Archbishop Barry Hickey is set to mark a period which has seen him respond decisively to the needs of a diocese in a period when religious belief is, many would say, on the defence. In the process he has become one of Australia’s leading bishops.
This Friday, May 1, will mark the 25th anniversary of Archbishop Barry Hickey’s ordination as a bishop, a successor of the Apostles in the life and teaching authority of the Church.
A priest of the Archdiocese of Perth, he was ordained Bishop of Geraldton in St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral on May 1, 1984. He held the position until he was installed as fifth Archbishop of Perth and Metropolitan of the Province of Western Australia at St Mary’s Cathedral on August 27, 1991.
Only small private celebrations were planned for Friday. A major public celebration will be held later in the year when St Mary’s Cathedral will be completed and ready for important liturgical events. The celebration will combine the 50 years of his priesthood (he was ordained in Rome on December 20, 1958) and his 25 years as a bishop.
His seven years as Bishop of Geraldton saw him expand the major interests of his years as a priest and lay down some of the patterns of his later years as Archbishop of Perth.
As a priest he studied at UWA for a Masters degree in social work and spent many years guiding the development of the Church’s social welfare activities in new directions, and in taking State and national responsibilities in this field.
His personal interest in Aborigines, migrants and refugees continued when he moved to Geraldton, where he provided facilities to enable the Aboriginal people to build their own community and take responsibility for the development and social integration of young people. He also took a leading role in seeking better treatment and better prospects for settlement for Vietnamese refugees, the first wave of so-called ‘boat people’.
Ensuring the availability of enough priests for the parishes in the diocese was another successful feature of his program, and he constantly encouraged the people of the diocese to develop their faith and personal devotion.
He established Australia’s first 24-hour Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament at St Lawrence’s in Geraldton and took a regular weekly spot on the roster.
His return to Perth as Archbishop saw the expansion of all these features of his work.
He stabilised and then enlarged the Church’s social welfare activities and created LifeLink and the LifeLink Foundation to ensure adequate funding for the various organisations and to enable parishioners and schools to make an effective contribution to this essential Christian work.
The most recently introduced LifeLink organisation is the Daydawn Advocacy Centre to help Aboriginal people to get housing and other essential services.
His concern for refugees is unabated and he takes a personal interest in the well-being of various ethnic communities.
A major success in Perth has been his encouragement of vocations to the priesthood. Refusing to accept the prevailing gloom that we would have to learn to do without priests in every parish, he set about attracting vocations locally and from overseas.
He re-opened and rebuilt St Charles’ Seminary and established the Redemptoris Mater missionary seminary. The rate of ordinations in Perth became an inspiration for other States in Australia.
His term has seen significant increases in the number of parishes offering 24-hour Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.