Acknowledging dedication and commitment

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Fr Patrick McAuliffe pictured at a Mass to mark 60 years of priesthood in July. Photo: Giovanni Portelli
Fr Patrick McAuliffe pictured at a Mass to mark 60 years of priesthood in July. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

Dedication is a quality that appears to be diminishing – but one special area where it is still embraced is the priesthood.

Modern times seem almost to dictate that people become restless with their employment and move semi-regularly between jobs, at least to impress “head hunters” who can seem disinterested in applicants who spend long periods serving particular organisations despite the varied roles that they may have held. Long service isn’t respected at management level where turnover also may be rapid.

Marriage is another area where some of the most publicised encounters, especially those involving “stars” end in rather rapid divorce, placing negative pressures on other couples who are working at overcoming problems affecting their relationship and appreciate the sacred nature of the married state.

Domestic appliances, house purchases and even cars, which were once considered the second most expensive purchase of our lives, are now replaced more regularly, possibly due to enticement from the pressures of advertising rather than because of the development of any faults.

Television shows also promote change due to the plethora of “reality” programs where audiences become excited about forced exits by contestants instead of being impressed by the strength of better performances.

Perhaps it’s appropriate that a focus on religious life is mostly absent from mainstream entertainment because the strong commitment shown by most of the people who are prepared to devote their lives to God runs counter to the fleeting pressures of existing in the 21st century.

Commitment, constancy and dedication shown by the priests of our Church always deserve special appreciation from lay people, but those steadfast qualities surely merit even more respect today as we consider the apparent pressures to “move on” that are manifest across the mainstream of our society.

Some of the greatest examples of positive commitment to religious life come from those priests who appear to be retired yet continue working on “lesser duties” as they offer Mass; assist with the celebration of the Sacraments; take the time to “listen” always in the hope of providing assistance and some healing to those who seek their help; anoint the sick and dying; and try to bring spiritual joy into the lives of the faithful.

Mons Kerry Bayada is an example and he’s keenly aware of the special role of a priest while also recognising the human failings which he observes are never eroded by the taking of Holy Orders.

“One of the most wonderful things I believe is that we are human just like everybody else. We sometimes make mistakes but people in their generosity overlook those mistakes and see the wonder of God working through us in our weaknesses as well as in our strengths,” he says.

He has moved to a retirement village following his long-term appointment as parish priest at Our Lady of Fatima, Caringbah, and he remains active in providing the blessings of his priestly life to those who are around him while also serving the needs of some families who previously valued his ministry and occasionally require – and always respect – the contribution he can make to their lives.

Although he has never sought any form of “fame” he’s the key figure in a video presentation on older priests which will be featured in numerous parishes next weekend as part of the annual appeal in support of the Priests’ Retirement Foundation (PRF). The dedication and commitment of our good priests has faced strong tests through recent years as they have endured criticism triggered by aspects of the public reaction to the heinous crimes which were among the human failings of some within their ranks in the past.

Far more seriously than for political leaders who see their public opinion ratings fall either because of
unpopular policies or the lack of personal charisma, the standing of priests unfortunately has been eroded in the estimations of many people especially if they lack the spirit of dedication and commitment to faith in God that sustains men in the priesthood.

Remember to support our ageing priests including those who remain dedicated by working beyond “retirement age” when the PRF seeks your support next weekend which features the annual day to honour the contributions of all fathers.