Dedication Of The Church Of Saint Leopold Bogdan Mandic, Sunshine
Celebrated by Archbishop Denis Hart
on Saturday, 17th November, at 11.00am
Dear Father Josip, dear Croatian Friends, dear Brothers and Sisters,
I am delighted that my brother in the episcopate, Mile Bogovic, the Bishop of Gospic, has joined me for this consecration ceremony. To me it is one further indication of the wonderful example of Croatian Christianity and strong Catholicism, which protected Europe from pagan invasions for 450 years and which is now renowned in our Archdiocese of Melbourne.
Thanks to all of you we now have this wonderful church and I consider it a privilege and an honour to officiate at its consecration.
May it be a place of worship and love, a reminder of God's care amid our daily lives.
My dear brothers and sisters,
For eight years this church of Saint Leopold Mandic has been under construction. Father Josip Vranjes, your chaplain, has told me of the team of dedicated workers who have, with great skill and energy, devoted unlimited amounts of time to building the house of God for the Croatian people in the west part of Melbourne.
I pay tribute to your priests, to your strong Croatian faith, and Bishop Mile Bogovic and I come as successors of the apostles to dedicate this church set apart for the worship of God.
The Croatian people have a strong tradition of love and worship of God. It is with great esteem that I dedicate this church.
In view of the remarkable faithfulness of Croatian people, it is most appropriate that this church is named after Saint Leopold Mandic, who was born on 12th May, 1866. From his ordination in 1890 he spent fifty-two years in Italy, was beatified on 2nd May, 1976, and canonised in 1983. We can take great comfort from the contrast between his physical frailty and spiritual strength. He was four foot five inches tall, born physically weak, had a stammer and suffered abdominal pains. He was gradually deformed by chronic arthritis, making his frame stooped, his hands gnarled and causing much pain, and yet spiritually he was a giant full of Christian strength. His advice in the confessional is the advice he gives us today; 'have faith, everything will be alright, faith, faith'.
For nearly forty years, twelve hours a day, he counselled and absolved thousands of penitents working as a herald of God's love and forgiveness. His human weakness coupled with his spiritual strength reminds each one of us of the use we have to make of the gifts that God has given us.
Today as we dedicate this beautiful church, let us remember that it is the love of God, sown so deeply in the hearts of the Croatian people, which will give us life and strength. Use it well and with constancy.
Already we have sprinkled the people and the church with holy water. Each of us is a temple of God. We will profess our faith and call upon the saints.
Relics of the martyrs, witnesses to God's love with whom we are united in the communion of saints, will be placed beneath the altar. They are a reminder that those who have been redeemed by the suffering of Jesus are our inspiration.
Next, the altar, which represents Christ is anointed, because in his body on the Cross Jesus redeemed us. Incense is burned ascending with our prayer with the odour of sweetness, reminding us that God finds our prayers sweet and acceptable; because each of us is a living temple and the priests will pass through the church incensing us in this house of prayer. The altar is covered and lights are put upon it to remind us that the Eucharist is the perfect feast of Jesus Christ who saved us and who brings us his life. Christ is the light to enlighten all the nations.
You as members of Croatian families can be truly proud with the long history of Christianity. For nine hundred years the Diocese of Zagreb has existed and the Pope's visit in 1994 was to emphasise the bonds between the Holy Father and Catholicism in Croatia. Truly it can be said that for over 450 years the Croatian people have withstood the onslaughts of others opposing the Christian faith.
I remember in 1992 there was a brief period of normality before the terrible war in your country. I remember with sadness the tragedies in Vukovar, Dubrovnik, Zadar and many other towns and villages. The Holy Father has advised all of us to follow the way of peace in seeking answers to the difficult and unresolved matters in your home country.
I have always admired the courage and faith of the people of Croatia and I am proud to be united with you as we dedicate this church.
Let us remember above all that we too, Croatians in Australia, have a mission to share our faith and sense of the wonder of God with the people of our country. This I know you will do by utilising this church well as I congratulate all who are responsible for its construction. Let us now proceed to the special prayers of dedication.
+ Denis J. Hart,
Archbishop of Melbourne.