinical skill and research, your care and love, making broken human beings new, inspiring them and giving them hope for the future.
May this Mass, which is the powerful encounter with the saving work of God give you strength, courage and vision to continue and even enrich the wonderful traditions for which Saint Vincent’s is famous. Saint Vincent’s is not buildings, it is people. Saint Vincent’s is not merely the performance of certain functions, it is an inspired and gifted service by you to the community whom you love in respect and honour of the God, who is the giver of all good gifts. What we lose of time and our own preference in giving to the welfare of our patients is something that will always be life-giving because it is the charity of Christ that urges us on.
+ Denis J. Hart,
Archbishop of Melbourne.