Sydney mustered all available pomp and majesty on 12 November for the installation of one of her very own sons, Anthony Colin Fisher OP, as the ninth Archbishop of Sydney.
St Mary’s Cathedral was exploding at the seams as several thousand worshippers and well-wishers, bishops and eparchs, and other eminent leaders both civic and religious, stood at the ready to welcome the city’s new shepherd.
And yet, for all the evening’s towering music and its solemn and dignified ceremony, what stood out most were the moments of intimacy the archbishop shared as the night progressed, and the care he took greeting many.
He was embraced by Indigenous Elder, Aunty Elsie Heiss and her cousin Anne at St Mary’s southern doors as both welcomed him to Gadigal land.
Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the papal nuncio who has just been appointed the Vatican’s Secretary for Relations with States, the equivalent of a foreign minister, read Pope Francis’s words of election in Latin before Archdiocesesan Chancellor Monsignor John Usher read it out again in English to much applause.
Cathedral Dean Fr Paul Hilder then led the people in prayer for the archbishop asking God to “make his heart the throne of your Spirit,” before Archbishop Gallagher initiated the most formal part of the evening, escorting Archbishop Fisher to his cathedra, or chair of office, signifying his installation as the new Archbishop of Sydney.
The tenderness between the archbishop and his parents Gloria and Colin was obvious when he spoke to them directly during his homily (see Page 45), thanking them for nurturing him in his own faith.
Archbishop Fisher also set out what he hoped the archdiocese might look like should he, “by the grace of God” get to serve in Sydney until his episcopal retirement in 2035.
“My hope is for a Church in which the Gospel is preached with joy, the wisdom of our tradition minded with fidelity, the sacraments celebrated with dignity and welcome, and the seminaries, convents and youth groups teeming with new life,” he said, “a Church in which our parishes, chaplaincies and educational institutions are true centres of the new evangelisation, our laity theologically literate and spiritually well-formed, our outreach to the needy effective and growing; and God glorified above all.”
If those who came on the night were looking for a vision of confidence and resolve, they found it.