Category Archives: Catholic Weekly

Good Shepherd seminarians
The 2019 crop of first year seminarians at the Good Shepherd Seminary.
PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

There are great signs of hope amid turbulent times in the Church, according to the rector of Sydney’s seminary Father Danny Meagher.

Father Meagher has welcomed 12 newcomers to the Good Shepherd Seminary, bringing the total number of men in formation for the priesthood there to 54.

Coinciding with an unprecedented Vatican summit on child protection and clerical sexual abuse, and in the wake of last year’s Royal Commission into the Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, the willingness of young men to consider entering Holy Orders is a sign that there is much hope in the future of the Church in Australia, Father Meagher told The Catholic Weekly.

“There are stormy seas but the Lord is with us,” he said, adding that this year’s crop of newbies is not the largest he has seen but is a healthy crop.

Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP led the celebration of Mass for the opening of the Seminary year for students and their families on 20 February.

“There’s still hope. People are still being called to the priesthood and have a desire to serve the Church and its people,” he said.

This week the new recruits gathered with the current students at a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP to officially open the seminary year, before going on a five-day retreat.

They will then come back to begin their discernment and formation under the first year director Father Arthur Givney with input from other seminary staff, and undertake a course on Christian Spirituality at the Catholic Institute of Sydney.

Stephen Howard, 25, from the Archdiocese of Sydney said he “immediately felt comfortable” upon moving into the seminary this month.

“But the intensity of classes and prayers started straight away and I’m sure we are in for a very satisfying spiritual year addressing all aspects for our formation from gardening to contemplation to academia and grasping at God’s will,” he added.

Seminarian's mother
Relatives of seminarians were welcomed by Archbishop Fisher OP to visit the Good Shepherd Seminary. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

Shayne D’cunha, 22, from the Diocese of Broken Bay said that he thought his new home has a “wonderful balance of prayer, work and community”.

“So far seminary life has been wonderful,” he said.

“The other young men studying here have created a wonderful culture rooted in fraternity. I have also been thoroughly impressed by the formation staff who have made the transition into seminary life very easy.”

Good Shepherd’s 54 seminarians are in training for the Archdiocese of Sydney and other NSW dioceses, with eight living in parishes on pastoral placement, said Father Meagher.

This year five Good Shepherd seminarians will be ordained to the priesthood and six to the diaconate, all for NSW.

Father Meagher said that one of his ongoing priorities is working with the archdiocese’s safeguarding office to make sure students receive the appropriate training in professional standards.

“It’s important to make sure they are always up-to-date with the needs of the day,” he said.

At the opening Mass, Archbishop Fisher said that it was a “great pleasure” to welcome the first years and commended all the seminarians for their “courage and generosity” in giving themselves “heart and soul to discernment and formation for service”.

Read full article at Catholic Weekly

First year seminarians for 2017 at Good Shepherd Seminary in Homebush. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

It shouldn’t be happening. With the reputation of Catholic priests and the Church at an all-time low, both of the Archdiocese of Sydney’s seminaries are booming.

Rather than turning away from the possibility of the priesthood, young men are choosing to enter seminary formation because they believe Christ may be calling them to a life as priests. The interesting question is why?

The Seminary of the Good Shepherd in Homebush, which produces priests for service in archdiocesan parishes, is experiencing a renaissance of interest with 51 seminarians from ten dioceses in formation—the largest number the seminary has had in over a decade.

“I believe there was a similar number about ten years ago,” Fr Danny Meagher, Rector of the seminary, told The Catholic Weekly.

This year eight new seminarians entered the Homebush Seminary. There will also be two ordinations to the priesthood and seven to the diaconate in 2018.

The seminarians range in age from 21 to 41, and while most were born and bred in Australia, many are from diverse ethnic backgrounds including Vietnamese, Filipino, Iraqi, Ugandan, Nigerian and Italian.

There are also three Sydney seminarians currently undertaking studies in Rome.

“We try to help them come to know themselves better,” Fr Meagher said. “To come to know God better, understand the Church, so they can freely choose to give themselves to God and the Church. And to grow in maturity, goodness and holiness in order to become good compassionate priests.”

Through the formation process he said the seminarians “learn to relate better to others” and to have “a clearer more mature understanding of themselves and others.” They also “develop a deeper awareness of who God is and a deeper love of God. Greater freedom and peace.”

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Catholic Institute of Sydney appoints first woman president in Sr Isabell Naumann

Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP has appointed Schoenstatt Sister Isabell Naumann ISSM as the President of the Catholic Institute of Sydney, a key role in the Archdiocese of Sydney and the Church in Australia.
Sister Naumann’s appointment is also significant as she becomes the first woman to hold the position of President of the Institute, established in 1954; she is its ninth president. She will take up her appointment on 26 February, the commencement of the academic year.

The appointment is a key role in the Church in Australia because the CIS is the only ecclesiastical educational faculty in the country. As such, it is officially established under the auspices of the Holy See and the only educational institution which can offer ecclesiastical (sometimes called ‘Roman’) degrees.

The President’s appointment (made by the Chancellor, Archbishop Fisher) must also be approved by the Congregation for Catholic Education in Rome. Although laity do – and have – studied at CIS, it is primarily responsible for the theological and philosophical education of seminarians, the future priests of the Archdiocese. However seminarians from religious orders or seminaries such as the Neocatechumenal Way Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Chester Hill also undertake their theological and philosophical studies at the Institute.

A total of 163 students were enrolled at the Institute in 2017. Sister Isabell, a specialist in Mariology, has taught at CIS since 2005, teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in Systematic Theology, particularly in the area of ecclesiology. She was also the Dean of Studies at the archdiocesan Seminary of the Good Shepherd in Homebush. However Sister Naumann is not only a highly-regarded academic on the Australian Catholic scene; she is also a member of the Pontifical Council for Culture in Rome, having been first appointed to the Council by Pope Benedict XVI in 2008 and reappointed by Pope Francis in 2014.

She takes over the President’s role from Dr Gerard Kelly, a priest of the Archdiocese, who served as CIS’s President from 2004 and who teaches Systematic Theology at the Institute. The degrees offered by the Institute include the STB (a Baccalaureate of Theology), the STL (a Licentiate in Sacred Theology, equivalent to a Master’s degree at a secular university) and the STD (a Doctorate in Sacred Theology).

Archbishop Fisher also announced the appointment of Dr Rohan Curnow as Deputy President. Dr Curnow, who has lectured at CIS since 2010, will also maintain his current role as Academic Dean.

News – Catholic Weekly:

“The crisis in the Church is a manifestation of the crisis in our culture, and the crisis is one of formation,” Dr Bottaro told The Catholic Weekly. “There is a lot of talk about the vocations crisis but I don’t think we have a vocations crisis. I think we have a formation crisis. It starts with the breakdown of the family, with moving away from family values and as part of that children are not being formed into healthy human beings.”This leads to seminary candidates, for example, “having come into the priesthood who are lacking basic human skills”.“They’re not relatable, they’re not comfortable with themselves, they don’t know who they are, they don’t have self-awareness. They’re trying to fit into a role that requires not only normal human skills but super-natural skills because it is a super-natural vocation, particularly the vocation to celibacy.”

Dr Bottaro says parents have a “grave” responsibility to foster basic life skills and virtues in their children, particularly by limiting or eradicating their access to social technology before the age of seven or eight. “Smartphones in particular are nurturing addiction in kids’ brains and removing from them the ability to relate as a human being to other human beings,” he said.

The Renaissance of Marriage Conference held at the University of Notre Dame Australia brought together 200 educators, leaders, and advocates to discuss the education of young people and support of engaged and married couples.

Archbishop Anthony Fisher celebrated the opening Mass and presenters included Sr Moira DeBono of the University of Notre Dame, Jonathan Doyle of Choicez Media, Bishop Michael Kennedy of Armidale, US speaker Christina King, Robert Falzon of MenAlive,  and conference convenors Fran and Byron Pirola of the Marriage Resource Centre.

While in Sydney Dr Bottaro also addressed Auxiliary Bishop Anthony Randazzo and vocational leaders at a roundtable discussion in Sydney, and ran a workshop on Catholic mindfulness.

News – Catholic Weekly:

Building up God’s kingdom in Sydney

by Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP
19 Aug 2015

From today, Archbishop Fisher tells new priests, ‘you will participate in Christ’s power to build up God’s Kingdom in Sydney through word and sacrament … through you, those hungry for truth will be fed, those thirsty for consolation, inspired, and those needing grace, restored’.

 The low-budget Christian horror-film Final: The Rapture was released late last year. Directed by Timothy Chey, it details the global chaos after all the best people are raptured up to heaven – as some evangelical Christians believe will happen – and follows the stories of four of those left behind.

Professional footballer Colin Nelson (played by Jah Shams) is one left stranded when his good Christian wife is assumed into heaven (she’s played, appropriately enough, by an actress named Mary Grace).


Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP prays over deacons Barakat and Stevens before last weekend’s ordinations. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP prays over deacons Barakat and Stevens before last weekend’s ordinations. Photo: Giovanni Portelli


The movie is described in the advertising bumf as “breathtaking, gripping, layered and astonishing … it will captivate you from the very first minute to the stunning, tear-jerking end.”

I’m not so sure. But the film does join a long and rich genre of end-of-the-world and post-apocalypse cinema – whether coming from the spiritual heavens (as in Legion or Noah) or the astronomical heavens (such as Deep Impact and Armageddon) or the alien heavens (as in War of the Worlds and Battle Los Angeles). Other apocalypses begin here on earth at the hands of natural phenomena (Supervolcano, Contagion) or technology (as in the Terminator and Matrix series) or zombies (28 Days, Evil Dead) or nuclear or biological weapons (Resident Evil and Mad Max). One way or another, events around the end of time are endlessly fascinating for human beings.

Our first reading today comes from a book of Scripture which has generated much of this strain of apocalypticism in Western culture: the Book of Revelation by St John the Divine (Rev 11:19, 12:1-10). It’s a mysterious work, alien to our technocratic, historicist, secular mindset that usually excludes the transcendent. It was read at my installation as archbishop and one of the politicians present asked me why on earth such a strange thing would be read!

Though alien and confronting, such Scripture may still resonate with a culture that has replaced fear of a spiritual apocalypse with fear of a nuclear one, then with fear of various pandemics, and most recently with anxiety about a climate apocalypse, a culture that still likes stories of good versus evil, speculations about the future, and the possibility that there is more to this world than the things science and history measure, report and control.

Yet unlike the dark movie apocalyptic, the Christian version is full of hope: hope for a Saviour child, for a Mother and a God who will keep Him safe, for life beyond the tomb, for a merciful judgment that will vindicate the oppressed, for salvation from the heavens. St Paul’s version in our epistle today is less florid than St John’s, but it, too, foresees a general resurrection when Christ the first-born from the dead will raise up His faithful, not for some sort of zombie apocalypse, but to a kingdom of truth, justice and peace, a new Eden in which death has been conquered forever (1 Cor 15:20-26).

For all Paul’s encouraging words, we might still wonder whether that resurrection is just sci-fi fantasy or wishful thinking. For God-made-man it was straightforward enough to live beyond the tomb: but for us mere mortals? Today’s feast is the answer to that anxiety: it is the feast of divine reassurance, reassurance of our resurrection.

As we witness the Assumption into heaven of the Woman of the Apocalypse, the pre-emptively gifted Immaculate Mother, the real Mary Grace, we witness rapture not just for a single favourite of God or for a predestined elite, but the trajectory to a heaven to which we all are called.

That same Mary Grace magnifies the merciful Lord in our Gospel today, singing of the One who casts the mighty from their thrones and raises up the lowly – raises them up all the way to heaven! (Lk 1:39-56) Mary’s version of the end of time is something to welcome: that time when our bodies will be glorified, our spirits exalted, our whole being in company with God and His saints.

Dear sons and brothers in Christ, Thomas and Lewi, it is to such a Marian future – and not the far less satisfactory futures of human fantasy, ambition or neglect – that you must lead and goad us in the years ahead. Like the Virgin in her Magnificat your souls will proclaim the marvels God has worked for us.

Like that Virgin Assumed into heaven, you will join the angels and saints serving at God’s altar, eventually we hope in heaven but first here on earth. Pope Francis, in his recent encyclical, Laudato Si’, cites our first reading in addressing Mary as “Queen of All Creation”.

As she now “grieves for the sufferings of the crucified poor and for the creatures of this world laid waste by human power”, she is a cause of hope for all material creation, for “in her glorified body, together with the Risen Christ, part of creation has reached the fullness of its beauty”.

That transfiguration, to which we all look forward, is prefigured in every Eucharist. For there, as the Pope explains, all material creation “finds its greatest exaltation” as ordinary bread and wine become the substance of God given for us. This Eucharist, he explains, “is the living centre of the universe, the overflowing core of love and of inexhaustible life. Joined to the incarnate Son, present in the Eucharist, the whole cosmos gives thanks to God”.

Earth is joined to heaven and “the world which came forth from God’s hands returns to him in blessed and undivided adoration”. Even when celebrated by the humblest priest on the humblest altar, it is “always in some way celebrated on the altar of the world”.

This is your task, my dear sons and brothers, from this day forward. From today, you will participate in Christ’s power to build up God’s Kingdom in Sydney through word and sacrament. Through you, babies will be transformed into children of God and sinners into saints. Through you, those hungry for truth will be fed, those thirsty for consolation, inspired, and those needing grace, restored. Through you, bread and wine will be transformed into Christ’s flesh for the life of the world.

Through you, couples will be united in the sacred bond of matrimony, the sick raised to healing and hope, the dead consigned to divine mercy. Through you God’s People will be sanctified and taught, led and encouraged in their turn to be the “priests, prophets and kings” Christ calls all His own to be. Only then can the Church appear like our Blessed Mother, as a shining light in the heavens, a Mother promising a bright future for hurting humanity.

Tom Stevens’ journey to seminary and priesthood is a tale of a growing certitude and repeated “putting it off”. Like his bishop, he was born in the Mater, blessed with an excellent Catholic education (though on the other side of the river) and studied law. I’ve often said we all have shameful things in our past and one of mine is that I was a lawyer.


Archbishop Fisher with Sydney's newest priests. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

Archbishop Fisher with Sydney’s newest priests. Photo: Giovanni Portelli


Well, Tom took even longer to repent but finally crossed over from the courts of law to the courts of our God. His faith and vocation were nurtured by his mother Robyn and father Ron, his diocesan-priest uncle and the Marists who schooled him and with whom he worked. Like Lewi he had the advantage of seminaries both in Sydney and Rome and pastoral experiences that confirmed for him and for me his suitability for priestly service.

Lewi, a youngest child like Tom, is of Syrian background. We are especially conscious of the suffering of Syrian Christians at this time, at the hands of the evil IS organisation and others, the daily martyrdoms, exile and other torments. That a beautiful Syrian-Australian heart is being offered today for priesthood can only be a cause of hope and healing for these suffering people. Lewi studied and practised as a fitness professional rather than a legal one, and so has less to repent of. While serving the Church of Sydney and youth of the world at World Youth Day 2008 he discerned God’s will for him. There are many answers one might give those who wonder whether World Youth Day is worth all the bother: one will lie in our sanctuary today.

My dear sons, Tom and Lewi, from today God’s people invite you to share in the most crucial points of their lives: their births, marriages and deaths, their sins and aspirations, their hunger for truth and love, their moments of touching the divine but also of desolation. Subject to your bishop and united to your new brothers in the priesthood, strive to bring the faithful together into one family. May your ministry, like the rapture film, be “breathtaking, gripping, layered and astonishing, captivating you from the very first minute to the stunning, tear-jerking end”.

As we delight in these two new priests for the archdiocese of Sydney we are all too aware of our need and so pray that the Lord of the harvest will send us many more. I ask all those present to consider how they might help promote vocations by prayer, personal discernment, encouraging others to put up their hand and supporting those already in the priesthood or seminary.

This is the edited text of the homily by Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP for the Solemnity of the Assumption and the ordinations to the priesthood of deacons Lewi Barakat and Thomas Stevens at St Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney, on 15 August.

Used with permission, The Catholic Weekly – Sydney. Original article: