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Archdiocese Celebrates Centenary

Article and Photos by Fr R Cross

Archbishop Costelloe welcomed the presence of the Apostolic Nuncio, His Excellency Most Reverend Paul Gallagher, the Auxiliary Bishop of Perth, The Most Reverend Donald Sproxton, approximately 100 clergy and over a thousand religious and laity to the Cathedral on Monday evening 9 December, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, to celebrate the Centenary of the Archdiocese.
This is a photographic record of the event together with the homily delivered on the occasion by His Grace, the Archbishop of Perth, The Most Reverend Timothy Costelloe SDB.

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Homily for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

by Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB


Tonight marks a very important moment in the life of our Archdiocese. It is a moment that I would like to think might be remembered in the future as a time of special grace for all of us. One hundred years ago, in 1913 on August 28th, the diocese of Perth was raised to the dignity of an archdiocese and Archbishop Clune became the first archbishop. Tonight in recognition of this important centenary year we will rededicate this cathedral and the whole Archdiocese of Perth to the care, protection and prayer of Mary, the Mother of the Lord, after whom this Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary is named.

With this act of solemn dedication or consecration I as the Archbishop want to give expression to a fundamental conviction of our Catholic faith. From the very beginnings of the Church, which owes its origins to the life and ministry of Jesus, the first group of disciples whom Jesus gathered around him came to recognize the importance of the Lord’s mother in their lives and ministry. The writings of the New Testament show us that in those first decades after the Lord’s death and resurrection the early Christian communities quickly came to understand just how important Mary was, not just as the one who gave birth to the savior but also, and even more, as the one who through her life of fidelity and faith shows us what true discipleship looks like. An awareness of the ongoing and powerful presence of Mary in the life of each Christian and in the life of Christian communities also quickly came to the fore. The words of Jesus as he suffered on the cross, entrusting his mother to the Beloved Disciple and entrusting the Beloved Disciple to his mother, came alive as people began to turn to her in prayer and experience in their day to day lives the power of her presence and of her prayers for them. She showed herself to be very much the mother of all those who belonged to Jesus, and she continues to be our mother and our helper today. At a time when the Church throughout the world, and therefore also here in our archdiocese, is in great need of help as we face many difficult challenges, we need to turn to her again, rely on the power of her prayers, and entrust ourselves to her care and protection. It is for this reason that what we are doing here in the Cathedral tonight is so important. Along with the countless number of people who have prayed in this Cathedral we too want to say, “Hail Holy Queen, mother of mercy, hail our life, our sweetness and our hope. To you do we cry …. to you do we send up our sighs. Turn your eyes of mercy towards us. Pray for us now, and at the hour of our death.”

Because our Cathedral and our Archdiocese are dedicated to the Immaculate Conception of Mary it is important for us tonight to ask ourselves what this truth about Mary can mean for us. It is the teaching of our faith that from the very beginnings of the human race, after the fall of our first parents, all are born with original sin. Some people dismiss this idea as a myth or a fable, but as Blessed John Henry Newman once said when reflecting on the presence of evil in the world and in our hearts, “the human race is implicated in some terrible (aboriginal) calamity. It is out of joint with the purposes of its Creator”. The presence of evil in our world, and in our hearts, cannot be God’s doing, for there is no evil in God and no evil can come from God. That evil exists and has such power in our human story is due to the fact that, as Newman puts it, “we are out of joint with the purposes of the creator.” God created human beings for love and instead we chose hatred. He created us for peace and we have instead chosen strife and discord. He created us for life and instead we chose death. And what our ancestors, our forebears chose in the past we continue to choose today. We are sinners, in need of a savior, and because only God can save us he sent us his Son, like us in everything but sin, so that by his life, death and resurrection we could be joined to him and no longer live the life of sin but the new life of grace which he shares with us.

This is God’s gift to us, but it is a gift he does not force upon us. It is a gift freely given and must be a gift freely and gladly received. But how could any of us accept such a gift in full human freedom, for our humanity has been damaged by sin and our freedom has been compromised? To whom can we turn to speak for us as God’s gift is offered? Upon whom can we rely to represent us, to stand in our place, when this gift is held out to us? Is there one whose freedom and openness to God’s goodness has never been diminished, or damaged or jeopardized by sin? Is there one who will not fail at the crucial moment as our first parents did? The answer to these questions of course is Mary. In God’s mysterious plan it is she who speaks in our name: “I am the handmaid of the Lord,” she said to the angel, “let what you have said be done to me.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church expresses this very beautifully. Speaking of the Immaculate Conception of Mary the catechism says, “The angel Gabriel at the moment of the annunciation salutes her as "full of grace". In fact, in order for Mary to be able to give the free assent of her faith to the announcement of her vocation, it was necessary that she be wholly borne by God's grace.”

This is the meaning of the Immaculate Conception – this is the beauty and wisdom of God’s plan. By a special and unique gift of God’s grace Mary is preserved from original sin – she is wholly borne by grace. When our salvation hangs in the balance as we await Mary’s response to God’s invitation to welcome the gift of life into her own life and through her into ours Mary, from the perfect human freedom which has never been distorted by sin, is able to give her free and wholehearted “yes”. She does so on behalf of every single one of us who, at that moment as surely as at the moment of her son’s death, became her children in the order of faith.

Because of Mary’s faith and freedom, the gift we receive promises us a restoration of our lost freedom and the healing of our broken relationship with God. Because this restoration and healing will be the work of a lifetime Mary continues to journey with us and to pray for us. Her presence and her prayer are a sign of God’s love for us and a guarantee that he will never abandon us. As Mary stood with courage and faith at the foot of the cross watching her son die, so will she stand alongside us in our struggles, our moments of crisis and fear, and give us courage and hope through her presence.

Tonight as we solemnly rededicate our cathedral and our archdiocese to her, let us take the opportunity to personally consecrate ourselves and those we love to her as well, confident that she is the mother of mercy, the help of Christians, the refuge of sinners, the mother of the Church.

O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you.

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After Holy Communion, the Archbishop invited all present to join with him in rededicating the Cathedral and the Archdiocese to the Blessed Virgin Mary under her title of the Immaculate Conception, which is the titular name of the Cathedral.

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