Tag Archives: Parish

The Cathedral Connection 10 December 2017

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The weather lately has been amazing. It is only the start of summer and already there is talk of a drought. This shows how important water is. We drink it, we shower in it, we swim in it, we are even made up of it.

So it comes as no surprise that something so central to our survival is used by John to baptise his followers. To understand this Gospel a little more let’s just turn our attention to John. The family John came from was an upstanding family in the Temple who would no doubt have expected their son to follow in their footsteps as an elder in the Church. However, John chooses to not take part in the religious hype and ceremony that was waiting for him. He chose differently. After many years living as a hermit he came back to his people with a message of repentance. He caught their attention and his call to change their lives. This is quite a Gospel story in that in order for John to get to this point he has stepped beyond the bounds of his religious tradition to show people that God’s love is as available to the people as the water is available in the river.

Why may you ask did he do this? Perhaps the law was becoming more of an obstacle course preventing people from experiencing the love of God that was already theirs.

When we experience the mercy and presence and availability of God then we will do good things. It just follows like night follows day. We need to have an earthquake in the heart and our minds to wake us to the fact that we do not do anything to earn God’s love. It is simply given.

For most of us we have experienced a Baptism of water. But how many of us have experienced a baptism of an inner knowledge of infinite love? Once we have, then everything else falls in to place.

Lay Pastoral Leader

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HOMILY – ADVENT 1 [B] – 2017

If there is anything certain in life it is that nothing stays the same.  And the only certain thing about change is that it’s rarely easy.  We like what we’re comfortable with; we prefer to hold on to what’s familiar.  We’ve had a change of government; since Friday we are officially in Summer, and in worship we have changed to the season of Advent.  We Catholics have been experiencing change over the last 50 years at a greater rate than ever before – in the way we relate to other Christians and, more recently – with changes in the words of the Mass, the resignation of a Pope and the election of the first Pope from the Southern Hemisphere who, in four years has made unprecedented and good changes to the public image of the Church.  And now, this weekend, we start preparing for a change in our own parish leadership.

Change and life go hand in hand; always have, always will.  We feel it more acutely though when we find ourselves in the middle of it – and that’s exactly where we are.  In our country and in much of the so-called Western world there just aren’t enough priests to go around.  Yet, the Eucharist is our “bread and butter”; we can’t live without it. Perhaps we’ve had it too easy and are not equipped to cope when our multiple choices are suddenly reduced.

A change in Fiona’s family circumstances is forcing her to step aside from her role with us as Lay Pastoral Leader at the end of January.  I shall greatly miss her, and so will those of you who have witnessed her involvement in parish and school management these last few months.  My own personal circumstances are also changing and I accept that the administration side of parish life is demanding more than I can give.  As outlined in today’s newsletter, the time has come to prepare for new leadership at Sacred Heart. This will require patience, understanding and good will – from me, from all of us.

These same qualities for the basis for the season of Advent.  Today’s readings guide us into the advent season with indications that our approach to Christmas needs to be accompanied by change – a change of heart, a change of pace – if we’re to gain any value from the celebration.  Recognizing our dependence on God, as the clay needs the hands of the potter; acknowledging our need of one another, from an awareness that none of us can find happiness alone; knowing that we must wait for the Lord, so difficult in an age that expects and demands instant replies to electronic messaging, and instant solutions to problems.  All this signals that change is unavoidable if I am not to be swamped and battered by my own pride that requires me to be independent, self-sufficient, needing no one.

While Fiona will leave us at the end of January, my own situation will probably not change till mid-year.  Hopefully we will have another Lay Pastoral Leader early in the year and my transition to what is more appropriate to priestly ministry as opposed to administration will not greatly impact on your pastoral care.

As you and I adjust to these changes, my prayer is that we will give priority to sensitivity and respect – along with patience, understanding and good will – recognizing that this is exactly the way we should approach Christmas – sensitivity and respect – not because a baby is born in a manger but because God chooses to come among us as one of us; the Potter coming to breathe life into the clay: and bringing about the greatest change of all!

The Cathedral Connection 3 December 2017

The full newsletter can be viewed here.


As the season of Advent opens, announcing a new year on the Christian calendar, I have two announcements that impact on our Cathedral Parish.

The first is that Fiona Rammell, our Lay Pastoral Leader since June, will not be renewing her contract at the end of January.  Fiona’s family circumstances have guided her decision, one that I heard and accepted with considerable sadness.  In just a few months Fiona has endeared herself to many, and has shown her ability in leadership roles involving liturgy, pastoral action and education.  She was part of the parish representation at the Archdiocesan Synod and has greatly supported my own pastoral responsibilities.

The second concerns my own “future planning”.  Before learning of Fiona’s situation, I asked Cardinal John if I could be relieved of responsibility as Parish Priest.  I have noticed my energy levels slipping and have learned that next year I will need another hip replacement.  My eyesight continues to deteriorate and I now avoid night driving.  Not a recipe for effective pastoral leadership.

The outcome is that I will stay on in “Sacramental Ministry”, relinquishing my role in day-to-day pastoral planning and activity.  Another priest, though not in residence, will be appointed as Administrator of the Cathedral, and it is expected another Lay Pastoral Leader will replace Fiona.

However, appointing and introducing a new LPL cannot be a simple process and I expect an inevitable delay for my “movement”.  This will become clearer in the weeks ahead, but it is important to share this information now to avoid rumour and speculation.  Please remember Fiona and myself in your prayers as we each make personal adjustments in our unique vocations.  And pray also that others will respond to the need to ensure strong, faithful leadership within our faith communities.

Fr James

The full newsletter can be viewed here.

The Cathedral Connection 19 November 2017

The full newsletter can be viewed here.

As last year’s Year of Mercy drew to a close, Pope Francis had “an intuition” to call the whole Church to a “World Day of the Poor”. This would be on the Sunday prior to the festival of Christ the King “who identified Himself with the little ones and who will judge us on the works of mercy.”

The Pope explained it would be a day for each baptised person to reflect on “the way in which poverty is at the heart of the Gospel (leading each to) a pastoral conversion to be a witness of mercy.”

On this first World Day of the Poor, Cardinal John offers a reflection on the theme which will be screened at each Mass. He reminds us we do not live in the dark but in the light of Jesus Christ, “so we cannot claim ignorance of the struggles that people face in coping with daily life.”

Called to be stewards of the gifts with which we have been blessed, we can each help to overcome the difficulties of one another. There is generally good support for our weekly “Food Bank”, but the poor are not only those lacking food or shelter.  Pope Francis illustrates the broader sweep of poverty:

Blessed are the open hands that embrace the poor, bringing hope.
Blessed are the hands that reach beyond every barrier of culture, religion and nationality, and pour the balm of consolation over the wounds of humanity.
Blessed are the open hands that ask nothing in exchange –
These are hands that call down blessings on their brothers and sisters.

All this is showing us that the witness of mercy is only truly given in deeds and action and rarely in words alone.

Fr James

The full newsletter can be viewed here.