Adelaide’s new Archbishop Patrick O’Regan was installed in a near empty St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral today but the occasion was full of beauty, grace and emotion as the former Bishop of Sale and priest of Bathurst committed himself to his new flock.
The two-hour service was live streamed to more than 6000 people and watched by thousands more on demand and on community television.
While saddened that not as many people as possible could be there in person because of the coronavirus pandemic, Archbishop O’Regan said he was pleased that “this virtual alternative” gave people a chance to share in the ceremony in some small way.
“You can see us, but we can’t see you,” he said with a smile.
After a smoking ceremony and Welcome to Country, Archbishop-designate knocked on the Cathedral doors and was received by Apostolic Administrator Bishop Greg O’Kelly SJ. Bishop O’Kelly read the Bull of Appointment in which Pope Francis said Archbishop Regan was “endowed with exemplary conduct” in his apostolic work with the Diocese of Sale.
In his first homily as Archbishop of Adelaide, Archbishop O’Regan made several references to the COVID-19 pandemic, comparing it to the chaos of the first Easter.
He also referred to a ‘message’ from God that he’d received since moving to Adelaide.
“Yesterday afternoon I decided to go for a walk to clear my mind,” he said. “I noticed a new piece of concrete in the footpath and someone in that inimitable Australian style had simply written into the fresh concrete the words ‘we can do this’.
“To me it was one of God’s wonderful daily interventions, reminding me how that grace, that overshadowing (of the Spirit) is always present.
“It was a little encouraging word to me – we can do this, with God’s help, with the spirit’s overshadowing, we can do this together.
“Just over five years ago I came to adopt a prayer, a very simple one, ‘God is good’, with the response ‘God is good indeed’; the people of Sale are probably sick of hearing it, but since that day I have repeated that phrase many times and nothing has happened in that time that has caused me to stop saying it.
“As long as God wants me here, may it be so.”
After the Rite of Communion, Archbishop O’Regan moved to Our Lady’s Shrine to read the Prayer of Entrustment of Australia to Immaculate Mary, Our Lady Help of Christians, on her solemnity.
Bishop O’Kelly and concelebrating clergy and deacons sat in a semicircle on the altar, socially distanced 1.5m from each other, as Archbishop O’Regan returned to the altar to give words of thanks to all those who played a role in “making me look good today”.
“We thank our good God, whose brilliant sense of humour has brought us together on this day; it’s a constrained way and yet it’s a hopeful way and a way that all of us can share in the goodness of God,” he said.
“Today our voices cry out in joy at the utter faithfulness of God, praying that God will indeed be ‘all in all’.”
He thanked Archbishop Philip Wilson for the “extraordinary work he has done in this place, our prayers are continually with him”, and he paid tribute to Bishop O’Kelly and Father Philip Marshall, Administrator Delegate, for “keeping the show on the road so brilliantly and so beautifully” through troubled times and happy times as well.
But it was when he came to his family that Archbishop O’Regan struggled to keep his emotions in check.
“I’d love that you would have been able to be here,” he said as the tears welled. After a long pause he continued: “My Bathurst family, my Sale family, and all those other families that you get to belong to, it’s a deep sense of belonging, and I feel that already here as well, so thank you.
“To all those who have been praying for me, I know there have been many of you, I have really felt that today…it is by the gift of prayer and communion today that we celebrate the gift of life and grace.”
By Jenny Brinkworth. Reproduced with permission from The Southern Cross, the online news publication of the Archdiocese of Adelaide.