340,000 Parramatta Saints
|Bishop Anthony at Theology on Tap. Photograph coutesy of Patrick Lee.|
By Peter Gresser
Although said with good humour, Most Rev Anthony Fisher OP wasn't joking when he told a pub full of young people last night that he wanted the Catholic Diocese of Parramatta to produce 340,000 Saints.
“We are all a work in progress – but from the moment we came to faith, we are called to be Saints,” Bishop Anthony said during his address to Theology on Tap (TOT) at its September gathering at PJ Gallagher's Irish Pub, Parramatta.
“My goal is for Parramatta to have 340,000 Saints – because that’s how many Catholics we have in Parramatta. Resolve tonight to keep company with the Saints, by praying to them, emulating them, but above all, by becoming one of them.”
More than 200 turned out to hear Bishop Anthony in his first TOT appearance since his installation as Bishop of Parramatta in March. The event, which TOT billed as a ‘Welcome Party’ for Bishop Anthony, also coincided with Bishop Anthony’s seventh anniversary of becoming a bishop.
While his address was titled ‘My Story’, Bishop Anthony’s preferred focus was to inspire the shared story of all those present – the story of a life that explores the mysteries of God, creation and ourselves.
Bishop Anthony said that the story of all Catholics starts with their conversion at baptism.
“Baptism conversion is for one purpose only: to make us and our fellows Saints,” Bishop Anthony.
“The question for anyone who understands what it is to be a Christian is not whether I’m going to be a Saint, but rather, ‘What kind of Saint am I going to be?’.
“God makes Saints. The Church identifies a few of them for our imitation…but it is our job to actually be them.
“In the month ahead, when the first ‘Aussie girl’ is Canonised a Saint, we’ll all have the biggest incentive since our baptism, because we’ll see in front of our eyes, that one of us did it.”
A life full of faith, hope and love
While Bishop Anthony confessed that his own conversion story wasn’t one he often told, he was open in sharing the turning points in his life that led to his vocational journey, particularly during his days at university and his later career in law.
|Photograph courtesy of Patrick Lee.|
Bishop Anthony said his conversion was not as sudden as Paul on the Road to Damascus, nor did it take a lifetime, as was St Augustine’s experience. Rather, his conversion occurred as commonly and as simply as most: with a baptism at his local church when three weeks old.
“By a stroke of that divine pen of what we call amazing grace, I was a Christian, a Saint, full of faith and hope and love,” Bishop Anthony said. “But don’t imagine that that was the end of my conversion: from that point forward, the battle for my soul was on…the world, the flesh and the devil were determined to reclaim me. There were forces at play that could have taken me down a much worse path than the one I took.
“But at the same time, the grace of baptism, of God-given faith were also at work in me.
“Each of us has a lifetime in which to make of himself or herself an icon of Christ…or else, of something less worthy. Life is no rehearsal: we have just one life. The ‘restarts’ at baptism, for most of us…extend into eternity. There are pressures in various directions about what we do with that life, and we need divine grace if we are to make progress.”
Bishop Anthony said that everyone present at the TOT gathering shared the same conversion story.
“All Christians are converts – no one is born Catholic. Our baptismal conversion continues through life, despite indifference, backsliding, sin, ignoring God…the gradual process of santifcation through word and sacrament,” Bishop Anthony said.
“Don’t ever imagine that you, or someone you know, is beyond making the u-turn back to God – the God for whom we were made.
“Every day can be a conversion day for us, which is why we examine our conscience as resolve to be better.”
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