A glorious heritage and a sure future

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Home > Archbishop > Frontpage Message > A glorious heritage and a sure future

September 17 marks the fifth anniversary of my service as Archbishop of Hobart. The past five years in Tasmania have led me to develop a deep love for this great island state and its people.  I have had the opportunity to drive regularly to different corners of the island. The beauty of Tasmania continually captivates me. I love visiting the smaller rural communities as well as the larger population centres. Tasmania is such a beautiful place.

Slowly I am discovering more of the Catholic heritage of Tasmania, especially when I celebrate significant anniversaries, like the recent 120th anniversary of Sacred Heart Church, Karoola. The exquisite Pugin churches in Oatlands and Colebrook are treasures we have in the Archdiocese, and I am conscious of our heritage which we cannot afford to lose.

I have come to admire the first Catholic bishop of the island, Bishop Robert William Willson. He had a love of the traditions associated with the Gothic revival. His compassionate concern for the sufferings and injustices experienced by the convicts, and his advanced ideas about care of those suffering mental illness, reveal his pastoral solicitude.

I am aware of our history, the early years of a desperately poor and struggling Catholic community, composed principally of Irish convicts. The early priests faced great physical challenges in caring for Catholics in isolated and scattered locations across the State. I have admired the great determination among the Catholic people to establish parishes and build churches.

The Catholic Church in Tasmania has been blessed by the dedicated service of religious, particularly women. The early presence of the Presentation Sisters led to the establishing of a number of Catholic schools across the island, including St Mary’s College in Hobart. The Sisters of St Joseph have been a strong presence in Tasmania and have a special link with Fr Julian Tenison Woods. The Archdiocese saw the emergence of the Missionary Sisters of Service founded by Fr John Wallis. All these Orders were enriched by many local vocations.

The Church here grew and expanded in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and became a significant presence in, and contributor to, the Tasmanian society.

As Archbishop I see my role as ensuring the ongoing vitality of the Catholic Church and its contribution to the broader Tasmanian community. We have a great heritage but face our own share of challenges.

High on the list of immediate challenges is the provision of priests in each of the twenty-five parishes. I am grateful to those priests from other lands and cultures who have accepted the invitation to minister among us. They bring their own unique gifts and enrich us. It is a joy to have a number of seminarians who have offered themselves to serve the Catholic community.

We are blessed with the presence among us of a number of new religious communities who bring their particular charisms which contribute to the building up of the life and mission of the Church.

The Church offers a particular contribution to the broader community in Tasmania through our schools, hospitals, social and aged services. We have a wide range of services which are rendered daily to Tasmanians, all of which are inspired by our love of Christ. 

We have gone through a very difficult period where we have become aware that some have suffered at the hands of those in the Church. The stories of these victims have deeply impacted me. I am determined to support victims and their families and to do all that I can to ensure that this does not happen again.

There have been a number of new initiatives in the Archdiocese aimed at strengthening the faith of the Catholic population. These will continue and develop in the coming years. There are many good things happening among us that promise a new spring in Catholic life.

While the number of Mass-going Catholics is declining, I am confident that we are laying sound foundations upon which we can grow once more. The Church over its long history has weathered many storms and been through very dark times, and then, often unexpectantly, has flowered afresh. I believe the Church here will flourish in the time ahead.

As I mark five years of service as Archbishop I look forward to the years ahead. We are oriented to growing in our relationship with Jesus Christ and becoming, as Pope Francis has urged us, true “missionary disciples”. 

Archbishop Julian Porteous