Wednesday, April 06, 2016

BROKEN BAY DIOCESE 30 YEARS ON

BISHOP PETER A. COMENSOLI
BISHOP OF BROKEN BAY
In the latest edition of the Diocesan Magazine "Broken Bay News", Bishop Peter Comensoli  - who has done a great deal to elevate the tone of the Magazine since his appointment on 20th November, 2014 - reviews the 30 years history of this strangest of Australian Dioceses.

Why strange?  As His Lordship notes " unlike every other Diocese in Australia, our Diocese is not named after a city or a town of significance in the Diocese (e.g. Wollongong, Bathurst, Parramatta) but after a body of water ......Our Diocese does not have such a city or suburb that could naturally be identified as the location of pre-eminence and geographic unity for us."

In profiling the Diocese , His Lordship notes that there are a little over 225,000 Catholics in the Diocese and that is about 27% of the total population. This is marginally above the Australian norm of under 25%. By 2041 - in just 25 yrs time - the Diocesan region's general population is projected to grow to 1,280,000.

Of the present day 225,000 Catholics, 23,000 attend Mass on any given Sunday - roughly 10%, which His Lordship views as a matter for sober reflection as in 2001 the figure was 15% or 30,000 out of a Catholic population of 188,000.

The  pastoral needs of the Catholics in the Diocese are served by 61 Priests in active ministry, and numbers of consecrated men and women, and there are 4 (!!) Seminarians ( More Please! comments the Bishop). There are 26 Parishes, 47 Churches, 45 Diocesan Schools and 9 congregational Schools plus a significant number of aged care and welfare facilities.

"Historically our people have predominantly   come from Anglo-European backgrounds but increasingly we are coming from Central/South America and Asia ( mainly India, Korea, China and the Phillipines) . By the time of our Golden Anniversary we will be a much more Asian church in both look and feel.  This is a very good thing I believe, because it is in Asia and Africa  that the great growth and vibrancy in Christianity is now happening.  The once missionary territories of the world are now the ones re-evangelising us."

Reflecting on the situation of the Diocese over the thirty years, His Lordship noted the curious history of the location of the Cathedral of the Diocese. Originally it had been the Corpus Christi Parish Church of suburban St.Ives, then Holy Name Parish Church Wahroonga, then and to the present, the Parish Church of Waitara - Our Lady of the Rosary.   This latest is small, indeed far smaller than my own Parish Church at Pymble. It is also poorly designed - fan-shaped with an ugly bluestone wall confronting and dominating the back of what might be called the "Sanctuary". The Blessed Sacrament is located in the tabernacle housed in a small niche in the bluestone wall to the right (facing) the altar.


FORMER BISHOP DAVID WALKER, THE BLUESTONE WALL
AND A TINY GLIMPSE OF THE TABERNACLE AT THE RIGHT EDGE OF THE PICTURE
AND BANNERS.

His Lordship continues: " The 30th Anniversary of the Diocese affords us all the opportunity to reflect on the place that our Cathedral has in the life of the Diocese. In what ways is it a sign of unity for Christ's people gathered around their Bishop? How do we identify with it as the spiritual heart of the Diocese?  In what ways can this be enhanced and strengthened?  Is our Cathedral adequate for the needs of the future?   In asking these questions ,I am keen to begin a conversation with you about how we might together raise the profile of our Cathedral at this significant juncture in our Diocesan history. " 

All of these are very timely and pertinent questions. There is in the Diocese an unhappy inheritance of fan-shaped churches which have been built on such sites that although close to major highways, they have no "presence" to the Highways and give to the tens of thousands of drivers and passengers pasing them each day, absolutely zero witness to the Catholic Faith. It is quite bizarre - Corpus Christi St.Ives, Sacred Heart Pymble, Our Lady of the Rosary, Waitara, Queen of Peace Church Normanhurst, Saint Agatha's  Parish Church Pennant Hills and even the great Holy Name Church Wahroonga  are invisible from the Highways  and road they adjoin.   It is as if, not content to wreck the sense of the sacred with their fan shapes ( Holy Name excluded - it is cruciform), the Authorities of the past sought to conceal the very presence of the Catholic Church from the community.    

It is not too much to say that the phenomenon once noticed, is weird to the point of perversity.

Given His Lordship's comments on the growing Asian character of the Diocese, and the immense concentration of a very large , mostly young Asian population in the mini-city Chatswood with its grand church Our Lady of Dolours , a ready-made solution to all the problems lies right in the largest commercial centre in the Diocese, and at one of the major rail hubs in the Diocese with ready access to Macquarie University. See images below . Note the ample Sanctuary space for major liturgical celebrations.
OUR LADY OF DOLOURS, CHATSWOOD


INTERIOR OUR LADY OF DOLOURS CHATSWOOD


    It is refreshing to be in a Diocese with such an intelligent, orthodox and far-sighted Bishop.






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