Perth Emeritus Archbishop Barry Hickey has last week been bestowed the Order of the Star of Italy (Ordine della Stella d’Italia), together with six other people from Western Australia.
In receiving the medal and certificate, Emeritus Archbishop Hickey was congratulated by the Consul of Italy in Perth Nicolò Costantini, on Monday 21 November at Perugino’s Restaurant.
The Ordine della Stella d’Italia, is an annual distinction bestowed by the President of Italy, in recognition of the merits acquired in the promotion of friendship relations between Italy and foreign countries.
The distinction, which qualifies as a second civilian honour of the State, represents a particular honour on behalf of all those, Italians abroad or foreigners, who have acquired special merit in the promotion of friendly relations and cooperation between Italy and other countries and the promotion of ties with Italy.
During the ceremony, Consul Costantini stressed Emeritus Archbishop Hickey’s great attachment to Italy and the latter’s particular attention to the problems faced by Italian emigrants.
Furthermore, Consul Costantini praised the fruitful dialogue between Italian and Australian citizens nurtured by Emeritus Archbishop Hickey, who promoted the values of listening, integration and cohesion within the community.
Speaking to The Record, Emeritus Archbishop Hickey said that from the very beginning of his priestly ministry, after four years of study in Rome, he found himself in a parish where the largest group were new immigrants from all parts of Italy, seeking a new life after the ravages of the Second World War.
“They helped me at the very beginning of my life as a priest by their joy, exuberance and their faith,” Emeritus Archbishop Hickey said
“For those who came from small villages, the local church was always its Centre, usually on a hill, opening up on to a large piazza. At St Brigid’s Church, West Perth, now Northbridge, they found a ready welcome,” he said.
Emeritus Archbishop Hickey continued by explaining that some Italian missionary priests were already in the area, but not resident in the parish – only himself and Monsignor Ted Sullivan
“On my Vespa I visited all the families in the parish, with some friendships having lasted all these years
“Many of the people I baptised or married during those years have remained close friends over all this time to the point when I am now burying them.
Emeritus Archbishop Hickey noted that looking back, he understands that the priest’s task was not just a spiritual one – however important that was and still is – but a major influence in the settlement of the new arrivals.
“And their acceptance and integration into this new country of opportunity,” he said.
“To the extent that that is true about my humble efforts, I am happy to have been part of that process,” Emeritus Archbishop Hickey concluded.