03 Aug 2019

St. Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney, Feast of St Dominic

The summer of 1221 was a hot one. Global warming meant Europe was one and a half degrees warmer than usual, and was experiencing strange weather, melting glaciers, wheat growing all the way to Scandinavia, grapes all over England.[1] Plentiful agriculture meant growing populations, trade and wealth. New big cities and an emerging middle class created demand for the first universities and a new religious movement known as ‘the friars“.

It was hot and Dominic de Guzman was dying. Only five years before, the Fourth Lateran Council had sounded the alarm about the low standard of preaching and teaching that left people easy prey to ‘new age’ views of the person, ecology and God. It called for better educated, more evangelistic pastors. Dominic’s Order of Preachers was an answer to that cry.

Similar calls have been heard many times in history, in response to ignorance of the faith or backsliding from it. By God’s grace, fresh apostolic energies, structures and approaches have followed, and the Church has often flowered when least expected. We think, for instance, of the motley crew of demoralised disciples turned by Pentecost into a powerful preaching band. They asked them-selves, in Paul’s words: “How will people call upon Jesus unless they believe in him? And how believe in Him if they’ve never heard of him? How will they hear about Him unless someone tells them? And who will tell them if no-one is sent to preach?” (Rom 10:14-5) Christian community, worship and action are all premised on a prior encounter with Jesus Christ and His Good News.

So preachers must be identified, formed and sent. When the Church’s first pastors found admin and charity was crowding out their prayer and preaching, they ordained seven men to help (Acts 6:1-7). Evangelization, they insisted, must be the pastor’s first task, one that needs regular reinforcement. So Paul assured his beloved Corinthians that, however lukewarm their leaders or backsliding their disciples, he for one would never water down the Word of God, would always state the Truth openly, would always preach Christ Jesus (2Cor 4:1-7). Such waves of evangelization and re-evangelization are the ordinary rhythm of Church renewal. The Gospel must be proclaimed to every person, institution and culture, again and again.

But whom shall we send? The name ‘Joseph Murphy’ recalls that many of our vocations used come from the Irish. Yet as the complexions of the Australian people and congregations have changed, so have those of our pastors. Today I am pleased to be ordaining men of Australian, Canadian, Chinese, Dominican, Irish, Korean, Lebanese, Malaysian and Mexican backgrounds and, most exotic of all, one from Brisbane: priests from and for modern multicultural Australia.


Their life experiences, too, have been enriching: growing up in contemporary Australia or a different culture; amidst love and support, or some insecurity; as converts from Protestantism or indifferent Catholicism, or as members of strong Catholic families, much influenced by good priests. Some were attracted to priesthood from childhood; others took longer to hear that call. In the meantime one was a casino bouncer, another a medical doctor, one worked for Railcorp, several were students of engineering or philosophy, one of the languages of the elves, orcs and hobbits. Several found their way to Christ and vocation through university chaplaincy, the Neocatechumenal Way, Youth for Christ or the Dominicans; for most World Youth Day was important. They were formed in various seminaries and tested by distance, family challenges and more.

Miguel, for one, had grave misgivings about coming to a land populated by kangaroos; now he knows he will be “at the service of people” not roos. John says he’s matured through formation “from simple naivety to a more sophisticated naïvete” and now plans to “work hard for the kingdom of God”. Will hopes “just to be a a good shepherd, wherever God sends me”. To that same end Ronnie anticipates presenting the Catholic faith “with intelligence and beauty” and Moises “passing on to others the same Good News once announced” to him. In this way Joseph hopes to “draw people closer to Christ” and Br William to enable them “to encounter our living and loving God”. In all these experiences and aspirations these men have demonstrated courage, generosity and trust in providence. Now we look to them to demonstrate a true missionary spirit.

The apostles focussed on evangelizing. But by the age of the Fathers, priesthood had settled down into being about sanctifying, teaching and governing.[2] Even then, the great pastors were celebrated as teaching ‘doctors’ or golden tongued preachers. As the Church contended with pagan ideologies, spiritual eclecticism and other hostile forces, homiletics had a certain priority.

By the middle ages Christianity was mainstream and priests largely providers of sacraments. Poorly educated in theology and rhetoric, they were rarely expected to preach, and when they did they often read a sermon from the fathers or the bishop. Along came Dominic and his band with their passion for contemplating truth and passing on the fruits to others: contemplare et contemplata aliis tradere. But how could there be an order of preachers, people wondered, when only bishops regularly preach? Were Dominic and his mates all bishops? Yet by the time of Dominic’s death in early August 1221, the friars were already redefining priesthood in the West by putting preaching and teaching front and centre.

It took centuries to be settled. Against the Protestant emphasis on the ministry of the word, the Council of Trent magnified the cultic dimension of priesthood, focusing on the powers to consecrate and absolve. Yet the great priest-saints of that age and since were evangelizers. By the Second Vatican Council the Church was ready to teach formally that the preeminent mission of the apostles and their succesors the bishops is to preach the Gospel.[3] Sharing their tasks with their clergy meant priests, too, must evangelize before they can sanctify or lead.[4] This was taken up big-time by the post-conciliar popes.[5] Pope Benedict, for instance, thought priestly teaching especially important in an age “confused about the fundamental choices in our life and questioning what the world is, where it comes from, where we are going, what we must do in order to do good, how we should live.” Pope Francis, too, has focused on what makes homilies true moments of encounter with the living Word, echoing recent studies that have found good preaching and music make all the difference when it comes to Mass attendance. Priests must be good preachers, then, and living homilies by their way of life!

My sons, brothers and soon fathers, Miguel, Will, John, Br William, Ronnie, Joe and Moises: what an extraordinary privilege it is to be a voice for the Gospel! To express the eternal Word dwelling with the Father in the words of men. What a grace to unite the tables of the Word and of the Eucharist. To proclaim the kerygma through the cycle of feasts and readings. To open up the sacred text and relate it to people’s daily lives. To teachand catechize in other ways too. Today I welcome you to that order of preachers that are the presbyters. Fear not, you won’t have to don mediæval habits! That there are seven of you evokes the Seven Ordinandi in that first ordination ceremony in Jerusalem; the Seven Hills of Rome, whose Church you must faithfully represent; the Seven Sacraments – you might specialize in one each; and the Seven Virtues anf Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit – again, pick at least one each to cultivate. Of course, there are also Seven Deadly Sins – I advise avoiding all seven – and the theological classic Snow White and the Seven Dwarves: others can designate which of you is Grumpy, Sleepy, Happy, Sneezy, Dopey, Bashful or Doc.

Seven is a good number for another reason: there are Seven Days of Creation, and you are now a whole week of priests sent as missionaries  to all creation. Today the Spirit of the Lord is given to you, so you can heal the broken, liberate the captive, comfort the sorrowful, as Jesus did. But first He anoints you “to bring Good News to the poor” (Is 61:1-3; Lk 4:14-22). That will take all seven days of your week and all the days of your lives. By preaching faithfully, imaginatively, preparedly, intelligently, compassionately, joyfully, you will attract people to Christ and so bring them from scripture to sacrament to service. May the Father who is author of the Word, may the Son who is that Word incarnate, and may the Spirit who inspires our words, be in your hearts and on your lips that you may proclaim the Gospel worthily and well.


Oh happy day! In the 6th chapter of the Acts of the Apostles “seven men of good repute, full of the Holy Spirit and of wisdom” are chosen to be ordained by prayer and the laying on of hands (Acts 6:1-7). So it’s happened before! But at the beginning of National Vocations Awareness Week, with the Plenary Council for Australia on the horizon, and with so many challenges to our Church in recent times, it is an especially powerful sign of hope for priestly ministry in this land that we will today ordain to the priesthood Rev. Miguel Perez Campos, Rev. William Tsz Kwong Chow, Rev. John Jang, Rev. Br. William Mun Kit Loh O.P., Rev. Ronnie Maree, Rev. Joseph Murphy and Rev. Moises Tapia Carrasco.

I acknowledge the presence this morning of the Auxiliary Bishops of Sydney and the Bishop Emeritus of Wagga Wagga, the Vicars-General of Sydney and of the Maronite Dioceses and the rectors, staff and students of the seminaries of greater Sydney and of the Catholic Institute.

On this Feast of St Dominic we commend our new priests to his protection and welcome his Dominican sons and daughters including Br William’s Master of Students, priors, brothers, sisters and laity. From the Neocatechumenal Way which Miguel and Moises have been walking, I recognise the responsibles, catechists and members.

I extend a particular welcome to our ordinands’ families and friends who’ve nurtured their faith from birth. I greet Miguel’s mother Pascuala, catechists Juan and Gemma, and others who’ve travelled from Mexico. From William Chow’s family, his mother Thecla, sister Euphemia, brother-in-law Dennis, as well as other relatives and friends from Canada or Hong Kong.

With John, his parents Thomas and Theresa, siblings David and Mary, and others who’ve travelled great distances, including fellow seminarians from the North American College in Rome. Brother William is accompanied by his parents Chris and Mei, his sister Christina, and relatives and friends from near and far.

We welcome Joseph’s parents, Peter and Donna, siblings Nicholas, Rachel, Clare, Gabrielle, Catherine and Brigid, and other relatives and friends. All the way from the Dominican Republic have come Moises’ mother Martha, grandmother Catalina – aged 84! – sister Katty, and catechists Carlos and Penelope.

When planning this ordination, we were aware that Ronnie had several hundred in his immediate family, as well as jumbo jets of extended family arriving from Beirut and Bankstown: sorry there wasn’t time to build a bigger cathedral! But I welcome to this one his parents Joseph and Sue, siblings Connie, Natalie and Josh, uncle Monsignor Shora Maree, and the rest of Lebanese-Australia.

I also acknowledge the priests of Sydney and beyond, who delight in welcoming these new brothers into their ranks, along with lay faithful from parishes from which our ordinands hail or in which they have served. To everyone present in this cathedral, in the crypt below or watching by live-streaming: a very warm welcome.


St. Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney, Feast of St Dominic

For days now I have been waking up like an excited child in the lead up to Christmas. I just couldn’t wait for today. Now I feel that that excited child has received seven grand Christmas presents!

But that’s the child in me. The father in me knows that these presents are for you. They are for the people of God in Sydney and beyond and that is a great gift to all of us.

At a time when some people are saying that the Church is dead, we recall that our Saviour rose from the dead and raised His body with Him – His body the Church. We are raised from the dead today in the gift of seven new pastors for our Church. It gives us great hope, great confidence, great faith and great gratitude to Our Lord Jesus Christ.

These men will do great things, along with the priests of Sydney and beyond who are celebrating with them today, and your presence is a tribute to your love of Jesus Christ, of His sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist, but also of his priesthood, who bring Him closer to us.

I thank you for your love for your priests: keep treasuring and encouraging them and bring us some more please. If there are any young men here who are eligible, sign up today – why wait? – this will be you eventually! And the rest of you: please pray for and encourage more young priests.

To the priests of Sydney and beyond, I say: the people of God love you for who you are and what you do for them. Thanks be to God for the priests of Sydney and beyond!

Now my friends, let us enjoy God’s Christmas present to all of us for the next 80 to 100 years – the length of service before each of these new priests. Keep supporting them and praying for them please. God bless you all.

[1]     https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/earth-and-planetary-sciences/medieval-warm-period

[2]     eg Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 1.3.8; Vatican Council II, Lumen Gentium 10-13; CCC 436, 897-913, 1267-8, 1546; Philip-Michael Tangorra, ‘Jesus Christ: Priest, Prophet, and King,” Homiletic and Pastoral Review 25 October 2013.

[3]     Vatican Council II, Dei Verbum, 7 and Lumen Gentium 19 & 25.

[4]     Vatican Council II, Sacrosanctum Concilium 52; Dei Verbum, 7,8,25;Lumen Gentium 20-21; Presbyterorum Ordinis 2-4. In the post-conciliar period see: CIC 767 & 768; St John Paul II, Dies Domini(1998) 39; General Instruction on the Roman Missal (3rd ed.) 65 citing Vatican Council II.

[5]     E.g. St Paul VI, Evangelii nuntiandi; St John Paul II, Redemptoris missio and Novo millennio ineunte; Benedict XVI, Verbum Domini; Pope Francis, Evangelii gaudium. See also: CIC 767 & 768;  St John Paul II, Dies Domini 39; General Instruction on the Roman Missal (3rd ed.) 65.