While speaking at a recent lunch for student leaders, Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP spoke of the profound experiences he has had as a priest, including having a woman pass away in his arms during a parish visit.
“I was at a parish not very long ago and I was taken to a nursing home… They asked me if I’d go and talk to one who was very low, not far from death and if I’d go and bless her.
As he prayed the very last line of the Prayers for the Dying, Archbishop Fisher said, the woman gave a deep sigh and died in his arms.
“That was such a moment to have in my life. It still brings tears to my eyes when I think about it. What a privilege to be a priest, to be there for people, uniting them with God at the very end.”
You could have heard a pin drop in the room where the 28 student leaders from Sydney Catholic Schools Southern region were gathered for lunch as the Archbishop related the touching story.
He had been asked by the students to tell them his personal vocation story.
Archbishop Fisher said he had thoughts of the priesthood since he was 15 years old and was 25 when he entered the Dominicans after working for some time as a lawyer. He had only been a Dominican for about one week when he felt certain he was in the right place.
“I remember saying very clearly to God and myself, ‘I’m absolutely sure this is right for me’.”
While priests and bishops may not receive financial rewards for their work, he said, they receive great riches in the closeness they can experience with God and his people.
“People invite you into their lives, those most precious moments of their lives, births, marriages, deaths, their communions with God, the times they feel distant from God, their sins and their sanctity, their sickness, their dying—all these very precious moments,” Archbishop Fisher said.
“People bring you in and ask you to mediate the divine for them. That is a wonderful privilege.”
That was such a moment to have in my life. It still brings tears to my eyes when I think about it
He encouraged the young people to consider all their vocational options.
“I certainly commend it to any of you here to think of being a priest or a religious among your options. Ask yourself if God’s calling you to be a priest or a nun. It is possible, it does still happen that God speaks to people in one way or another and people realise that’s where they’ll be able to flourish.”
Sabrina Pusateri from Clancy Catholic College in West Hoxton asked the Archbishop whether the Church should be doing more to dialogue with people of other faiths.
Archbishop Fisher said the Church does “lots of different things” to engage with other faiths.
He pointed out that in two days time he would be hosting the annual Iftar Dinner at Cathedral House.
What a privilege to be a priest, to be there for people, uniting them with God at the very end
“In this very room, two nights from now I’ll be having an Iftar Dinner, that’s the dinner you have during Ramadan when the Muslims break their fast after sunset.”
“We have all the Muslim leaders here. The Grand Mufti will be sitting on my right and the Ayatollah of the Shiites will be sitting on my left.”
Other Imams and leading Rabbis will also attend the dinner, he said.
“It’s a very good thing we do every year and we’ve built up a friendship over the years.”
“I think there are many occasions now when the Church is really working very collaboratively with people of other faiths.”
Patrick Cartwright from St John Bosco College in Engadine asked how the Church could engage more with young people.
Getting more youth groups started and encouraging young people to attend World Youth Day and the Australian Catholic Youth Festival were some of the ways the Church is seeking to involve youth, the Archbishop responded.
Meanwhile, Melissa Dib from St Patrick’s College in Sutherland asked whether it was appropriate to have people of religious faith in Parliament making laws for a multicultural and pluralistic society.
The Church is really working very collaboratively with people of other faiths
Archbishop Fisher responded that since Christians and people of other religious faiths make up a significant portion of Australia’s population, it was fitting that they should represented at the highest levels of government.
The lunch held at Cathedral House was the third and final in a series of three lunches hosted by the Archbishop for students leaders from the Eastern, Southern and inner West regions of Sydney Catholic Schools.
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