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Tuesday, 23 September 2014 14:20

The gift of religious leadership

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Archbishop Anthony Fisher op 150In pointing to his Dominican habit, Archbishop Fisher has drawn attention to the life of religious and the gift their consecrated lives bring to the Church. His appointment comes as a happy coincidence to Australian religious men and women as the Year of Consecrated Life begins on 29 November 2014, writes Giselle Lapitan.

Last week, Pope Francis appointed the Bishop of Parramatta, the Most Rev Anthony Fisher as the ninth Archbishop of Sydney. Archbishop-elect Fisher is a Dominican friar, and his appointment makes him the first religious appointed as Archbishop in Sydney since the Benedictine Roger Bede Vaughan was appointed to the office in 1877 after the death of the first Bishop and Archbishop of Sydney, Benedictine John Bede Polding.

Responding to his appointment in a media release, Archbishop Fisher said he was deeply honoured by the appointment. “I ask all Catholics and other people of good will to pray for me that I might be a good shepherd after the heart of Jesus Christ,” he said.

As the ensuing media coverage of his appointment highlighted his multicultural background and life experiences, some attempted to compare him to his predecessor, Cardinal George Pell. In an article published in the Sydney Morning Herald, responding to questions on how different he is to Cardinal Pell, Archbishop Fisher “pointed to his cream Dominican habit and suggested that coming from an order, he might ‘bring a slightly more contemplative posture’.” 

His appointment follows other recent religious appointments: the Bishop of Wilcannia-Forbes, Most Rev Columba Macbeth-Green of the Order of St Paul the First in early 2014 and Ballarat Bishop Paul Bird of the Redemptorists in late 2013. They join other Australian bishops who hail from religious congregations, such as Bishop Timothy Costelloe sdb, Bishop Vincent Long Van Nguyen ofmconv and Bishop Gregory O’Kelly sj, among others.

In pointing to his Dominican habit at his first press conference, Archbishop Fisher has drawn attention to the life of religious and the gift their consecrated lives bring to the Church. Their tireless commitment and the use of their gifts for mission made significant contributions in Australian society in the areas of health care, education, social services and advocacy for the marginalised.

Hence this recent appointment comes as a happy coincidence to Australian religious men and women as the Year of Consecrated Life draws near, starting on 29 November 2014 to its close on the World Day of Consecrated Life on 2 February 2016. "In this year, we want to recognize and confess our weaknesses, but we also want to show the world with strength and joy the holiness and vitality that are present in consecrated life," said Cardinal João Bráz de Aviz cm, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

The Year of Consecrated Life will have a three-pronged focus: renewal for men and women in consecrated life, thanksgiving among the faithful for the service of sisters, brothers, priests, and nuns, and invitation to young Catholics to consider a religious vocation.

“Gratefulness, hope, passion, “emphasised Cardinal de Aviz in the National Assembly of Australian religious leaders in June this year as he described the vision for the Year of Consecrated Life. “Three words, three experiences for us all.”

In the appointment of Archbishop Fisher, religious men and women have indeed begun to experience the graces of the special year ahead.

Get updates on the Year of Consecrated Life through Facebook and Twitter.

Read more on the appointment of Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher op.