These past few days have seen a number of opinions surface on the occasion of the 250th anniversary of the first recorded sighting of the east coast of Australia. As usual, people have different takes on that event. TV coverage might have helped, depending on who directed the editing. What is significant for Catholics is that today, May 3, 2020, is the 200th anniversary of the arrival of the first approved (by the government) Catholic Priests into the Crown Colony called NSW.
- In a sense, the Catholic people of the colony, and not all were convicts, had been in lockdown for some forty years, broken occasionally by the arrival of a priest on a foreign vessel. The celebration of Mass was forbidden. Their faith was fortified by the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament in a house in Sydney, courtesy of one such visiting Priest. There they gathered to pray the Rosary and other prayers longing for a true Shepherd to feed and safeguard their inherited faith.
- We should, perhaps, not growl too much at our current inconvenience.
- Given that history, and its success, our reflection today on Good Shepherd Sunday needs to be broader than simply praying for more and better seminarians.
- Today we see the rise again of gated communities. Not over common in our country, but on the rise. Such communities have armed guards, locked gates, often guard dogs and up to date whiz bang security cameras. All run by ‘them’ to keep ‘us’ at arm’s length, safe, and secure; or so they say.
The Gospel seems to suggest that gates are designed not only to provide safety, but also to allow passage to abundant pasture. Today Jesus proclaims that he is the gate.
The men and women in early Sydney (and Sydney then had more than enough problems with both safety and adequate pasture), provided the GATE to ensure that the faith of the Catholic community both survived and flourished. Subsequently their ministry was built upon and sometimes, sadly, the new anointed shepherds took over the role of gatekeeper.
Our current situation needs a gatekeeper in every householder and the assurance of support for that continuing role “when we get to the other side”.
P.S. John Joseph Therry remained in Sydney for 40 plus years roaming around the cast colony and Phillip Conolly was sent to Tasmania to minister in those initial awful days.