Living under the Grace of the Holy Spirit

Holy Spirit Parish Sandy Bay 90th Anniversary

We can say that Pentecost is the birthday of the Church.

From the very outset of his public ministry Jesus had the Church in mind. He gathered a group of close disciples around him. As well as his general preaching to the crowds he formed them in private sessions. He sent them out on missionary experiences.

From them he nominated twelve, modelling the new community on the twelve tribes of Israel. Their name changed from being called ‘disciples’ (a disciple is one who learns) to being called ‘apostles’ (an apostle is one who is sent). These twelve were to be the foundations of the New Israel, the Church.

Then he selected one of their number, Peter, as their head, and explicitly described his role as head of the Church: “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my church”. At his Ascension he gave them their mission: “Go out to all the world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature”.

All was now in place, his plan to ensure that his work would be continued had been put in motion, but there was one final and critical element. After the Ascension he told them to wait “till they were clothed with power from on high”. This final instruction was fulfilled at Pentecost with the extraordinary manifestations associated with the descent of the Holy Spirit. His Church would be inspired and guided by this divine gift.

The Acts of the Apostles then describes two key outcomes. Firstly, Peter addressed the assembled crowds and proclaimed the essential Christian message: This Jesus whom you crucified has risen from the dead. He is both Lord and Christ”. When asked how to respond to the message Peter declared, “You must repent of your sins and be baptised”. Thus, the sacramental dimension of the Church was established.

Secondly, Acts of the Apostles describes the formation of the first Christian community in Jerusalem. This community, we are told, was faithful to the teaching of the Apostles, to the brotherhood, to the breaking of the bread and the prayers. The Christian life was one of bring in community, with the celebration of the Eucharist at its heart.

With the preaching of the Christian gospel and the formation of the Christian community, the Church came into being.

Here today as we gather for this Mass we do so in fidelity to a tradition of faith and practice scanning two millennia. Today we celebrate a local milestone. The foundation stone of this parish church was laid by Archbishop Hayden on 20 May, ninety years ago. Actually, the foundation stone was laid for the building of a hall, called, interestingly, ‘Pentecost Hall’. This hall served as a community hall providing dances, bridge evenings, concerts and other social activities. On Sundays it was transformed into a church building for the new parish of Sandy Bay, which had been separated from St Joseph’s parish.

The legendary Archdeacon Fr T J O’Donnell was the first parish priest. His immediate task was to raise money to pay off the debt on the hall and wean parishioners away from St Joseph’s. The hall was intended to be a dedicated church, but money needed to be raised, and it would be some time before this building would serve solely as a church.

It became a permanent church under Fr Gerry Fitzgerald who was Parish Priest from 1950 to 1967. Future priests would continue to add to and improve the church making it more and more an appropriate place for worship of God and the celebration of the sacraments.

As we remember and honour those priests who served and built up this parish community, mention should be made of Archbishop Emeritus Adrian Doyle, here today, who served the parish for sixteen years from 1974 to 1989. In more recent memory we acknowledge the service rendered to this parish community by Fr Michael Tate and Fr Brian Nichols.

Placing a parish under the patronage of the Holy Spirit is a little unusual for Catholics. We tend to place our churches under the patronage of a saint. So, the choice of “Holy Spirit Parish” invites the parish community to focus particularly on the role of the Holy Spirit both in our individual lives and in the life of the Church.

The account of the coming of the Holy Spirit in such power upon those gathered in the Upper Room describes the action of the Holy Spirit under two particular images. One was wind and the other was fire. The image of wind speaks of the hidden but real effects of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said in one place that the Spirit blows where he wills. There is a clearly mysterious element to the action of the Holy Spirit. It does remind us that we should always be attentive to the possible action of the Holy Spirit both in our own lives and in the Church.

The image of fire speaks of the Spirit’s transforming power in the life of believers. The Apostles were full of a new courage and confidence to go out and proclaim the Christian Gospel to the crowds gathered outside. Proclaiming the Gospel needs courage and conviction. How much we need the power of the Holy Spirit to embolden us to announce the Gospel to the people of our time! Let us pray that the Holy Spirit will raise up bold evangelists in our time.

Today as we mark this significant anniversary of the parish, I pray that the Holy Spirit will be a living and powerful presence among you. May Sandy Bay Parish live and prosper under the grace of the Holy Spirit.

Archbishop Julian Porteous

Sunday, 19 May 2024

Tags: Homilies, Northern Deanery, Southern Deanery