I was struck by Fr Greg O€™Kelly€™s reflection in his Port Pirie diocesan magazine €œThe Witness€ of August 2011 and have asked his permission to reprint it. I invite you to read (below) and reflect on his words.

He speaks of the growing division for many between Church and life. While many of us connect and integrate faith, and life as in weekend church and living during the week, many do not.

While in our homes so much Christian love is expressed and lived, I think we need to ask how much nowadays is being done to express our faith as families by praying together.

Also we have grown up with religious symbols in our homes. This is less evident nowadays in many homes. Carl Jung said €œIf people lose their symbols their culture will die€. We can likewise say that without our religious symbols our faith will be affected and run the risk of dying.

Faith and life €“ the two fit together so well and enrich each other. Faith, as we know, offers so much to our understanding of life and its practical living. I thank Bishop O€™Kelly for his thought provoking article.

In regard to Faith I wish to announce something special for the whole of our Church in Australia. A €œYear of Grace€ is being planned and will begin Pentecost 2012 and conclude the following Pentecost. Fr Michael Morrissey has readily agreed to coordinate this in our Diocese. Its aim is to focus on Christ and our personal Faith in Him, which in turn affects everything else. It will not be a new programme but will be a time to focus more on €œContemplating the Face of Christ€, as Pope John Paul II often said.

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Why Bother With Christmas?

We have been blessed in Australia to be taking part in the Year of Grace.

Every year is a Year of Grace, just as every day and all in it is Grace - gift of God.

The Australian Bishops have set aside this year though from Pentecost 2012 - Pentecost 2013 as a year to focus on the greatest Grace, the greatest gift of God to us, namely, his only Son Jesus Christ.

Many of us have prayed daily, the beautiful National Prayer. We pray that each day we may €œStart afresh from Christ€.

We have prayed that we will focus more and more on Jesus, or to put it so much more beautifully in the words of Pope John Paul II, that we will €œContemplate the face of Christ€. You cannot do this day after day without, as the prayer says, €œexperiencing a new wave of Grace€ and without €œthe light of Christ burning more brightly in our lives€.

It can be like Christmas everyday then - or at least quite often. Why then bother about Christmas?

Well Christmas is an extra special time of Grace. As I said, the greatest Grace or gift of God was Jesus - God€™s own Son in the flesh.

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One of the questions that has been suggested for us to ask in this Year of Grace is €œWhere is Jesus?€ in various situations and people.

Years ago a gifted Perth priest by the name of Fr Jim O€™Brien remarked in his latter life, €œWhen I go to visit people now, I go not so much to bring Jesus to them, as to see where Jesus is at work already there in them.€

At this time I am on my seven week Visitation / Confirmation Round of the Pilbara and Carnarvon Parishes. I must say I am thinking more like this myself.

In this time of Visitation I have much work to do, with items to check as well as making myself available for appointments / various events. More importantly though, I am enjoying seeing Christ at work in the priests, people and various situations.

What do I see so far? I offer a few examples.

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€œThe Gift of Peace€

After the Australian Bishops Ad Limina visit to Rome I went on another trip to what I call the €œMiddle East€ which is Leonora, Laverton and Leinster in the eastern part of our Diocese.

While there on Pastoral Visitation and celebrating the Sacrament of Confirmation in the three towns, I visited the detention Centre in Leonora. This Centre has been operating over a year now and has had close to two hundred refugees of mainly family groupings from Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Iran. At present though there are approximately seventy unaccompanied minors (13-18yr olds) mainly from Afghanistan but also from Iran. Four of these came to Church the Sunday I was there to celebrate Confirmation.

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I was struck by‚ Bishop Greg O'€™Kelly'€™s reflection in his Port Pirie diocesan magazine '€œThe Witness'€ of August 2011 and have asked his permission to reprint it in our Sower. I invite you to read and reflect on his words.

He speaks of the growing division for many between Church and life. While many of us connect and integrate faith, and life as in weekend church and living during the week, many do not.

While in our homes so much Christian love is expressed and lived, I think we need to ask how much nowadays is being done to express our faith as families by praying together.

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Recently I paid a second visit to Vietnam for a week. I went not as a tourist, but for the same reason I travelled there some nine years ago. I was thereto choose a few young men to come to Australia to train for the priesthood for our diocese.

Vietnamese people who have come to our country in recent times, like people from other countries, have shown themselves to be people of faith, enterprising and adaptable. Their children have become a part of Australian life and done well.

The Vietnamese Priests that I know in Perth, some of whom I have had a lot to do with as a Vocations Director, have also done well. They have offered so much to our Australian Church. They have shown themselves to be men of Faith, adaptable and good Pastors.  A tribute to the contribution of the Vietnamese priests and people is the fact that Australia now has its first Vietnamese Bishop. Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM was ordained on 23rd June 2011 as Auxiliary Bishop for Melbourne.

When I went to Vietnam last time the Government in Vietnam restricted the number of priests for ordination. While they have relaxed their approach quite a lot now, the Bishops and Religious Orders have a greater freedom to train and ordain the candidates they want, there are still candidates who would not be able to follow a call they sense within them to priesthood. In going there I don€™t have a sense of €œpoaching€ Vocations. Indeed the Bishops I met and the large Seminary I visited (with some 300 Seminarians in training for 4 dioceses) were all very missionary minded. They too were offering help.

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Records show that Christians, besides celebrating Easter Sunday, celebrated a continuing Easter Season as far back as the beginning of the third century.

Outside of Ordinary Time, it became the Churches longest Season ƒ‚'€“ a fifty day stretch from Easter Sunday to Pentecost Sunday.

The Easter Season is so long because Christians believe that the Resurrection is just too big and too important to be celebrated for only one day, or even one week. In fact as we reflect we can see that the Easter Mystery is part of our whole year and our daily lives.

Since the time after the Exodus the Jews have celebrated the Passover annually. However the Passover from slavery to freedom through the Red Sea was never far from their minds.

In their prayers, and particularly the wonderful Old Testament Psalms, the Jews recall this great event time and time again. They call to mind more importantly the power of God displayed there to show his care and protection of them. The presence of God they saw in the ƒ‚'€œcloud by dayƒ‚'€ to hide them from the enemy and the ƒ‚'€œfire by nightƒ‚'€ to guide them on their journey in the desert.ƒ‚‚‚ 

They believe that the liberating power of God, and his protective and guiding presence, continues to be with them in their lives.

Our Easter is exactly like that. It is the Passover of Jesus from death to life. It is his rising to life from the suffering and death he endured.

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In recent times what has been occupying your thoughts and prayers?

Around Australia alone there have been quite a few disasters- floods, fires and cyclones. West Australia had its share. Carnarvon was one of the first to be hit heavily. There was the tragic electrocution of a young woman in Geraldton after a strong dust storm. Fire ravaged places around Perth. Then of course there were the huge areas of devastation across the eastern board.

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Vision Statement

We are:

* a welcoming community which reaches out to all
* celebrating Christ's presence
* joyfully living out our Christian calling across distance and diversity

This vision states that as a Diocese, we aim to be a welcoming, missionary, centred on Christ, and each striving to live one's particular vocation. It is in living out our calling that we praise God, follow Christ, influence society and achieve the goal of eternal life won for us by Christ. In the parishes we have encouraged people to measure whatever they do against this Diocesan vision.

Most Rev. Justin Bianchini, DD

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Catholic Diocese
of GERALDTON
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7 Maitland Street
Geraldton WA 6531

PO Box 46
Geraldton WA 6531

Ph: +61 8 9921 3221
Fax: +61 8 9964 1097