Most Reverend Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv DD STL, Bishop of Parramatta
Homily for the Ordination to the Priesthood of Galbert Albino, Jessie Balorio, Christopher del Rosario and Jack Green at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta
30 November 2018
It is with great joy and gratitude to God that we have come to celebrate this historic occasion in the life of our young diocese. For the first time, we have four seminarians from our own Holy Spirit Seminary who are to be ordained priests together. I bet you that the visiting bishops are quite envious of me for this.
If the truth be known, I am grateful for the privilege to gather the fruits of this good harvest. St Paul says: “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, and God made it grow” (1 Cor 3:6).
In the case of these four deacons, there are many people who have been part of the planting and the watering. Foremost among them, I’d like to acknowledge their parents: Ananias and Catalina Balorio, Expedita and the late Gallardo Albino, Stuart and Donna Green, Luis and Rosemarie del Rosario.
Priestly vocations don’t happen in a vacuum. They don’t drop out of the sky. They are born, nurtured and formed in the womb of the family. It is right that we pay tribute to them for their faith, love and support.
I’d like to also acknowledge the role of the formation team at Holy Spirit Seminary led by the Rector, Fr John Hogan. I am grateful also to the priests and communities who have welcomed and supported the candidates during their time of pastoral placement. Together, you have contributed to the formation and growth of these young men.
God sure works in mysterious ways by bringing them from vastly different backgrounds into the family of the Church here in Parramatta. Their openness to the stirrings of the heart and the promptings of the Spirit has led them on a journey of great promise and blessing. The God who formed them in their mothers’ womb continues to guide them and transform them into his instruments.
Christianity generally and Catholicism in Australia specifically have arrived at a critical juncture. I’d like to think of this critical juncture as analogous to the biblical exile.
Priests are like prophets who accompanied their people, discerned God’s purpose for them and reframed the harsh reality around them into a new vision of hope. In this perspective, you are not merely the replacement of the diminishing and ageing forces (and I am not looking at any priest in particular).
Instead, you are part of the rebirthing and revitalisation of the Church: the Church that might be smaller, poorer and humbler but hopefully more of a light and leaven of the Gospel to the world. We must learn to rise to Christlike way of humility, inclusivity, compassion and powerlessness.
The readings today speak about the mission of hope and renewal in the time of uncertainty.
The first reading tells us about the call of Isaiah which is situated in the context of the exile. “The spirit of the Lord has been given to me. He has sent me to bring good news to the poor, to bind up the broken-hearted, liberty to captives and freedom to those in prison.”
Isaiah was sent to give fresh vision and hope to a people in distress. He was charged with a mission of reframing the hopeless reality into a new hopeful future for his people. That is also the task of the priest-prophet in the new exile.
We have to live and minister in such a way that the remnant people can flourish again. Our love for God and his people and our resolve to serve will clear the path towards a vision of hope for all.
The Gospel on this feast of St Andrew tells us the story of the call of the apostles. They happened to be two pairs of brothers: Peter and Andrew, James and John. We have a pair of brothers Jack and Tom Green. But would the pair here at the calling have the same significance as the pair at the commissioning? I think it is.
Christian ministry and the priesthood in particular are rooted in communion. We can only minister effectively when we recognise our limits as individuals and are open to partnership with others. Priests must learn to live and minister in relationship with one another and with their community.
Jesus commanded the brothers: “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.”
Tonight, you are being ordained for the Diocese of Parramatta and so I cannot make you into fishers for the Archbishop of Sydney. What I wish to point out to you though is the missionary discipleship inherent in our Christian vocation. We are a community of disciples whose central mandate is to bring others to Christ and to spread the fragrance of his Gospel. As priests, you will carry out this missionary mandate in an undivided and wholehearted way.
In the Sacrament of Holy Orders, your own heart and indeed you very being are made one with Christ. Now, in persona Christi capitis, that is in the person of Christ the Head, you will utter the ‘I’ of Jesus and not your own.
As you stand at the Altar and offer the Eucharistic Sacrifice, you will speak with the very ‘I’ of Jesus when you say: “This is My Body; this is the Cup of My Blood.” You identify yourself completely with Christ. You can say truly with St Paul: ‘I live but it is no longer I who live; it is Christ who lives in me’ (Gal 2:20).
It is only when the priest lives out this Christlikeness that is uniquely and indelibly imprinted in him, then he can be a transparent sign to others. He can say with St Paul in his letter to the Thessalonians today “you are supposed to imitate us” (2 Thess 3:6-13); or elsewhere he says it even more authoritatively “Imitate me as I imitate Christ” (1 Cor 11:1).
Jessie, Galbert, Jack and Chris. Your priestly ordination tonight is a sign of hope and renewal of God’s everlasting love to his people.
The words of St Paul in the second reading are very poignant to us: “The footsteps of those who bring Good News are welcome sound” (Romans 10:14).
You are sent and indeed Godsend to spread the fragrance of Christ to all. The Church in Parramatta and beyond is rejuvenated by your youthfulness, reinvigorated by your commitment and enriched by your gifts.
We pray that Christ’s self-sacrificial love which you will celebrate daily at the altar, will nourish and strengthen you on the journey that you have just begun.
We pray that the inestimable treasure kept in the earthen vessel that is you may reveal to all the God of mercy, compassion and love.