NO HIRED MAN HERE!
Diamond Jubilee of Ordination to the Priesthood
of the Reverend Doctor John Patrick Carey
Bishop Michael, Bishop Gerard, Monsignor Ted Wilkes, Father Richard Gleeson, David and Judith, Barbara and Don and their families, staff and pupils of St. Joseph’s School, brother priests, deacons and seminarians of the Diocese of Armidale, brothers and sisters in Christ.
The suite of readings Father John chose for this Mass, identify the fence lines which necessarily bind the lives of those who are called to share in the ministry of the Eternal High Priest: an anointing for purpose; a sacramental partnership with the Spirit of God, that makes us priests of the New Testament, like magnifying glasses for the burning heat of the Sun/Son; the requirement to abandon shame and deceitfulness so as to articulate the Word of God in His utter fulness; a demand that we empty ourselves out and have the resulting darkness filled with the light of the Holy Trinity of God, which shines in our very being, and then out to others, to the whole world; and to crown all these things, crucially, says Paul, we are destined to keep our feet of clay, and carry the Treasure about in vessels prone to severe damage. Magnifying the Lord, radiating His inextinguishable light, and stating the truth openly, being true servants, are all steps too far, unless it is clear that such an overwhelming power to teach, to shepherd, comes from God and not from us.
There is a sense in which John had a little bit of a head start in these humility stakes – humility, that adjunct gift born of the three theological virtues, Faith, Hope and Love. It seems it might help greatly if, in your Australian family tree, you can point to a convict ancestor, and like some of us, John can: to wit, his great grandfather, William Carey, sentenced to both Tasmania and Norfolk Island. The treasure we hold is not from ourselves, but is lavishly given to the sons and daughters of convicts and battlers, people who were separated from everything they had ever known and were forced to cross oceans for a misdemeanour; who turned loss into gain, came to a new place, and brought with them a treasure ever old and ever new. We have been, and are now, witnesses to the thriving of family and faith in the Carey and O’Connor families centred, thank God, in Catholic Armidale.
This shepherd looks back, in gratitude, 60 years and more. In gratitude to Bishop Doody, who showed confidence in him, saw the promising seeds of faith, service, and intellect in this young man and, in 1951, sent the 17-year-old, John Carey, to Propaganda Fide College in Rome. Pius XII occupied the Chair of Peter, and John sat before his professors, with young men who would be future missionaries, parish priests, bishops, and cardinals. The Lord had long since begun the good work in him.
In 1958, Pius XII died. Father John was completing his Doctorate, having already gained a Licentiate in Theology. Pope John XXIII Roncalli was elected and very soon announced a General Council of the Church, now known as Vatican Council II. How could a new priest, an adopted Roman, and a man steeped in the Sacred Scriptures, not be invigorated?
God’s good work continued in him. John returned to Australia in 1959 after 8 years away, and was welcomed back as the first priest of the Diocese from Armidale City to have been ordained in Rome.
He echoed, at his welcome home, the outlying duties of a good shepherd, reflected in the invitation, Pope John had recently made, for prayer to be offered for the unity of Christians. John had been formed in the cosmopolitan Roman Church and understood the call of the Universal Priesthood of Jesus Christ. The wind of ‘aggiornamento’ was at his back, even though the Vatican Council would not convene until 1962. No hired man here!
Father John’s first appointment was as Assistant Priest at St. Nicholas’. And no-one will mention cars! From 1959 until 1962, he was with Monsignor James Healy in Inverell. Next it was St. Mary’s, Tenterfield with Monsignor Dave Hiscox (a relation by marriage). John’s ultimate placement as Curate was to St. Francis Xavier, Moree. That appointment became one of Administrator, and after, he spent 12 years as Administrator at St. Nicholas’, 16-and-a-half years as Parish Priest of Uralla, and finally - his crowning glory - almost 18 years as Parish Priest of St. Patrick’s, Glen Innes.
This is a good shepherd who has always known his own, and they him. He still has the smell of the sheep on him - alluding to that slightly discombobulating phrase used by the Supreme Parish Priest, Pope Francis. By now the odour is sweet and the whiff is of sanctity! No hired man here!
And I’ve heard John, as you must have so many times, speak with delight about the members of his family; talk long and enthusiastically about his ancestors, the places he loves, and the memories he cherishes.
Father John has served when he was asked, with the young, with the aboriginal people, as a member of the Council of Priests and as a Consultor, on the Commission for Catholic Schools, as Vicar Forane, prison chaplain, the Clerical Salary Fund, the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine Committee, and the Catholic Viewpoint Editorial Committee. Proudly, and fortunately for the Diocese, he was a member of the original Board of the Armidale Diocesan Investment Group, appointed in April, 1974.
In 2014, the year John became an Octogenerian, he was awarded the Papal Cross, ‘Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice’, presented to him by Bishop Michael in 2015, in the presence of the priests and deacons of the diocese. The award parchment reads: The Supreme Pontiff Francis has deemed it appropriate to make the award of the Venerable Cross, For the Church and the Pontiff, granted particularly to those outstanding in their work and dedication, to the Reverend John Patrick Carey, according him at the same time the faculty to wear this decoration himself.
Whatever he did, John was a kind, quietly-spoken, priest, with a ready smile, a quick wit, a mind for detail, and willing to suffer fools gladly. He is a trustworthy man, without guile.
You don’t get to live 60 years of shepherding without allowing grace to penetrate the very core of your being, over and over, again. Even when there are moments - as there must have been for Father John - when we are suddenly and gut-churningly convinced that God made a terrible mistake when he chose us, the grace of calm and serenity floods in again, and we realise that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit will not be thwarted when it comes to the care of His Holy People. God’s gracious choice of us, if at times apparently inexplicable, is never, ever in vain, is never a lie.
It seems that, in those black times, there are two things that centre we priests and deacons: the solid grip on us of the High Priest, Himself - the same hand that reached down to the sinking, gasping Peter - and the love, commitment and unreserved confirmation of us by family and friends.
We are very, very proud of you, Father John Patrick Carey, son of John Joseph Carey and Eileen O’Connor Carey, our esteemed brother! You are a good man, a good priest, and an honourable friend. No hired man here!
Throughout the 60 years of the priesthood of the New Testament in which you have shared, countless named people, and perhaps many you have never put a name to, alive and dead, have been near you and learned about God, Who is Love. They have been shown respect, they have offered the Eucharistic Sacrifice at your hands, they have been shown mercy, been strengthened by the bond of loving service in Matrimony, been anointed with the oil of the infirm, and sent on to eternal life with the sign of the cross first signed on their foreheads at Baptism.
You have been a father, a brother, a teacher, a friend, and a man never too proud to sit at the feet of other wise men and women.
We promise you, in the name of our common Father, our support, service and prayer, as the Lord who chose you, leads you now, with love and an exquisite plan, in ways that are unknown and new. We pray with affection and gratitude, and we commend you to the loving care of Mary, Our blessed Mother, and Our Lady of the Rosary.
“Sit Deus, qui coepit in vobis opus bonum, perfeciet!”
May God who began the good work in you – in all of us – bring it to completion!
To God be the glory, forever and ever.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
- St. Patrick’s Church, Glen Innes, 13th November, 2017