Well, the best news is the latest news, and before anyone else in the blogosphere gets in, I can report to you that Bishop Anthony Fisher OP was well and truly installed and plugged in to the Diocese of Parramatta this evening. And the best thing about the ceromony (other than the Real Presence our Lord and Saviour under the appearance of bread and wine, of course) was the music! I had a copy of the installation service hot of the press during the week, because it was prepared by our own Melbourne Archdiocese Catholic Communications team (a sterling production in itself, and I am sure the mass book will become a collectors item).
The mass opened with the singing of St Patrick’s Breastplate IN FULL eight verses while the priests entered. Bach’s Kyrie Gott Vater in Ewigkeit on the organ, and then Gregorian chant by the Schola for the Solemn Reception of the new bishop and the Congregation responding with “Ecce Sacerdos Magnus”. The bishop and metropolitan (+Anthony and +George respectively) came into the Church during the singing of “In faith and hope and love”. The Gloria and the Agnus Dei were from Mozart’s Mass in C Major, the psalm was by Roger Heagney, a Taize response to the prayers of the faithful, a new piece by Flor Peeters on Psalm 100 for the offertory, the Sanctus in Latin from Mass XVIII, Gregorian communion chant, “Sing my tonue” and “Let all mortal flesh keep silence” for communion, the Te Deum in English chanted responsively between the congregation and the choir, ending with the Ave Regina Caelorum and Now Thank we all our God. Wonderful. My friend Peter, with whom I am staying, commented: “They sang like Lutherans!” One piece that had me giggling (my sense of the ridiculous always lets me down on these solemn occasions) was the singing by the choir before the Solemn Entrance of the setting of Psalm 23 which features as the theme song for the Vicar of Dibley… A sublime piece, but wrong connotations, unfortunately!
Deacon Paul OP chanted the gospel beautifully. One got a very strong impression that things were done at this mass to set an example for how things would follow later. I chatted with some choir members at supper later, and commended them on their work. They will be appreciated, I think, by the new incumbant.
One good thing that can be said for the new Parramatta Cathedral (aka St Bunnings) is that it has good acoustics, thanks to plenty of hard edges and a high roofline. Aside from that, the set up of the Cathedral – with pews in rows facing eachother “choir” style, the large central granite square altar, bishops cathedra one end under a very modern huge metal crucifix and the lectern at the other end – means that there is effectively no “sanctuary” and people enter at the beginning and mill around afterwards all around the altar. The old Cathedral – used now as a Narthex – houses the Blessed Sacrament Chapel (inside a large “easter egg”) and the baptismal font and pool. As one person said: It is an excellent example of “that” kind of layout. All in all it is not what one would call practical. And someone from the other side of the Cathedral said they spent the mass trying to work out what was on my tie (I was seated at the back of the other side facing them). In fact, it was a Calvin and Hobbes tie, which I wore largely because I thought Prof. Hadyn Ramsey, Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Notre Dame, would appreciate it. (I am saving my Phantom tie for Bishop Anthony’s 50th Birthday party on Saturday night). Just illustrates the problem of a church designed so that everyone can see everyone else.
But at least everyone got a good view of the action. And of the 30 odd bishops from around Australian and the Pacific who attended. Quite astounding, given that it was just the installation of a bishop, not his ordination. Shows the regard in which +Anthony is held by his brothers, I guess.
What else? Well, there was the obligatory welcome by the Aboriginal Elders at the beginning, which was a nice touch, but didn’t actually flow with the liturgy as such. Makes one wonder if we should (as one bishop once commented to me) feel obligated to make such an acknowledgement a part of our liturgy or not. My preference (and this is just a personal thing) is that the greetings from the elders should have been done along with the greetings from the various other groups, such as priests, religious, people and civil representatives which took place after the entrance. But each to their own.
I expect that the new Bishop’s homily will be published on the Parramatta Dioceson Website sooner or later, but for the moment, I would like to note a couple of things that +Anthony said. These installation homilies are usually the opportunity the new bishop has to thank his predecessor (+Kevin) for all their work and their contribution to the life of the Diocese, but also to set the tone for how he intends to do things in the future. In one section of the homily (and I don’t have it word for word, but this is the gist of it), Anthony said:
“We are not either a pre-Vatican II or a post-Vatican II church. We are not either a Roman church or an Australian church. We are not either a desert church or a church of the Western city. We are a Catholic Church.”
[Update: His actual words were “for we are not either a pre-Vatican II or a post-Vatican II Church; either a Roman or an Australian; either a Western Desert or a Western suburbs one; we are the Catholic Church embracing all time and space and cultures. Nicaea and Vatican II, Rome and Australia, the bush and the city.]
I took this to mean that he was not going to tolerate people trying to push a party line, but that he would be a Catholic bishop for all Catholics in Parramatta. He also told us a bit of history about the woes of the first Dominican priest in Sydney, and commented that when this Dominican first began ministry in the western region almost 200 years ago, he found that less than “one in six Catholics attended mass, and many Catholics never went to confession”. He said later in his homily: “We will not let the situation slide back to those days”. Of course, we know that in fact at this point in time, we would be lucky if one in six Catholics attended Sunday Mass, but he made is point. This is not a level he finds acceptable and he will work to raise the level of participation in the Sacraments during his time in this See.
He also noted that there had in fact been “four churches built on this site”, and each has changed and altered over the years. “This building too will evolve during the 21st Century”. And I guess that the point of that is “Let the reader understand”.
He spoke of the importance of justice for every inhabitant of the diocese, referring to the first reading from Isaiah 61:1-3 which Jesus also used at the beginning of his ministry. He said that whatever their particular captivity, the Gospel had come to liberate them. Let this night be “good news” for everyone in the Parramatta diocese, Catholic or otherwise. He spoke of working closely with the civil representatives of the area, to ensure dignity for every person “from conception to natural end of life”. We remember that Anthony’s particular area of expertise is bioethics. Someone told me at the supper afterwards that Anthony has a regular Thursday morning slot on the local ABC Radio station. You can expect that his voice will continue to be heard on all manner of issues that require the Church’s attention.
Finally, +Anthony also said in his homily a heart felt thank you to his family and friends who had travelled a long distance to come to Parramatta tonight. “Thank you for loving me so well”, he said. We do love you, Anthony, and trust that your people will too.