Heavenly day for priests in Lismore
By Charlie Wood
EVERY year, Catholic priests who have served at least 50 years in the Lismore Diocese gather for a thanksgiving and celebratory Mass.
The Clergy Jubilees of Ordination Celebration, as it is officially called, was held yesterday morning at St Carthage's Cathedral in Lismore. But this year there was something extra to celebrate.
For the first time in many years the tide appears to be turning on the declining number of religious students wanting to enter the priesthood.
The Bishop of Lismore, Bishop Geoffrey Jarrett, welcomed the trend which sees five students in his diocese looking towards ordination in the future.
"We are delighted to see the numbers are coming back. It's harder to make a commitment in this high-paced and rapidly changing world," he said.
The Mass brought together 32 priests, at least four of whom are now retired and living outside the area. They included Bishop John Satterthwaite, who served the diocese from 1971 to 2001 and celebrates his Golden Jubilee in the priesthood. He gave the homily of the Mass.
Also in attendance were Fathers Michael Roohan and Paul McDonald, celebrating 25 years in the priesthood, and Father Eamon Leonard, who celebrates his Diamond Jubilee.
For about 500 parishioners who also attended it was a chance to reconnect and reflect on the past with those priests who had become an integral part of their lives.
"Many have 'travelled' with the priests over the years, it is like a big reunion," Bishop Jarrett said. He likened the gathering to when a family gets together to celebrate a wedding anniversary.
Roberta Garrett, who made the journey up from Sydney, said: "It's a wonderful experience to meet the priests we haven't seen for many years."
After the Mass priests and parishioners alike made up for lost time, comparing notes outside the cathedral. Later the priests sat down to lunch.