Homily - Mass for the Silver Jubilee of Ordination to Priesthood of Father Bob Bossini, Parish Priest of Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish, Greystanes, Friday 13 July 2012
Homily of Most Rev Anthony Fisher OP - Mass for the Silver Jubilee of Ordination to Priesthood of Father Bob Bossini, Parish Priest of Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish, Greystanes, Friday 13 July 2012
Last week the Vatican published a document on Fostering Priestly Vocations. One of the presenters in Rome was Archbishop Jean-Louis Bruguès OP, then Secretary for the Congregation for Catholic Education, who recently addressed 1000 principals and other leaders at our congress on Catholic Schools: Centres of the New Evangelisation organised by the Diocese of Parramatta. The very next day he celebrated Mass for our priests and principals. I then spoke on promoting priestly vocations, among other things, but the Archbishop didn’t let on that he was about to launch a document on this very topic for the whole Church! I’ve not had a chance to check whether he took any lines from my talk. But given how successfully he gave nothing away, it’s little wonder he has just be announced as Head of the Vatican Library and the Secret Archives.
I’m told the new document will examine the situation of priestly vocations in the world today, discuss the much-contested question of priestly identity and make some suggestions for the promotion of vocations. One such suggestion is surely this: let people see good, happy priests, courageous in proclaiming the Word of God, joyful in the service of God and His people, a good pastor after the model of the Good Shepherd in our Gospel (Jn 10:11-16). The man whose silver jubilee of priesthood we celebrate today is such a shepherd.
I’m not sure whether you, his beloved flock of Greystanes, think of him as a shepherd or are flattered to be called his ‘sheep’. A sheep doesn’t immediately conjure up thoughts of a courageous or thoughtful disciple of Christ. We tend to think of sheep as dumb, submissive, exploitable and expendable. If someone described Greystanes parishioners as ‘a bunch of sheep’ you might not take it as a compliment! Likewise the word ‘shepherd’ is not one we use in Australia for our farmers. The word is more likely to evoke images from Christmas cards and Christmas pageants rather than leaders, sanctifiers and teachers.
So why is it then that when Jesus calls us His sheep who know Him and listen to His voice, we are not insulted at all? Because we know He doesn’t treat us as mere animals to be led to the abattoir or the shearing shed and exploited. We know that in our need we can trust Him to nourish us with His words and sacraments, as a good shepherd ensures his sheep are well pastured. We know that in our difficulties He will guide and protect us, with a love and wisdom and divine power no ordinary farmer has. And we hope that that is the model for our priests.
What sort of a shepherd has Bob Bossini been? His experience is considerable and it is varied: at Salesian College Sunbury, BoysTown in Engadine, the Don Bosco Youth Centre in Brunswick, as superior of the Salesian communities in Hobart and Engadine, as associate pastor and then Parish Priest of Our Lady of the Rosary Parish, St Marys, and now as Parish Priest of Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish, Greystanes. He’s been a religious and a diocesan priest, a school teacher, school counsellor, chaplain to Marriage Encounter and a spiritual director. Isaiah’s job description for a priest (Isa 61:1-3), that Jesus Himself took as His own (Lk 4:17-19), of bringing good news, friendship and healing to the poor, the captive, the heart-broken, has clearly been his charter also. Fr Bob has been described as a simple and humble man of God who knows how to deal with people individually, to lend a listening ear and a helping hand, and to connect with people in a light and casual way. He is a great one for encouraging the active participation of people in parish life and mentors many people in an affirming way. I have chosen to entrust my baby priest to his nurture, confident that he will have this priest as a worthy model.
Now before this starts sounding like a eulogy, let me tell you he’s not dead yet. In fact, I want at least another 25 good years of priesthood out of him. Then we’ll both be about ready to retire. It’s not a eulogy because he’s not dead yet and because I’m not pretending he’s perfect yet either. The men that Christ chooses as priests are not supermen, not saints, at least to begin with. No, God uses ordinary human beings like Fr Bob, with all their gifts and foibles, as His ministers, and does extraordinary things through them and with them and in them.
As we look forward later this year to commemorating the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, we recall its teaching that Christ left His Church in the care of shepherds after His own heart so that Christians might continue to be taught, sanctified and guided by Him. Until His return the apostles and their successors, the bishops and the clergy in communion with them, are so charged with that task that the Council could dare to say that whoever listens to them is listening to Christ and whoever despises them despises Christ.
Such extraordinary claims could only be made by people with great faith in Christ’s continuing providential care, great hope for the Church as humanity’s best friend and great love for the shepherds and sheep, both presently of this flock and those referred to in our Gospel tonight, who are still to be.
More than 50 years ago a boy was called out of Egypt, as was Our Lord as a boy. In Bob’s case he was called to Australia rather than Galilee. Twenty-five years ago this week that same boy received the laying on of hands and prayer of priestly ordination from the then-Archbishop of Sydney, Edward Bede Clancy. His great Yes to the call of the Lord will, I trust, continue to bear much fruit in the coming years. While he started that journey at Springwood as a candidate for the diocesan priesthood, then spent more than 30 years with the Salesians of Don Bosco, he finally returned to the diocesan fold in which he will now be ensconced firmly for many more decades. Tonight we pay tribute to all those who formed and supported him in his priesthood along those several stages.The document that I mentioned at the beginning of my homily suggests that priests must be witnesses of dedication to Christ and His Church, must offer a joyful generosity, must adapt humbly to different situations. Such a man we have before us. Keep praying for us Bob at the altar of God. After 25 silver years of service, thank you and congratulations.
Download Pastoral Guidelines for Fostering Vocations to Priestly Ministry
Vatican Today: Fostering vocations to the priesthood is a constant challenge for the church
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