Homily for Sunday 28 November 2010
MASS CELEBRATED BY ARCHBISHOP DENIS HART AT THE CROATIAN CATHOLIC CHURCH, SUNSHINE, FOR THE CENTENARY OF THE FOUNDATION OF THE MISSIONARY SOCIETY OF SAINT PAUL ON SUNDAY, 28 NOVEMBER 2010 AT 5PM
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
On this first Sunday of Advent when our minds turn to preparation for the coming of Christ at Christmas, and as we are mindful that he will come to each of us as judge at the end of our lives, we are gathered to celebrate the Centenary of the Foundation of the Paulist Missionaries when on 13th June 1910 Monsignor Joseph De Piro accepted the first two members for his new Missionary Society.
The Society by its foundation and mission encourages us to share in a new and dynamic way in the transmitting of a lived faith to the people of our time.
As we thank God for many blessings, let us ask the Lord for pardon, light and strength as we prepare our hearts to celebrate this Mass of Thanksgiving.
“You too must stand ready because the Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” (Matthew 24:44)
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
We are here to thank God for one hundred years of the Missionary Society of Saint Paul and for the magnificent work which they continue to do among our communities.
The surprise and unexpectedness of God’s call to us described in the Gospel is also accompanied by a sense of urgency, which Saint Paul points out to the Romans: “You know the time has come. You must wake up now. Our salvation is even nearer than it was when we were converted.” (Romans 13:11)
The Missionary Society of Saint Paul preserves clear focus on the importance and urgency of the Good News of Jesus Christ and upon our response to it now as well as at all times during the past one hundred years. What we must remember of course is that God’s invitation to personal holiness and renewal is not just for the past or present, but it is something which we carry with us into the future and is part of our future and our transformation.
Monsignor Joseph De Piro had been born in Malta on 2nd November 1877 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1903 in Rome. Although he was involved in various ministries within the Church his main concern was the missions and work amongst the poor. He continued to work towards his long cherished dream of establishing a Society of priests and brothers committed to the spreading of the Good News. His dynamic zeal is an example to all of us. From accepting the first two members in 1910 he waited eleven years for the official approval by the local bishop and seventeen years before Brother Joseph Caruana was the first Paulist sent to Ethiopia, where he remained until his death in 1975 at the age of 83.
When Monsignor De Piro died at the age of 55 in 1933 the Society remained in its infancy and yet Monsignor De Piro’s prophesy – ‘the Society will grow only after my death’ – was one of the great truisms of the Paulist story.
Today the Paulist missionaries are conscious of living out their missionary commitment in a world of change; in parishes, in schools, in youth and migrant centres, among the poor and needy and in far away lands.
The first foundation in Australia in 1948 had been in Sydney three years earlier than the foundation in Melbourne. Both cities had a huge concentration of Maltese people. In Melbourne, for example, at that time there were about 23,000 Maltese born in Malta living and needing the chaplaincy of Maltese priests. Here in Melbourne I pay tribute to the work which has been done with such great zeal from Parkville, Wantirna and the parishes of North Sunshine and Hoppers Crossing North.
In a particular way the dedication of Fathers George Scerri and Honorio Galea, who moved to Melbourne in 1971, is a clear illustration of what generations of Paulist priests have sought to do. Father Scerri developed trust and respect as a dedicated chaplain determined to unify the Maltese community. The great tragedy in 1980 was his savage assault and death at the house which he had built up as a centre for Maltese to remind the Maltese people of the eternal truth and love of God and to enable them to gather together as brothers and sisters, knowing the support and goodness of priests.
I pay tribute to all that the Maltese Paulists have done in Melbourne. It often involved hard and difficult work completing documentation, counselling and helping people who had not had opportunities in life and found themselves in a new country – Australia. The Paulists have demonstrated legendary generosity in chaplaincy for migrants, in the Maltese and Italian apostolate and in availability to the Diocese for many, many tasks. I pay tribute too to the Paulists for your magnificent support of me in the ten years that I was parish priest of West Brunswick.
Today as we come to this great milestone we remember that the Gospel is always urgent, that its invitation to us is to make our lives founded on the love of Jesus Christ. Our testimony will be our faith and good deeds.
What is quite clear in Monsignor De Piro’s life and that of great Paulists like Father George Scerri is the constant outreach to fulfil needs wherever they may be found. May we live with dedication what Monsignor De Piro offered; a missionary zeal, a love for those in need and an awareness that our God is near to us and our lives.
+ Denis J. Hart,
ARCHBISHOP OF MELBOURNE.