By Jamie O’Brien
The title of the recently launched memoirs by Perth Archbishop Emeritus Barry Hickey was inspired by the connection he continues to have with the Goldfields.
My Spirt Land was launched on Sunday 3 December at Mercy Village and present for the occasion were Perth Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB, Auxiliary Bishop Don Sproxton, Vicar General the Very Rev Fr Peter Whitely, Episcopal Vicar for Education and Faith Formation, the Very Rev Fr Vincent Glynn.
Also in attendance for the launch were Archbishop Emeritus Hickey’s sisters Judy Clear and Patty Stidwell, in addition to some 75-fellow clergy, family, friends and former colleagues.
Born in Leonora in 1936, Archbishop Emeritus Hickey was educated at Presentation Convent in Wiluna.
The family later moved to Kalgoorlie while his father, Gregory Hickey, worked as a public servant in the mining industry, with Archbishop Emeritus Hickey going on to attend Christian Brothers College Kalgoorlie.
It was in the Goldfields where he built a desire to enter the priesthood, after deciding a career working in the mines was not his calling.
He then attended St Charles Seminary in Guildford in 1950 before attending Rome’s Urbaniana University in 1955.
Ordained to the priesthood in Rome, he later attended the University of Western Australia from the age of 32 to gain a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Social Work.
He went on to hold leadership positions including the director of Centrecare, Director of Catholic Immigration, chairman of the WA Catholic Social Welfare Commission, State Chaplain to the St Vincent de Paul Society, and chairman of the Australian Social Welfare Commission.
The then Father Hickey started out as parish priest at St Brigid’s Northbridge, and was Parish Priest at Highgate when he was appointed as bishop of Geraldton in 1984.
In 1991, he was named Archbishop of Perth and served in the position for 21 years.
The title of the memoirs, My Spirit Land, explained Archbishop Emeritus Hickey, was inspired by the connection he continues to have with the Goldfields.
He said he considered the region as “the most beautiful part of the world”.
“It looked dry and uninviting, until you got close and found that it was full of life . . . with beetles and lizards and spiders,” Archbishop Emeritus Hickey said.
“There were lakes everywhere, a lot of them dry, but after heavy rain, huge lakes would form.
“I would try to go out and have picnics on the lakesides with family . . . and be close to the fantastic Australian native bushland.
“My spirit land of the Goldfields reminded me so much of the presence of God in nature, and the presence of God among us.
“I thought that the wilderness was spiritual, and the wild animals, the camels, the emus, were all part of nature which reflected the goodness of God.”
“The instinct which has prompted Archbishop Hickey to write his memoirs has not been, perhaps, the experience of desolation and the absence of God, but rather the realisation that the long story of his life and of his ministry as priest and bishop reveals the wonderful, sometimes surprising and unexpected, but always challenging presence of the Spirit of God, leading him forward, step-by-step,” Archbishop Costelloe said.
In supporting the launch of the memoirs, Archbishop Costelloe referenced the words of Psalm 124.
“The Archbishop Emeritus has now given us the opportunity to revisit this journey with him.
“In doing so, he is helping us to reflect on the way in which God might be accompanying us step-by-step along our journey of life.
“And at the same time the Archbishop Emeritus is giving us an opportunity to thank God that he has walked faithfully for so many years with the Lord by his side, has allowed the Lord to open his eyes and ears to the cries of the poor and needy, and has nurtured in him a generous and loving heart which has always driven him, and still drives him, to reach out to those who need him,” he said.
As Archbishop of Perth, Barry Hickey was responsible for founding several organisations to support the marginalised including The Shopfront, Daydawn Advocacy Centre, Pregnancy Assistance as well as the overarching promotional arm, LifeLink.
Archbishop Emeritus Hickey emphasised that one of his main priorities during his time as Archbishop of Perth was to ensure that there were enough priests to support the life of the Catholic Church in Perth.
In 1994, he reopened St Charles Seminary at Guildford, and in the same year established Redemptoris Mater missionary seminary at Morley.
Since retiring as Archbishop at the age of 75 in 2012, he has remained active in his priestly ministry often celebrating Mass at parishes and events.
Archbishop Emeritus Hickey said the writing of his memoirs took almost three years with information recalled from his memory along with conversations with his two sisters.
He said the book was a personal reflection of his life and in some ways revealed his most intimate thoughts.
“It’s written, not as a (record of) history, but as a stream of consciousness, things that jumped into my mind,” Archbishop Emeritus Hickey said.
“My memoirs are personal. They are my memories, history as I saw it. I write about my own experiences, about my public and personal life.
“I write about the decisions I made, because they were my decisions.”
Archbishop Emeritus Hickey said he hopes the publication of his memoirs would help to preserve the history of the Catholic Church in WA and people he had met during the course of his life.
To purchase a copy of My Spirit Land, go to www.myspiritlandmemoir.com or email email@example.com. Copies can also be purchased at the parishes of Whitford, Willetton, Hamilton Hill and Kalgoorlie/Boulder from Wednesday to Friday and credit card facilities are available.