13 Aug 2020
Seeing the hand of God everywhere
The Southern Cross | August 2020
My dear sisters and brothers, it is just over two months now since I was installed as Archbishop and I am still in the process of learning about the Archdiocese. I hope that I shall always be doing so.
While opportunities to meet people have been more limited than I would have liked so far, I find it a great joy to do so. What I do appreciate most is to take Mary MacKillop’s advice and, at least try, ‘to see the hand of God in everything’. Listening to the varied, and sometimes heroic stories of people, is a cause to give thanks to God. It is one of the blessings of this role that you do see God’s hand at work daily.
Most of my time so far has been spent in metropolitan Adelaide. Among the various opportunities to start getting around the Archdiocese, I was able to take a three-day tour of the South East and to visit our parishes there. From an early age I had heard about Penola, and what great seeds of faith had been planted there by Mary MacKillop and Fr Julian Tenison Woods, yet I’d not ever been there. Once again God’s choices baffle even as they cause us to wonder. Why Penola and not Adelaide? Why Bethlehem and not Jerusalem? To which we say, why not?
There is a serenity about Penola and a clear love for not only what God had begun there but how God continues to be at work, be that in the parish community of St Joseph’s, the visitors centre or in our Mary MacKillop Memorial School. I was delighted to hear that although curtailed somewhat due to COVID-19, the visitors centre is set to reopen soon.
In my years as a priest I’ve never really felt at home in a place until I’ve celebrated the Eucharist there. (With roughly 140 places where the Eucharist is celebrated in the Archdiocese this will take some time.) This was especially the case in Penola.
One of the great things about being Catholic is that we have what we call a ‘sacramental imagination’. We are able to see the hand of God in everything. This seems to be easier in places such as Penola. Using Fr Woods’ chalice for Mass, for example, or stopping for a look on the way from Naracoorte to Penola at Fr Woods’ tree and the sculptures in the little layover nearby; admiring the row upon row of what seemed dead vines, yet ready to bound to life come spring; the gentle undulating hills being steadily caressed by intermittent showers of rain; names such as Coonawarra and Padthaway coming to life and the many attempts to marry faith and life all replete with hope.
I continued on to Mount Gambier for a brief visit which included a tour of Tenison Woods Catholic College, the Blue Lake and Mass at St Paul’s Church. Then back to Naracoorte and Bordertown before heading home through Keith. Thank you to the clergy and people for your warm welcome.
While it was a brief foray, which sadly didn’t allow for a full exploration this time, it was a good introduction, as have been the other opportunities of meeting with differing parts of the Archdiocese.
In my discussions with people, COVID-19 and its effects are never far away. Most are a little apprehensive of its long term and short term impacts. Many had hoped that it had run its course by now, and while there are signs that things are returning to some kind of normal, it will be a new kind of normal until a vaccine is found. Congratulations to each and every one of our parishes who have sought to find new ways of keeping our faith communities together. While people have obviously deeply missed being able to come together to celebrate the Eucharist and ‘go to communion’ many have spoken of how this opportunity has deepened their understanding of ‘communion’ in other ways.
Let us continue to pray for all those especially affected by the current pandemic and those who care for them, and for the development of a speedy vaccine.
God is good, good indeed.