The Catholic Diocese of Bathurst celebrates 150 years
Saturday 20th June 2015 marked the 150 years since the establishment of the Catholic Diocese of Bathurst. The Diocese came together and celebrated its sesquicentenary in many wonderful ways.
The Cathedral Parish in Bathurst hosted several events with special guests in attendance including the Most Reverend Adolfo Tito Yllana, the Apostolic Nuncio (Pope’s representative) in Australia.
The weekend commenced with an ecumenical service held on Friday eveing at the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. John with representatives from eight denominations joining in prayer. More than 120 people attended the service beginning with Wiradjuri elder, Aunty Gloria conducting a smoking ceremony as she led the procession of 27 ministers, priests and bishops to the altar, accompanied by three students from St. Stanislaus College playing the didgeridoo.
Occasional preacher for the evening was The Reverend Dr Mike Semmler, President of the National Council of Churches in Australia. Dr Semmler spoke of the Catholic community always called to be the salt and light for our region.
Afterwards, those in attendance joined with Bishop McKenna and guests for supper at the Cathedral Parish Centre.
The Bishop said, “It is good when brothers and sisters dwell in unity. Thank you for coming together here tonight. As John Paul II said, “when Christians pray together, the goal of unity is closer”. We thank God for our friendship and cooperation, in a particular way for the Covenant between the Anglican and Catholic dioceses of Bathurst. But we are not just here to pat ourselves on the back. We are here, from many denominations and traditions, to recommit ourselves to the common work of proclaiming Jesus Christ in this region. In him is forgiveness and the door to eternal life”.
At noon on Saturday 20th June, the actual anniversary of the Diocese, parishes across the Diocese rang bells to announce the Angelus, a traditional Catholic prayer proclaiming the Annunciation of Christ becoming man. In Bathurst, the Anglican Cathedral bells tolled the Angelus, as the bell tower of St. Michael and St. John is undergoing restoration.
Historical tours of the Cathedral, along with an historical exhibition in the Chancery office, ran throughout the day. The tours were well attended and those present listened to the story of how the Cathedral came to be what it is today and were able to view historical treasures such as chalices and vestments that are part of the Cathedral’s history.
The day concluded with a family bush dance at St. Philomena’s School Hall. More than 200 people kicked up their heels and danced up a storm as the Nodding Thistles played folk music and called many dances.
Bishop Michael and Archbishop Tito attended the bush dance later in the evening and witnessed a very enthusiastic performance of the Heel and Toe Polka and the Barn Dance. The band played Archbishop Tito’s favourite Australian ballad, Waltzing Matilda with the help of the many young voices within the audience.
On Sunday 21st June, The Apostolic Nuncio was the principal celebrant at Mass in the Cathedral. Archbishop Tito concelebrated with Bishop Michael McKenna, Bishop of Sale, Bishop Patrick O’Regan, Emeritus Bishop of Parramatta, Bishop Kevin Manning as well as more than 12 local and visiting priests. Archbishop Tito read a message of congratulations from Pope Francis. Please read the Pope's message HERE>
The Cathedral was full and parishioners were beautifully led in song by the MacKillop and St.Stanislaus combined choir.
Bishop Pat O'Regan delivered the homily and spoke of the wide and varied contributions of the Diocese and the ability to face challenges and achieve great things when we trust in God's love.
Mass was followed by brunch provided by Couples of Christ and included the cutting of the anniversary cake. The Cathedral Restoration Appeal Art Union No.2 was also drawn at the gathering with Eve Capper from Bathurst winning a brand new car.
Other parishes throughout the Diocese also celebrated the anniversary in various ways. Bishop Michael McKenna sent a video message, which was played at Masses over the weekend. The sacrament of First Holy Communion was celebrated in some parishes, while other parishes decorated their church with artworks created by students.
The weekend concluded in Bathurst with Vespers and Benediction in the Cathedral on Sunday evening. More than 90 people were in attendance to witness a prayerful and fitting end to the celebrations of the weekend.
Bishop McKenna summarised the weekend’s celebrations by saying, “The gatherings around our parishes to launch the celebration of 150 years of the Diocese of Bathurst were marked by the common prayer and fellowship that show Christ present in his Church. With confidence in the ways the Lord has blessed us in this century and a half, we entrust ourselves to our only future, the Kingdom of God”.
“This is a moment to remember what it means to be a Diocese. We are not merely a confederation of parishes. We are, as we have been since 1865, a local church with a common mission, united in our bishops and, through them, with the Bishop of Rome and the Universal Church”.
Photos: Zenio Lapka