Be guided by the Holy Spirit, as Saint Mary MacKillop did, Bishop Don says

12 Aug 2021

By Amanda Murthy

Bishop Don parish visit
Perth Auxiliary Bishop Don Sproxton celebrated the 6pm mass at Saint Francis Xavier Catholic Church, at the conclusion of his four-day parish and school’s visitation. Photo: Amanda Murthy.

The Archdiocese of Perth celebrated the feast day of Australia’s first saint, Mary of the Cross MacKillop (8 August), recognising her commitment to helping the poor, her care for women and children who were destitute or orphaned.

The weekend coincided with Perth Auxiliary Bishop, Don Sproxton’s four-day visit to engage with several groups including the sick and homebound, Saint Bosco College, Salvado Catholic College and Xavier Catholic School. Bishop Don also took the opportunity to spend time at the Armadale parish Saint Francis Xavier Catholic Church and St Kevin Serpentine Church, where he met with the parish staff, parish council, youth group and parishioners.

During his homily, at St Francis Xavier Church on 8 August, Bishop Don who celebrated the 6pm Mass alongside concelebrants Armadale Parish Priest Father Mark Baumgarten and Assistant Parish Priest Fr Matteo Verdi, related the life and faith of St Mary MacKillop to as one “worthy of imitation, a model of Christian living.”

Bishop Don spoke about the need to listen to the Holy Spirit with a discerning heart, at the 6pm Mass at Saint Francis Xavier Catholic Church, in conjunction with the feast of St Mary MacKillop on 8 August. Photo: Amanda Murthy.

Bishop Don said that although St Mary MacKillop had faced many challenges, she never once criticised her opponents and persevered.

“St Mary MacKillop’s words and writings instead show that she possessed the spirit of Jesus, as they reveal her ability to forgive and be compassionate,” Bishop Don said to the congregation present for the 6pm Sunday mass.

“Mary had a great belief and trust in the providence of God. She lived with an unshakable belief that if God led her to some project, then God would provide what was required for it to be a success.

“She cooperated with the Holy Spirit to provide education to all-comers, even in the remotest places in the country, where schools could not be provided by anyone else,” Bishop Don added.

“Mary MacKillop believed in and experienced the providence of God as Mary allowed herself to be led and guided by the Spirit, who accompanied and strengthened her, and helped her to find the way through the challenges she encountered and enabled her to do her part in building the Kingdom of God in this country.”

Bishop Don said that just as St Mary MacKillop trusted in the Spirit of God to lead her in her earthly mission, this is the call that God is asking of His church in Australia at the upcoming Assembly of the Plenary Council.

Two students of Salvado Catholic College present during in front of the school, during a visit from Bishop Don, who spent time engaging with several Catholic schools on 5 and 6 August. Photo: Supplied.

“The Church at large, in our time, is being called to trust that, through the action of the Holy Spirit, it will be provided with the way through the challenges we face today. The Plenary Council will be meeting for its first session in October, and it will call on our faith and trust in the guidance of the Spirit.”

Bishop Don went on to state that the Plenary Council is the occasion in our times for the Holy Spirit to speak to the Church in Australia and for “us to listen.”

“Listening to the Spirit means to listen with a discerning heart. Our preparation for the Council has required each person to listen to the Spirit by putting aside our agendas. It will provide with a way through the many issues that the Church faces in Australia,” Bishop Don explained.

“A parish is also called to listen to what the Spirit is saying. The Parish Pastoral Council essentially is called to assist the ministry of the parish priests in discerning where the spirit wants to lead the community in making its contribution to building the Kingdom of God. The pastoral plan that it develops must be guided by the Spirit in prayer.”

Bishop Don engaged with students of Salvado Catholic College, during his four-day parish and school’s visitation. Photo: Supplied.

Bishop Don then offered the prayer of Saint Ignatius of Loyola’s Examination of Conscience – as a source of reflection that the faithful can incorporate into their day, to keep in touch with the spirit.

“It is simply a short reflection on the events of the day. We recall what in the day has excited me? There will be encounters with others and experiences that have given joy, happiness, and been a blessing,” Bishop Don said.

“We turn next to those things that have caused us concern and left us saddened or troubled or fearful.

“We move next to pray, asking what the Holy Spirit is saying to me, revealing to me about me; about the others with whom I have interacted and how I can “step into their shoes” to understand why the things were said and done,” he added.

“Finally, we can pray, giving thanks for all these experiences, the positive and the difficult ones, and finish the day in the love and mercy of God, ready to begin the new day with whatever lies ahead.”

Bishop Don concluded his homily by offering his prayers that the Church in Australia will be encouraged by the life and faith of St MacKillop to “be opened, to be guided, and led by the Spirit.”

“St Mary MacKillop allowed herself to be guided by the Spirit and the love of God shone through her life. She was a woman of sincere compassion, who acted with kindness and humility, gentleness, and patience,” Bishop Don stated.

“As St Paul wrote, she was able with the Spirit to bear with even the most disagreeable person and looked for the good in the others around her.

“May her trust in and experience of the providence of God encourage us to hold the same confidence in the Spirit working in and with us,” Bishop Don concluded.