On Sunday 18 June, Baden Crapella, Jack Girando, Luke Hallett, Jack Lee Steere and Imogen Mead received their First Holy Communion. Thank you to Fr Roshan, parishioners, teachers and parents, who worked together to make this such a memorable day. It was lovely to have the support of family, parish, teachers and prayer friends from all the classes to celebrate this special sacrament.
Every Easter is a celebration of why Jesus came. If you ask people today why Jesus came, there will be many answers.
Some will say, for example, ‘To teach us to love’; for others, the answer will be ‘To make our world more just’. A critical question to understand Jesus and his ministry is: ‘In what ways was Jesus different from other major religious figures?’ ‘What did Jesus teach that was different’?
The reason Jesus came
Easter reminds us that Jesus came to share with us his own divine life. Through Baptism, he, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, have ‘made a home’ within us.
Jesus made his purpose clear when he said
I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
Jesus taught who the Christian is – someone who, through Jesus, shares God’s own life. And since Jesus shares God’s life through Baptism, Jesus insisted that all who believe in him he baptised.
How can God’s life affect us?
Jesus is fully divine and fully human. If nurtured in the ways that he taught, the life, and therefore the power of God within, moves our thoughts and behaviours increasingly to express Christ-like love, compassion, forgiveness, mercy and justice.
This is well beyond what is possible through human effort alone. God’s power can free us gradually of crippling human weaknesses such as selfishness, hard-heartedness and desires for vengeance.
As God’s power within grows, increasingly believers will find themselves growing in self understanding through insights from the Creator who understands them best. They will find increasing inner healing and peace.
They will find too guidance and inner strengthening for their daily lives. They will find insights into personal questions; and paths through their problems.
How do we nurture God’s life within?
Many today reduce Christianity to a kind of ethic. They see it to be about simply being ‘a good person’, a person who behaves in particular ways.
For Jesus, Christianity is much more. It is about growing inner peace as well as harmony with others as we draw on the power of God within to live as he taught. For this, Jesus stressed that the Eucharist is essential for it nourishes divine life.
Anyone who eats my body and drinks my blood has eternal life …
… if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.
Not understanding why Jesus came, many see prayer and the sacraments, including the Eucharist, merely as spiritual options. For Jesus, on the other hand, Christians who do not receive the Eucharist suffer spiritual malnutrition.
They lack the inner empowerment to love and to do good in the ways Jesus taught. This will affect their married and family lives; their self understanding and their inner freedom as people.
An empowering faith
Easter reminds us that Jesus taught Christianity as an empowering faith. The vision behind his teachings is about who we can become as we nurture the life of God within.
I wish each of you the faith to open yourselves even more to the life of the Risen Lord, present in you through Baptism.
Most Rev Gerard J Holohan
Bishop of Bunbury
The Bunbury Diocese began the New Year with a new Diocesan Director for both Caritas and Catholic Mission.
Ms Deborah Robertson was appointed to the position of Diocesan Director of Catholic Mission in November 2016.
It has been ten years since the Diocese has had a Director for Catholic Mission, and Deborah is keen to communicate to all members of the Bunbury Diocese about the history and work of Catholic Mission. Parishes and groups can contact Deborah to set a date for her to visit and give a presentation.
Deborah will be contacting all schools in the Diocese to make them aware of the many resources available to them, and the activities they can be involved in during Mission Month.
Parishes will also be contacted and encouraged to book a weekend for their Annual Mission Appeal which this year will focus on funds and prayers for mission work being done in Uganda. World Mission Month is in October, but many parishes hold their appeal in another month between April and November.
The Diocese is delighted to have someone in the role of Diocesan Director, which has been vacant for so long, and warmly welcomes Deborah.
We also warmly welcome Mr Peter Williams who assumed the role of Diocesan Director of Caritas Australia upon the retirement of Mr Ray Lowe. Peter is looking forward to visiting school and parishes in the Diocese, and has kicked off his new role with the very busy time that is the Project Compassion Appeal.
Both Peter and Deborah have their contact details on the Diocesan website, and look forward to offering support to all parishes and schools within the Diocese.
This week, we welcomed Derek Boyle, Director of Catholic Marriage and Fertility Services in the Perth Archdiocese, to Bunbury.
Derek spent two days training a group of couples and priests as FOCCUS facilitators.
FOCCUS is a useful tool for parish marriage preparation teams to use with engaged couples as they prepare them for marriage.
The course was funded in part by the Diocesan Rooney Pastoral Fund. The fund, set up by Fr Pat Rooney, aims to provide financial support for parishes to provide programs to help with preparation for marriage, ongoing enrichment and support for marriage and families.
Participants in the course came from Lake Grace, Kukerin, Albany, Leschenault, Collie, Manjimup, Mt Barker, Margaret River and Augusta, and most of them have been part of the Marriage Preparation ministry in their parishes for many years. The combined wisdom of these participants was complemented by the wealth of information that Derek shared.
The newly trained facilitators are all looking forward to returning to their parishes and putting their new skills into practice.
My dear people
Who could not be shocked, horrified and disgusted to learn this past week of the scale of allegations of child abuse against priests, made by survivors who came forward to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Speaking personally, I found it a numbing experience which has raised grave questions about the administration of the Catholic Church in Australia.
My renewed apology
Each victim is an individual and a son or daughter in a family. Having been privileged to meet many survivors through the Towards Healing process since becoming Bishop, I know that no one else can fully understand what each victim goes through. Once again, I repeat my heartfelt apology, expressed in my 2015 Christmas Pastoral Letter.
I apologise to victims of abuse in the past by priests and others in the Church. I extend this apology too to the families of victims who always suffer with their abused love one.”
“I apologise to all feeling alienated by Church leaders in particular who, instead of loving victims of the different forms of abuse, failed knowingly in their responsibility to protect our young and vulnerable. Who among us has not been dismayed, and even disillusioned, as we have learned of terrible examples of Church failings in this regard from the Royal Commission.
Renewed commitment to protection and care
With the priests of our Diocese, I recommit myself to doing everything possible to ensure our Church is safe for children and other vulnerable people. With the other Bishops of Australia, I will continue in my determination to implement all the professional standards changes adopted by the Church since 1996 for the protection of the vulnerable in the parishes and schools of our Diocese, and care for the survivors of abuse.
I look forward to recommendations by the Royal Commission as to how we can do things even better.
The Diocese of Bunbury
Leaving aside the national statistics, questions have been raised about what exactly are the numbers of priests against whom allegations have been made in the Bunbury Diocese. I offer the following facts.
How many priests have had allegations made against them?
Over the past 60 years, six priests have had allegations made against them. Of these
- three are dead
- three were reported to the police
- of these three, two were charged and convicted. One of these two was jailed, the other given a non-custodial sentence.
Is any priest against whom allegations have been made working in the Diocese today?
None are in the Diocese today. Two retired in the 90’s and one was dismissed from priestly ministry by Pope St John Paul II.
Has there been any accusation against any priest serving today in the Bunbury Diocese?
No. Also, I have full and unreserved confidence in the commitment of every priest in our Diocese today to the protection of children.
How many priests have served in the Bunbury Diocese over the 60 years studied by the Royal Commission?
The total number was around 117 priests of whom 69 were Diocesan and 48 religious order priests.
How many priests and others across Australia have had allegations made against them over the 60 years?
The Royal Commission states that of the total number
- 572 were priests (30%)
- 543 were laity (29%)
- 597 were religious brothers (32%)
- 96 were religious sisters (5%)
- 72 were people whose religious status could not be established (4%)
Let us renew our prayer and any opportunities we may have to help the healing of all survivors of child abuse who were betrayed by criminals within the Church and hurt as a result of failings by Church leadership, as well as beyond.
And let us share freely our feelings with each other – priests and parishioners. We are all shocked to find how many betrayed what the Church stands for, and how many Bishops failed in their responsibilities to their calling to be good shepherds of all in their pastoral care.
We will continue in our efforts to ensure that the failings of the past never happen again.
Bishop Gerard Holohan
10th February 2017
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
I write to you as the final hearing involving the Catholic Church at the Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse commences on February 6, 2017.
For the victims and survivors, for the Catholic community and for many in the wider Australian community, this hearing may be a difficult and even distressing time, as the Royal Commission reviews the evidence it has already received and seeks to understand why and how this tragedy has occurred.
Deeply mindful of the hurt and pain caused by abuse, I once again offer my apology on behalf of the Catholic Church. I am sorry for the damage that has been done to the lives of victims of sexual abuse. As Pope Francis said recently, ‘it is a sin that shames us’.
Over the next three weeks, evidence presented during the Royal Commission hearings will be analysed, statistics about the extent of abuse will be made public, and the way forward will be explored. Many of our bishops and other Catholic leaders will appear before the Royal Commission. They will explain what the Church has been doing to change the old culture that allowed abuse to continue and to put in place new policies, structures and protections to safeguard children.
Pope Francis has urged the whole Church to, ‘find the courage needed to take all necessary measures and to protect in every way the lives of our children, so that such crimes may never be repeated’.
Throughout the coming weeks, I want to assure you of my thoughts and prayers. I encourage you to turn in prayer to the one who is always ready to listen: Jesus Christ, who brings healing and hope
Yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Gerard J Holohan
Bishop of Bunbury
In today’s troubled world, Christmas celebrates the first coming of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who, through the Holy Spirit is making such a difference to the lives of those who relate personally with him. As they pray, worship and strive to live as he taught, they experience his power in their lives.
We celebrate how so many are experiencing Christ’s guidance. He is helping them with their challenges, problems and moments of confusion. He is helping too those who are wondering about the direction of their lives, be they young or old; stricken by serious illness or grieving the loss of a loved one or a marriage; whether they have lost their job or their financial security.
There are spouses Christ is drawing closer through the Sacrament of Marriage; sinners finding forgiveness; people with life hurts experiencing healing. Many experiencing sicknesses and the frailty of the senior years are being confronted and strengthened.
People who are poor or experiencing a range of other needs are being helped by those Christ inspires to join organisations that try to support and provide for them. Christ inspires others to teach, to care for the elderly, to serve as pastoral workers in a range of settings.
Christ inspires commitment to social justice and the promotion of reconciliation. He calls believers to make a difference in the world.
Christ supports his followers through the ministry of priests. In rural areas, often the priest is the only one free of self interest whom struggling farmers can confide in.
Christ is empowering people to love too in ways which are beyond human effort alone. He is empowering them to forgive, to be merciful, to be just as he is.
Christ’s power gradually is freeing those with sufficient faith in him from all in their lives that is not of God. He has shared with them God’s own life through Baptism. As they nurture this life within them, and nourish it with the Eucharist, their increasing likeness to Christ is revealed in their thoughts, words and actions. This strengthens relationships and they become people who promote the positive and happiness in others.
These are but a few examples of the many ways the Christ born at Bethlehem is making a difference to the lives of believers today across the world. They are practical examples of how Christ brings peace on earth, as the angels sang, ‘to those enjoying God’s favour’ – that is, to those who convert and believe.
In today’s world, in which so many have turned from faith, we see many sad consequences. Marriage, families and friends fragment. There is growing violence, road rage, hatred and unjust discrimination. Less people are willing to give of themselves as volunteers; so many suffering financial and other stresses.
Media focus more on problems than good news. And yet the many ways Christ is making a difference to the lives of millions across the globe today is very good news which we can overlook all too easily.
Let us celebrate all that Christ is doing in people’s lives this Christmas. Let us reflect upon our personal experiences of him today; knowing that we could always enjoy God’s favour even more by striving for ever greater personal conversion.
Let us spread the good news when opportunities of how Christ is making a difference in the lives of so many who have converted to him. Let us use opportunities as they arise in Christmas gatherings in our families; among our friends; at our places of work – whenever such opportunities arise. It is our calling to spread the good news.
As we ponder the difference Christ is making in the lives of believers today, may we all be filled with Christmas joy and blessings. A holy and happy Christmas to you all.
Most Rev Gerard J Holohan
Bishop of Bunbury
The Parish Liturgy Committee recently organised a special Mass to celebrate NAIDOC Week. Thank you to Robyn Cartell, who teaches at Busselton High School, for approaching some Wardandi Elders who work at the School to invite them, and others to our Mass. Belinda Bartlett, [a Wiradjuri woman with family ties to Wardandi] on behalf of the Wardandi Elders , gave a Welcome to Country before Mass began. Fr Gerome thanked Belinda for being with us and offering the Welcome.
After Mass, everyone gathered for a group photo and celebrated NAIDOC Week with a shared mini luncheon. Parishioners had the opportunity to speak to Belinda and her daughter, while her grand-daughter was avidly admired by the older folk.
It is hoped that this will become an annual event in our Parish and we look forward to planning NAIDOC Week 2017.
St Patrick’s Katanning parishioners joined the Filipino community in celebrating their Independence Day on Sunday June 12th 2016. The day began with Holy Mass at 10.30am and was followed by lunch, entertainment, presentation of Philippine history and origins, travel, and of course, food culture!
The mercy of God can be a nice idea that leaves us with warm feelings. However, to be more than an idea, we need actually to be having experiences of God’s mercy.
For the Old Testament people of Israel, experiences of mercy were their main experiences of God. It was through these experiences that they came to know God’s love.
It is appropriate, therefore, that in this Year of Mercy we ask ourselves: ‘What are moments in my life when I have experienced the mercy of God?’
Experiences to be accepted
Like any gift or ‘grace’ of God, mercy has to be accepted freely. God always offers and never imposes. God respects human free will.
The first step towards opening ourselves to experiences of God’s mercy is to recognise our need for this gift. And to do this, we need in turn to recognise our sins – the reasons why we need God’s mercy [Catechism of the Catholic Church 1547]
To receive (God’s) mercy, we must admit our faults. ‘If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves …’
This means that if I am self satisfied with my goodness, thinking perhaps: ‘I am overall a pretty good person: I don’t do much wrong’, I will have, at most, limited personal experiences of the mercy of God – and of the love of God which these reveal.
A double grace
Sensitivity to what can offend another person grows as we come to know them. And sensitivity to personal sins grows as our personal relationships with God through Jesus deepen.
St John Paul II showed that being able to recognise our sins is a prior gift of God before the gift of an experience of mercy. Hence, experiences of God’s mercy are double gifts – the gift of recognising our sins (our need for mercy), and the gift of mercy itself [John Paul II; Lord and Giver of Life 31].
What is sin?
Sin traditionally has been defined as any deliberate thought, word or deed against the Law of God. And so there are three conditions for sin.
- I must know that my thought, word or deed breaks a law of God;
- I must be free to not break God’s law;
- I must actually consent to the thought, word or deed so that it is deliberate.
And so those of ancient religions who worshipped through human sacrifice broke the Fifth Commandment ‘You shall not kill.’ However, they did not sin for they had never heard of this Commandment. Similarly someone suffering kleptomania does not sin if they break the Seventh Commandment – ‘You shall not steal’ – by taking what belongs to another as this illness robs them of their freedom not to steal. And someone who accidentally causes injury does not sin because though, again, they break the Fifth Commandment, their action was not deliberate.
Freedom to sin
The Catechism of the Catholic Church points to factors which lessen personal freedom and so personal responsibility for breaking God’s laws. These include [Catechism of the Catholic Church 1735]
… duress, fear, habit, inordinate attachments and other psychological or social factors.
To steal at gun point breaks the Seventh Commandment, but this duress robs the threatened person of freedom. A person whose anger is caused by a deep seated psychological problem breaks the Fifth Commandment, but they lack the psychological freedom to be responsible – at least, fully responsible.
Some limits on freedom can be the result of initial personal choices to sin – such as addictions to pornography, alcohol or drugs. However, once addicted, people lack freedom – and this lessens their responsibility for breaking God’s laws, and the gravity of their sins.
Mortal and venial sin
Christian believers celebrate with St Paul that ‘Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more’ [Romans 5:20]. He wrote this in the context of how the Old Testament laws increased people’s awareness of sins against God.
The First Letter of John teaches that there ‘is sin that leads to death’ and ‘sin that is not deadly’ [1 John 5:16]. Here he had in mind the personal choice to reject God and the inner movements by the Holy Spirit. The ‘death’ the author had in mind was the death of the sinner’s relationship with God and, therefore, the death of his or her spiritual bond with other baptised believers in the community of the Church.
The Church recognises other sins also lead to death – mortal sins. These are the deliberate choice to break with full knowledge and freedom a law which God has taught to be grave. The conditions are that the choice must be with full knowledge, the normal deliberation associated with any human decision and grave matter (or an offence God has taught to be grave) [Catechism of the Catholic Church 1857].
The ‘thirst’ of Jesus
God offers a new ‘double grace’ whenever a person commits mortal sin. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, seeks always to renew the relationship between the sinner and himself for he ‘thirsts’ for their relationship [Catechism of the Catholic Church 2560].
It remains for the one who has sinned mortally to respond to the double grace of this mercy of God – by repenting the sin and accepting forgiveness through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The Good Shepherd told us [Luke 15:7]
… there will be more rejoicing in heaven over the sinner repenting than over ninety-nine upright people who have no repentance.
Some today wonder about the reason why people in mortal sin should not receive Jesus in Holy Communion. St Paul wrote of ‘godly grief’, a sadness resulting from being confronted about one’s way of life when in grave sin.
The occasion was the ‘godly grief’ experienced by the Christians in Corinth as a result of a letter from St Paul, which challenged the serious ways they were failing to live the Gospel of Christ [2 Corinthians 7:9-11]
Now I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because your grief led to repentance; for you felt a godly grief so that you were not harmed in any way by us. For godly grief produces repentance that leads to salvation … For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, what eagerness …
In practice, this is the situation of those who see that they cannot receive Holy Communion because of unrepented grave sin. St Paul recognises the suffering and loneliness resulting from such situations. He taught that such people should feel love, and should be prayed for by believers.
The basis for godly grief, therefore, is love, for nothing is more important than to experience Christian salvation.
Venial sin weakens but does not kill a believer’s personal relationship with God through Jesus, and the spiritual bond with others in the community of the Church. This weakened relationship leads to a growing insensitivity towards God; weakened ability to discern God’s guidance for the decisions of our daily lives; and weakens our wills against temptations. Overtime, we can drift into mortal sin.
In an earlier era, we thought of venial sins as being not particularly serious matters. However, with the renewed focus on reconciliation with God, and restoring personal relationships with God through Jesus, we realise now that venial sin is a serious matter – just as small accumulating offences against a friend can have serious consequences for our friendship.
Do not judge
Jesus told his followers never to judge another person. To judge others invites God’s judgement on us [Matthew 7:1-2].
No human person, be they lay person or priest, can judge the sinfulness of another. For example, only the person concerned knows his or her level of freedom and whether they were or are under ‘duress, fear, habit, inordinate attachments and other psychological or social factors’.
This is not a question of watering down the gravity of mortal sin in particular. It is to insist that only the person concerned can assess their situation, and everyone else should heed Jesus’ teaching against passing judgement.
Sacrament of Reconciliation
When I was a child, I learned about ‘confession’. It was the sacrament in which I confessed my sins and received God’s forgiveness as the priest gave me absolution.
However, when I was a teenager, the Second Vatican Council recalled that God not only forgives sin: Jesus restores our relationships with our God. As our human experiences teach us, others can forgive our offenses – but this does not mean our relationships with them are fully restored.
In John’s Gospel, where Jesus is portrayed instituting this sacrament after his Resurrection, Jesus does not merely forgive the Apostles who deserted him at his arrest – or Peter, who betrayed him. He restores fully their relationship with him by saying ‘Peace be with you’.
In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, therefore, we received the ‘double gift’ from God that St John Paul wrote of. We recognise first our need for divine mercy as we are moved to confess our sins, and then we receive the gift of God’s mercy as our personal relationships with God are restored.
This sacrament is the normal means for opening ourselves to receive God’s mercy and forgiveness of mortal sin.
Let us accept God’s mercy
As mentioned earlier, ‘If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves’. Let us open ourselves to the experiences of that mercy God wants to give each of us by examining our consciences daily, particularly during our prayer before going to bed, expressing sincere sorrow to God – and celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the mercy of God as Jesus renews our personal relationships with our Creator through him.