Below is the transcribed homily of Perth Emeritus Archbishop Barry Hickey, on the occasion of Auxiliary Bishop Don Sproxton’s Episcopal Ordination, Thursday 21 February 2002, at St Mary’s Cathedral.
Your Excellency, Archbishop Francesco Canalini, Apostolic Nuncio to Australia, I thank you for coming. It is wonderful to have the representative of the Holy Father with us for this important occasion.
Bishops of the Province of Western Australia, archbishops and bishops from other diocese of Australia, we are delighted that you have come to Perth to welcome a new bishop into your ranks.
Many other bishops would have loved to come today,but were not able to do so and have sent their apologies.
I welcome too, the heads of Christian Churches in Perth, who have been gracious enough to come here in response to our invitation to be witnesses of solidarity to Jesus Christ with us.
I welcome all of you here today, priests and religious, relatives of the new bishop; his father is here and his friends, his parishioners from Mirrabooka and other former parishes of his, the communities of the Neocatechumenate and the great crowd of people who have come here from our parishes and from other states of Australia.
This is a day of rejoicing, particularly for the Archdiocese of Perth. That is true to say, that we’ve all been looking forward for some time to this day. No one more so, than Bishop Healy. His resignation was accepted more than 12 months ago.
Allow me to acknowledge here on this occasion, Bishop Healy’s generosity in carrying out his former duties all the time in this interim period until last week, when he sent his last papers to the shredders and left his office neat and tidy for the new Bishop.
I have asked Bishop Healy, though retired and deserving of a well-earned rest, to continue to assist us in a variety of ways, in administering confirmation, to chair an important committee on family and life, to help in the selection of our first cohort of permanent deacons and to continue to care for sick and elderly priests – he has willingly consented. A special prayer was composed after the resignation of Bishop Healy, for the selection of a new auxiliary bishop, and it said in part,
“We asked for a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the choice of an auxiliary bishop to help govern the church of Perth. May he be a worthy successor of the apostles, a true and faithful shepherd to his people.”
There are three important concepts contained in those words, which have particular relevance tonight.
The prayer asks for a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit. We believe that this essential and important office in the church needs the guidance of the Holy Spirit in a special way. Because it is through the action of the spirit, that the church carries out its mission of salvation. In their leadership role of service, bishops need to open themselves to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and go where the spirit wills.
The second phrase, “May be may he be a worthy successor of the apostles…” reminds us of our origins, and the original apostolic mandate given to the apostles to preach the good news to all the world. Our new bishop must preach the same message as the apostles and no other.
The third phrase calls the new bishop to be a true and faithful shepherd to his people.
He has already had great experience in being a shepherd to his people.
And here we are reminded of the role of the bishop as Shepherd because the new bishop has a Crosier, shaped like a shepherd’s crook.
So he can be a true and loving pastor who knows his sheep, and is always ready to go after the sheep that are lost. In a few moments, the new bishop will be ordained.
Conscious of this holy moment, we recall the words of Jesus to his apostles in the Gospel that was sung to us tonight. And we repeat these words to our brother Don, as he prepares to receive the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
They are the words of Jesus, “You did not choose me. No, I chose you. And I commissioned you to go out and bear fruit, fruit that will last and then the Father will give you anything you ask him in my name. Brother Don, be a good shepherd, to all your flock.”
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