News from the Diocese
Statement from Bishop Brian Mascord | Archbishop Philip Wilson
My Sisters and Brothers in Christ
The word “church” has many meanings. For some it can mean simply the building where we, as faithful, gather for worship, or it can be as an institution with laws, rights and responsibilities. However, no image is more significant than that of the Church as the people of God. All other images lose their significance if there is no living body of Christ.
Over recent days we have been presented with news that, for many, will disturb, upset and anger, as it involves a member of the hierarchy of the Church—Archbishop Philip Wilson—who had a significant influence in our Diocese during his time as Bishop of Wollongong. A guilty verdict has been handed down by the courts in relation to his failing to inform police about allegations of child sexual abuse when he was an assistant priest in 1976. I understand that he is considering the reasons for the verdict and consulting closely with his lawyers to determine the next steps. I do not offer any comment regarding the particulars of this matter.
The purpose of this letter is to recognise that many of you will be affected by the present situation with varying emotions ranging from confusion, anger and shame. As your Bishop, I stand with you in these emotions, with the added hurt that the events occurred in my previous Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.
In December 2017, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, released its report with many recommendations. As I mentioned in my Pastoral letter for Lent 2018: “all those who came forward and courageously spoke their truth to the Royal Commission … have given the Church a significant opportunity to reflect on how we are called to be the face of God in our world today. They have been the voice of the Spirit challenging us to be real and authentic in who we are as God’s people. Whilst it has been a difficult time for all, nothing compares to the courage of victims and survivors in coming forth and speaking truth—a truth that calls for action on the part of everyone.”
On my own behalf, I wish to offer my apology to all who have suffered abuse by members of the Church or are feeling hurt in whatever way by the actions of anyone associated with the Diocese of Wollongong. I wish to assure you that the Diocese is totally committed to the protection of children and young people above all else, and in remaining transparent and open in our communications to ensure that the safety of children and vulnerable people remains paramount. We have rigorous processes in place for dealing with complaints of abuse, and we give full cooperation to all police investigations and child protection authorities.
Like my predecessor, Bishop Emeritus Peter Ingham, I strongly urge any person with a complaint of mistreatment or abuse to come forward to the police through the Police Assistance Line on 131 444 or contact the diocesan Director of Professional Standards and Safeguarding, Anna Tydd, on (02) 4222 2405. I also wish to offer support to anyone who is affected. If this applies to you or someone that you know, please contact Anna so that arrangements can be made for the appropriate support.
I ask that you hold everyone involved at this time in your prayers recognising that, as the body of Christ, we are a wounded people and like Mary stood at the foot of the cross looking beyond the cross to the resurrection.
Yours in Christ
Most Rev Brian G Mascord DD
BISHOP OF WOLLONGONG
Our Lady Help of Christians | 24 May 2018
Creating a safe Catholic Church from within: two days with Fr Hans Zollner SJ
The Catholic Diocese of Wollongong and the Catholic Diocese of Parramatta are co-hosting two days of presentations by Fr Hans Zollner SJ (Hans). The two day event is being sponsored by Carroll & O'Dea, Makinson d'Apice and Catholic Church Insurance. The event is also being supported by the Catholic Diocese of Broken Bay, Catholic Professional Standards Ltd, the NSW Professional Standards Office and the NSW Ombudsman. Hans will address the most significant issues facing the Catholic Church today with respect to harmful behaviour, including the theological and spiritual implications arising from the abuse crisis and their impact on victims and survivors, together with members of the Church.
Hans will be providing two distinct and separate presentations on Friday 31 August and Saturday 1 September 2018.
Hans will explore why and how the Catholic Church needs to change to survive, flourish and ensure the safest place for the most vulnerable.
Hans is regarded as one of the leading ecclesiastical experts in the field of safeguarding of minors and on areas concerning sexual abuse both in the Roman Catholic Church and beyond. He has been a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors since 2014 and head of the Centre for Child Protection (CCP) at the Gregorian University, headquartered in Rome.
Hans is a German theologian and psychologist. Since 2003 he has taught at the Institute of Psychology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. Hans has been the academic Vice Rector of the Gregorian since 2010. He has been a member of the Society of Jesus since 1990.
Both days of the conference will be structured by the topics outlined below and will feature audience participation and interactive workshops, which Hans sees at the heart of learning and education.
Both days will be facilitated by Susan Pascoe. Susan was elected president of the Australian Council for International Development in November 2017. Prior to her appointment, Susan has been the Inaugural Commissioner for the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commissioner, and the Commissioner of the State Services Authority in Victoria. Susan comes with a wealth of experience, having recieved the Influencer of the Year award at the Third Sector Awards in 2017, the Outstanding Contibution for Public Administration Award in 2016, and being appointed Member of the Order of Australia in 2007 for her service to education.
Note: Clergy, staff (including those from Agencies and Ministries), and volunteers from the Diocese of Parramatta are to register parracatholic.org/safechurch/
Note: ticketing for this event will close on Friday 17 August 2018 at 5:00pm.
Friday, 31 August 2018 - 10:00AM - 5:00PM
This presentation will be directed to Catholic Church personnel including child protection and safeguarding professionals, school principals, teaching staff, social welfare leaders and staff, clergy, religious, and other employees and volunteers.
Participants will gain:
- An understanding of the current workings and view of child protection internationally with specific reference to the Holy See and the relative position of the Australian Catholic Church;
- Insight into the spiritual and theological impact of the child sexual abuse crisis;
- An ability to identify the key theoretical and practical changes to make a child safe organisation; and
- The ability to equip Catholic Church leadership with the necessary tools to create and maintain a safe institutional culture both at an individual and collective level.
Topics of Exploration
- A birdseye view from the Holy See—what are the main priorities and challenges that currently face the Holy See with respect to combating harmful behaviour within the Catholic Church?
Hans will provide some key insights into:
- the most significant issues facing the contemporary and worldwide Catholic Church with respect to harmful behaviour;
- comparing the current child protection climate and position of the Catholic Church in Australia to the Catholic Church in other nations;
- the current work of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors and whether it is getting the support and resources it needs from Pope Francis and beyond; and
- the attitude and response of the Holy See with respect to the recent Royal Commission including the final report and its recommendations.
- The impact of child sexual abuse and other harmful behaviour on the spiritual and theological.
Hans will provide some key insights into:
- identifying and discussing the impact of the history of child sexual abuse and other harmful behaviour on the spirituality and theology of members of the Church;
- from a spiritual and theological perspective, what the leadership can do within the Church to better understand and respond to child sexual abuse and other harmful behaviour; and
- what nations around the globe are doing to support current clergy, religious and lay persons in positions of leadership in the Church in this time of crisis.
- What would a child safe Diocese look like in five years time?
Hans will identify the key theoretical and practical changes to make a Catholic organisation child safe. Hans has advocated that a fundamental transformation of the worldwide church must occur if it is to survive, flourish and be child safe.
Hans will discuss:
- in the current climate with massively declining priest and religious membership, the future for religious life and how will it serve the faithful in a safe and meaningful way;
- at a local level whether diocesan or religious, the key indicators of a transformed child safe Catholic Church authority; and
- the key areas of resistance that could weaken the transformation of the Catholic Church.
Who can attend?
Organisations, institutions and departments which have care or responsibility for children and vulnerable adults in Catholic settings are encouraged to attend, including:
- Parish and religious communities
- Out-of-home care
- Disability services
- Government including the NSW Ombudsman
- Support and advocacy groups for victims and survivors of harm
with responsibilities for:
- Professional standards and safeguarding
- Wellbeing and pastoral care
- Residential/client services
Saturday, 1 September 2018 - 10:00AM - 3:00PM
This presentation will be directed to victims and survivors of abuse and their family and friends together with their advocacy and support groups. The presentation will also focus on issues that continue to face faithful members of the Church in the light of the child sexual abuse crisis —particularly parishioners.
Participants will gain:
- An ability to identify and understand how the history of child sexual abuse and other harmful behaviour has and continues to impact faithful communities worldwide;
- An understanding on how victims and survivors of harmful behaviour can be best supported with specific reference to work being undertaken internationally;
- An understanding of the role of the faithful in the creation and continuation of clericalism; and
- The ability to equip faithful members of the community to assist them in the transformation of religious communities to ensure they are child-safe.
Topics of Exploration
- The significance of harm within the Catholic Church – how it has impacted on faithful communities and how it can be best addressed and rectified.
Hans will provide some key insights into:
- identify and discuss how the history of child sexual abuse and other harmful behaviour has and continues to impact on faithful communities worldwide;
- what is being doing around the globe to support victims and survivors of harm – what is working and what hasn't worked; and
- what faithful members of the Church can do at an individual and collective level to make the local Church a safer place.
- Reality check - the role and responsibility of faithful members of the Church.
Hans will provide some key insights into:
- the role of the faithful members of the community in the creation and continuation of clericalism;
- how faithful members of the community can best combat clericalism at a local level and beyond; and
- how parish and religious lay leaders can transform religious communities to empower lay leadership and engagement.
Who can attend?
Faithful members of the Catholic Church and/or those who have been harmed by the Catholic Church are encouraged to attend including:
- Victims and survivors of harmful behaviour in the Catholic Church together with their family and friends;
- Faithful lay members of parish and religious communities;
- Persons in position of lay leadership in the Catholic Church including those on parish, diocesan and religious councils; and
- Advocacy and support groups for victims and survivors of harm.
VENUE AND LOCATION
The Cube, Campbelltown Catholic Club
20-22 Camden Road, Campbelltown NSW, 2560
On each day morning tea and lunch will be provided.
If you have any medical dietary requirements please ensure they are selected when booking your ticket. If your particular medical dietary requirement is not listed please email rsvp [AT] dow [DOT] org [DOT] au once you have booked your ticket, and indicate your name, and your medical dietary requirement.
For any enquiries please contact us at: rsvp [AT] dow [DOT] org [DOT] au or on 1800 225 922.
If you would like to book accommodation for the event we have secured a discount code on rooms available at Rydges Hotel. Rydges is conveniently located next door to Campbelltown Catholic Club, offering guests the luxury of 4.5 star accommodation, complimentary parking, free WiFi and Rydges King dream beds. If you are wishing to book a room at Rydges Hotel please click here or call them on (02) 4645 0500, or email them reservations_campbelltown [AT] rydges [DOT] com. Upon purchase of a ticket you will be provided with a Rydges promotion code that can be used to receive a discounted rate at Rydges.
Rydges Campbelltown is located on 15 Old Menangle Road, Campbelltown, NSW 2560.
From Sydney - take the second Campbelltown exit off the M5 motorway and veer left onto Narellan Road.
From Canberra, Goulburn and Southern Highlands - take the Campbelltown exit off the M5 motorway and turn right onto Narellan Road. Continue on Narellan Road through two sets of traffic lights. At the third set of lights turn left into Kellicar Road. Turn immediately into Camden Road and right again at the first roundabout into the Campbelltown Catholic Club/CUBE car park.
Disembark at Campbelltown Station.
Head west on Kellicar Road to Camden Road intersection. Turn left into Camden Road. The Cube is located 50m along the right-hand side (adjacent Campbelltown Catholic Club main entrance).
It is a comfortable 15 minute walk from the Station. The going is flat with a sealed pathway. There is also a taxi rank directly opposite Campbelltown Station. For information on train timetables please visit City Rail at www.cityrail.info
There is easy access and on-site parking for coaches. Coach operators please call ahead and we will reserve a parking space for you.
There are over 700 off street parking spaces available on site including a multi level underground car park.
There will be no refunds issued after Friday 24 August 2018.
Note: Clergy, staff (including those from Agencies and Ministries), and volunteers from the Diocese of Parramatta are to register parracatholic.org/safechurch/
Are you up for the Challenge? Vinnies CEO Sleepout Wollongong
St Vincent de Paul Society needs the help of local business leaders to change the perception of homelessness and raise funds for much-needed support services across our region.
The annual CEO Sleepout will be held on Thursday 21 June at St Mary Star of the Sea College, Wollongong, and will see leaders come together to spend a night in the cold for a worthy cause.
Last year, through funds raised from the CEO Sleepout, Vinnies gave assistance to almost two million people in need across the country, providing more than 1.5 million meals and almost 700,000 nights with a bed.
By taking part in the Vinnies CEO Sleepout, you can help shine a light on homelessness and bring some warmth to the longest night of the year – everyone deserves a safe place to call home.
Visit https://www.ceosleepout.org.au/event/wollongong today to register or donate to the event.
He is Risen! | Bishop Brian Mascord's Easter Message 2018
“He is risen!” (Matt 28:6)
Everything that matters in Christianity revolves around this central claim.
Many people attribute great moral teaching to Jesus—his push towards non-violence, turning the other cheek and treating others as we would want ourselves to be treated. Jesus, in many respects, is unrivaled in his attitude towards the outcast, the forgotten and those on the margins of society.
But there is an elephant in the room. He never claimed to be a great moral teacher. What did he claim? He claimed to be the only Son of God and that he would rise from the dead. So, did he?
Well, we know something happened because his cowering followers suddenly found a new bravery. Many went to their death fearlessly and willingly, not to take lives, but offering theirs for the sake of the One who rose from the dead.
For them and for us, Jesus’ resurrection is a moment of redemption. It can redeem our lives from being self-focused, trapped in the day-to-day grind and endlessly searching for meaning in things and people. There is so much more to life than this. We are loved. That is who we are.
Last year I led a pilgrimage to the Holy Land during which I had the opportunity to celebrate in the tomb of Jesus. What struck me most of all was that the tomb was empty. We are people of the empty tomb—for Christ is risen. We are not a people who sit in mourning, but rather, we live life in the light of the Resurrection. We each bear the Light of Christ.
This Easter, igniting the Pascal Candle, we will gather together and become a beacon of hope for all to see. Let us continue to pray, reflect and encounter the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus and allow this mystery to draw us deeper into the great love that God has for us. He is risen, yes, he is risen indeed! Alleluia, Alleluia. I pray the blessings of the risen Christ be upon you.
Grace and peace to you this holy season
Most Rev Brian G Mascord DD
Bishop of Wollongong
1 April 2018
Easter Ceremony Times 2018
For Easter Reconciliation times, check the individual parish pages located here.
Bishop Emeritus Peter Ingham honoured at farewell dinner at The Cube
On Monday 19 March 2018, Bishop Emeritus Peter Ingham was honoured in style at The Cube (located at Campbelltown Catholic Club) with over 500 guests in attendance from around the Diocese and Peter’s family and friends throughout Australia. One of the guests present, Sr Maria Casey RSJ (president of the Canon Law Society of Australia and New Zealand), said of the evening, “There was an atmosphere of joy and celebration in spite of it being a farewell. What happened there at the Cube was a wonderful example of what it is to be Church—a community, faith-filled, joyous, supportive, able to work and celebrate together.”
As guests entered The Cube—walking a red carpet flanked by large images from Peter’s life—Peter made sure he was there to shake the hand and welcome every single guest.
Dean of St Francis Xavier Cathedral Wollongong, Fr Ron Peters, said grace; and guests were then treated to a beautiful three course meal prepared by celebrated Australian chef, Mr Peter Sheppard—director of culinary development at the Campbelltown Catholic Club.
Several amazingly talented students from Mount Carmel Catholic College Varroville provided the pre-dinner and dinner music on the night, with acclaimed former Varroville student, Miss Chantelle Santos, performing a special solo rendition of Ave Maria.
Former diocesan chancellor, Sr Moya Hanlen FDNSC, and current chair of the Diocesan Finance Council, Mr Kieran Biddle, delivered touching tribute speeches. Dame Kathleen McCormack AM presented Peter with a gift and cake to celebrate the wonderful contribution he has made as the bishop of Wollongong for the past 16 ½ years.
Peter then responded with a humourous and heartfelt speech of his own. During the speech Peter said, “I am often asked if I am any relation to the Inghams of ‘Ingham’s Chickens’. In my first parish in Rosebery, I was talking to a group and the question popped up and I said, ‘If I was related to them, I would be driving something better than a Volkswagen Beetle!’ … Staying with the poultry context, in relation to my retirement, I’ve been joking that I have gone from being a rooster to a feather duster….
“Tonight, I am here to thank you all for the terrific support and affirmation of my style of ministry. I have been absolutely blown away at the various farewells around the Diocese. I still have a lot of very touching letters to answer amid packing up and preparing to move…. I tend to only look at my mistakes, at what I have done badly, and what I have failed to do. But, you have all given me a preview of what people might say at my funeral! I think I have done nothing extraordinary except to keep being there….
“My motivation [as a bishop] came from a phrase in the New Testament in the Acts of the Apostles—a phrase that jumped out at me from the reading at Mass not long before I was nominated a bishop—‘They [Paul and Barnabas] put fresh heart into the disciples encouraging them to persevere in the faith’ (Acts 14:22). It is my fervent prayer that despite my own shortcomings, I have, by God’s grace, put some fresh heart into people and encouraged them to hang in there as Catholic Christians.”
In true Peter style, he finished off his speech by focusing on his successor, the new bishop of Wollongong, Brian Mascord. He said, “So, Bishop Brian, what you see here tonight is a great cross-section of the potential and goodness our Diocese has to offer you. Can I say to you, the people of our Diocese, remember Bishop Brian has just been through a dislocating and painful experience in leaving a community he loved in Maitland-Newcastle and where he was well known and appreciated…. Let your new bishop be himself. What I mean is, Bishop Brian is not a replica of anyone else. Each of us is different and we see much further into the future when we stand on the shoulders of those who went before us.”
One of Australia's most loved comedians, Mr Vince Sorrenti, was a brilliant master of ceremonies for the evening—bringing the house down in fits of laughter with his wonderful sense of humour.
The night was topped off by a wonderful set performed by renowned Australian opera singer and local parishioner from Sydney, Mr Mark Vincent, and his band. Mark received a standing ovation for his encore performance of Nessun Dorma.
One of the highlights of the evening was a surprise slideshow presentation of over 100 photos from Peter’s life.
The Catholic Diocese of Wollongong acknowledges and thanks the following partners and donors for their enthusiastic support of this event: All Organs Australia Pty Ltd, Australian Catholic Superannuation & Retirement Fund, Campbelltown Catholic Club, Catholic Church Insurances, Catholic Development Fund Wollongong, Catholic Super, CEnet, Clearsafe Environmental Solutions, H.Parsons Funeral Directors, Harvest Journeys, Invocare trading as Guardian Funerals and Hansen & Cole Funerals, JDH Architects, KPMG, Makinson d’Apice Lawyers, McDonald's Macarthur and Illawarra, Michelle Roffe Funerals, Primavera Flowers, Remac Fire Safety, Rydges Campbelltown, Steve Watt Constructions, St Francis Xavier Cathedral Parish, FAL Constructions, Figtree Cleaning, Paul and Margaret Wakeling, Pro Sound and Lighting, St Mary Star of the Sea College Wollongong and Stuart Barnes Venues and Events.
Most Rev Brian Mascord ordained as the fifth Bishop of Wollongong
“For all things give thanks” (1 Thess 5:18).
In one of the largest Catholic episcopal ordinations in Australian history, a “full-house” of some 4,500 guests, including the Apostolic Nuncio in Australia, His Excellency Most Reverend Adolfo Tito Yllana, witnessed the ordination of Most Rev Brian Mascord as the fifth Bishop of Wollongong at the WIN Entertainment Centre in Wollongong on Thursday 22 February 2018.
Livestreamed to a national and global audience, the principal consecrator, Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP (Archbishop of Sydney) and co-consecrators, Bishop Peter Ingham (now Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Wollongong) and Bishop William Wright (Bishop of Maitland-Newcastle Diocese), presided over the Mass of Ordination for the new Bishop Mascord.
They were joined by 34 Australian bishops and 113 priests concelebrating the Mass; parishioners and families from all the diocesan parishes; principals, staff and students from more than 40 Diocesan Catholic schools; staff and families from diocesan agencies and affiliated organisations; leaders of other churches and faiths; civic leaders in government and business, along with over 700 of Bishop Brian’s family, friends, parishioners and community members from the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle where he has ministered since being ordained to the priesthood in 1992. In a heartfelt message to his beloved and very proud parents, Ron and Margaret, who were present to share in this experience with him, he thanked them for “being who they are and that God had revealed his faithfulness through the gift of their love for him.”
Bishop Masord said, “Life can throw up many challenges—ones that can, at times, seem almost insurmountable. When the Apostolic Nuncio rang me at the end of November with the invitation from the Holy Father, Pope Francis, to be the bishop of Wollongong, it all seemed totally insurmountable. But, here I am—overwhelmed, nervous, yet open to what the Lord has in store for me and for all of us. I am very conscious of the incredible trust that Pope Francis now places in me.”
Bishop Mascord said, “I look forward to living and working with you as together we continue to build up the presence of the Kingdom of God in this area of the vineyard.”
The new bishop has adopted the motto, “For all things give thanks,” from 1 Thessalonians 5:18.
In his homily for the ordination, Archbishop Fisher, quoting St Augustine, said, “If as a bishop I feel tossed about in the open sea, as a Christian I find myself in safe harbour. Now Bishop Brian will have the benefit of many safe harbours of the Illawarra and Shoalhaven!”
Archbishop Fisher said, “We look to our Bishop-elect to be a good man and a good Christian before all else, to model for us faith, hope, charity and the other virtues. Happily, on his own account, Brian has been surrounded from childhood by ‘tremendous’ people such as his grandmother and beloved parents who’ve shown him how to recognise and respond to God in everyday life, expressing faith practically in service.”
Archbishop Fisher later said, “Like Francis of Assisi, we are called to rebuild the Church. That will require a teacher’s head, a spouse’s heart, and a shepherd’s soul, as your new vestments tell. But the most important thing you will wear from tonight is the cross of Jesus Christ upon your heart.
“A few weeks before you were named bishop, I met you at the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem as you led a pilgrim group in the footsteps of Jesus. You were deeply moved, as I was, to celebrate Mass upon the very slab on which the dead Christ lay and from which he rose for our salvation. Even as your lifelong pilgrimage brings you now to Wollongong, you must in a sense keep your heart fixed on that sepulchre. For in the end, the Church is not built by the faithful, the clergy, even the successors of the apostles. No, it is Christ who builds the Church and his Church, not ours, that is rebuilt day-by-day. In it we join Peter in professing of him: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!” (Matthew 16:16)
In acknowledging the retiring Bishop Peter Ingham, Archbishop Fisher said, " Tonight the Chair of Peter becomes the Chair of Brian—in Wollongong at least—and I pay tribute to Bishop Peter Ingham for his faithful service as Bishop here for the past 16 ½ years. A good few in this region have been confirmed by him. Some more love him from his regular presence in parishes, schools and agencies. Others have been taught or led by him. And many have laughed at his ‘Dad jokes’.”
The Diocese of Wollongong takes in the geographical areas of the Illawarra, Macarthur, Shoalhaven and the Southern Highlands and is home to some 200,000 baptised Catholics. It is the first ordination of a bishop in the Diocese of Wollongong for some 22 years (Bishop Peter Ingham was already a bishop when he was installed as the fourth Bishop of Wollongong more than 16 years ago in 2001).
GIVING UP AND TAKING UP | Bishop-elect Brian Mascord's Lenten Message 2018
Many of us have childhood memories of Lent. For me, it was always about what I was going to be giving up, whether it would be lollies or ice cream or some other important treat that I was used to. If you were the older sibling, perhaps your “Lenten offering” was giving up being mean to an annoying younger brother or sister, or even leaving the last portion of a dessert for someone else. In my family, my parents were very practical about this time of the Church’s calendar. Yes, there was the giving up, the penance of Lent, but they saw this time as also being an opportunity to take something up, a challenge, so to speak—perhaps some radical form of kindness or deliberately going above and beyond in service to each other in the family. This is something I have tried to continue doing during my life, and I have also encouraged my parishioners to do the same.
As I soon begin this new phase of my life as your bishop, I think it is rather fitting that I begin the journey with you during Lent. What, then, am I giving up? Well, that is simple—the security and the familiarity of everything that I have known throughout my life. Certainly, when God called me to the priesthood, it was a call to walk with and shepherd the people of God. But, I never imagined that it would be as a bishop.
Now, what am I taking up? A continued openness to God’s call and the newness of what that involves. We never decide when or where God calls, only how we respond to that call.
At all times, the call of God is a radical one, to a new closeness with the God who loves us. For me, as the title of this year’s diocesan Lenten program says, it really is a “surrender”—a turning over to God, allowing God to be near and, ultimately, allowing him to work through me in this new journey to which he has called us.
There are many images that come to mind during Lent—images of the desert, solitude, fasting and prayer. But, there is also the invitation to go with Jesus. A few weeks ago, on the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time, we heard the disciples of John the Baptist ask Jesus a simple question, “Rabbi, where do you live?” (John 1:38). The response of Jesus was very simple, “Come and see” (John 1:39). Where does Jesus live in your life? Where does he dwell? At the centre? Somewhere off to the side? Perhaps we haven’t even thought about these questions for a while. The invitation of Jesus is important because we do not do this journey alone. Jesus comes with us. In today’s Gospel, the leper—the outcast, the one to be avoided—comes to Jesus for healing and, almost like a child, he simply says, “If you want to, you can heal me” (Mark 1:40). He takes nothing for granted. And Jesus responds with those beautiful words, “Of course I want to!” (Mark 1:41). You can almost imagine the smile that was on Jesus’ face.
It might all sound a little naïve and simplistic, but that’s what discipleship in Christ is all about. We invite Jesus closer and Jesus says, “Yes!” Jesus calls us out further into the deep and we respond, “Yes!” Whilst I will probably never completely let go of where I have come from, nor would I want to, because the gifts of so many people from there have formed me and come with me, I will certainly take up my new life here in Wollongong knowing that Jesus walks with me and with us. And, I pray for the grace to continue to respond with those words, “Yes! I want to.”
In December 2017, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, released its report with many recommendations. Firstly, like Bishop Peter, I would like to recognise and express my gratitude to all those who came forward and courageously spoke their truth to the Royal Commission. They have given the Church a significant opportunity to reflect on how we are called to be the face of God in our world today. They have been the voice of the Spirit challenging us to be real and authentic in who we are as God’s people. Whilst it has been a difficult time for all, nothing compares to the courage of victims and survivors in coming forth and speaking truth—a truth that calls for action on the part of everyone.
The recommendations of the Royal Commission call for change. Some of these changes have already occurred, or are under way, and we will continue to strive to be places of safety and security for our children and vulnerable people.
So, what are we, as the Church, giving up for this period and beyond? I believe it should be that which no longer gives life to us as God’s people, and that which no longer brings healing and comfort to others. We need to be about healing, for that is what Jesus was about. He called people back to the experience of life in God. He challenged the misguided approach of the authorities of his time and he called them to rethink their approaches, just as we are being challenged to look at our approaches. He offered healing on many different levels, and we, too, must do the same. Sometimes our attempts will not go so well.
But, as followers of Jesus, we are called to keep going, to keep trying to be the healing face of Christ to others.
This process is not something that should finish with this year’s Lenten journey. The journey of Lent, the journey of Christmas, the journey of Easter and the journey of Ordinary Time are not just periods in the Church’s year. They are our life’s journey, for they are the Paschal mystery— that is, the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus. Let us hear the invitation that we are being offered and let us give thanks for the invitation that we have been given.
I have taken as my motto, “For all things give thanks,” from St Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians (5:18). I do give thanks. I especially give thanks for the 16 years of faithful leadership given to the Diocese by Bishop Peter Ingham. Let us also be thankful for this time of change and possibility in our Church where we have the opportunity to again look at who we are and what we can be as we take up these opportunities that are being given to us as a faith-filled people. It won’t be easy, but we don’t do it alone. God walks with us and empowers us to be a sign of healing and hope in the world. As we begin our Lenten journey, let us hear the invitation of Jesus to “come and see”, and in doing so, let us surrender to the love of God present to us and to those we love. Let us ask Jesus to come close and let us hear him say to us those important words, “Of course I want to!”
I look forward to meeting many of you at my Ordination on the 22nd of February, and I wish you every blessing as we begin our life together and continue to build the kingdom of God present in the Diocese of Wollongong.
I wish you a blessed Lent. May it be a time of growth and love.
Yours in Christ
Most Rev Brian G Mascord
Bishop-elect of Wollongong
11 FEBRUARY 2018
Surrender Now: A Lenten Concert | Sunday 11 March 2018
Australia Day honour for humble Dapto priest
Fr Francis Tran, parish priest at St John the Evangelist Catholic Parish Dapto, was today awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for service to the Catholic Church in Australia and the community.
Fr Francis said his receipt of the Australia Day honour is something that took him “completely by surprise”, but for the various communities he has served, this award is a just recognition for an amazing life of humble service dedicated to the formation of nurturing communities.
Fr Francis has had a tremendous impact on numerous parishes and communities in the Catholic Diocese of Wollongong, having spent time in Nowra, Fairy Meadow, Wollongong, Mittagong, Moss Vale, Vincentia, Milton-Ulladulla, Helensburgh and Dapto throughout his 22 years as a priest.
Bishop Peter Ingham describes Fr Francis as a much-loved priest who never tires of working to build community. “The Office of the Bishop has received an unprecedented number of letters of commendation from members of the parish and school communities where Fr Francis has ministered over the years, and I have seen first-hand the way Fr Francis builds up and truly loves the people he serves,” Bishop Peter said.
When asked why he was so surprised by his receipt of the Australia Day honour, Fr Francis said, “Because I live a very simple life. I am a normal human being. I never do big things. I just live a normal life amongst the community as a working man.”
Fleeing Communist Vietnam at a time of serious persecution for members of the Church, he came by boat to Australia in 1987 and was welcomed to the hostel in Villawood for refugees (now Villawood Immigration Detention Centre). Fr Francis said, “I worked in factories and farms for nearly three years doing manual labour—two jobs a day, working and working. I felt called to be a priest, but I had no English, so I stopped working and studied English for six months at Liverpool TAFE. It was hard. It had been many years since I had been to school. But I learnt it, entered the seminary and was ordained in 1995 at Fairy Meadow.”
Even before joining the seminary, Fr Francis had a strong desire to learn and adapt as he tried to embrace his new home. “I read a lot about Australian history. If you don’t know the history, you don’t know the people. I always heard Australians say, ‘You can take the boy out of the village, but you can’t take the village out of the boy.’ That’s true in many ways, but it was important to me to become very involved with the Australian Community—learning and growing—so I could serve people and build up communities where people feel like they belong.”
Parishioners attest to Fr Francis as being a man who rolls-up his sleeves and gets his hands dirty, especially on projects that bring people together. Fr Francis is dedicated to building facilities that allow people to come together. Working alongside parishioners, he has become quite a “handyman”, building pergolas, gardens, fish ponds, barbeque areas and spaces for hospitality and welcome. “I want the parish and my house to be a place where people of all ages can come together, and they do in big numbers,” Fr Francis said.
It is this desire to bring people together in genuine friendship that was central to his OAM recognition. Fr Francis describes himself as “humbled by the award” but he accepted it as something that recognises the way he lives his life. Fr Francis said, “I love the community. In whatever I do I think of the community. Even if I’m mentally and physically tired, I keep on working as I want to offer the community something and make people feel they belong and that they have a brighter tomorrow.
“In Australian culture today, it is very easy for people to become isolated and disconnected. In my role here, I’m trying to get it back the old way of life—a community life. I want people to know each other, to be friendly with each other, to see the value of family, and so I try to create spaces and opportunities to bring people together—a cup of coffee after Mass, dinners here, sports nights, gathering for celebrations, watching footy together. I want people to know and love each other. Worshipping God in the Church will not make sense if we don’t have a true sense of community and of belonging.”
It is Fr Francis’ ordinariness that has seen him able to build such vibrant communities through his actions and in the way he preaches. Daniel, a parishioner from Helensburgh said, “I remember his first homily at our parish. He said, ‘I don’t have much up here [pointing to his head], but I have broad shoulders.’ In that moment, he won everyone over.”
Fr Francis said, “My priority for the community is to create a good, healthy, happy community that people will bring God into their presence. I try to share my faith in Jesus by being like Jesus. He loves everybody and he sees the value of every single person—good or bad alike. I am, as a priest, a representative of Jesus in the community, and I am called to do exactly what he did—to be his hands and feet. I am not a perfect person, but I try the best I can. I see myself as just one member of the community. I am there to talk to people as a friend. I meet people as a friend, I try to bring them into the community and to help that community be a family who know God’s love.”
In receiving the award, Fr Francis reflected that while his life had not always been easy, he was full of gratitude for so many things. “God has given me time, talent and opportunity to make my life useful for people. I’m grateful to the Church for my faith and the opportunity to serve others. I feel so grateful to be accepted by this country which has adopted me. I know the life of the Gospel is what I have to live. It’s not about how I preach, but how I live and act. It’s about giving your all for others like Jesus did. That’s how life becomes meaningful.”
The chancellor of the Diocese of Wollongong, Mr William Walker, described Fr Francis as, “A truly humble man of the people, an example for many to follow and the award as a just recognition for Fr Francis’ outstanding and meritorious service to the Church and wider community.”