Speech in Reply on behalf of the Jubilarians

Fr. Frank Freeman

Province Day at Lysterfield on Easter Thursday 2010

Dear ConfreresFr. Frank Freeman

It is an honour, a pleasure and surely a welcome duty to reply on behalf of the jubilarians to your encouraging words of appreciation as expressed by Fr Provincial before this evening’s Eucharist and now Fr Norman Ford. Appreciation is very meaningful word: it has a twofold significance. First on your part it means you find in our lived lives a value to be acclaimed and honoured, and then secondly in the sense of adding value, your words appreciates our lives as your confreres and uplifts us. So we thank you both for the honour and also your encouraging appreciation.

Diamonds, gold, rubies and silver are the traditional symbols of respective anniversaries but let us this evening give them flesh and blood.

As I look over the list of this year’s jubilarians and consider the years they have lived in the society involved in a wide range of apostolic activities, I think of workers at a loom, weaving a precious garment for the Lord. Woven into this garment there are the golden threads of 50 years of both priestly and religious life of Michael Keogh, Gerrit Kran, Tony Moester, Elio Proietto, Michael Jackson, Nick Castelyns, and myself. But these golden threads surround the inset diamonds of 60 years, and more, of religious profession and priesthood of Fr John Murphy and Ted Cooper.

But then the garment we weave is held together by the strong maturing ruby threads of 40 years of priestly ministry and religious life lived by Fr Frank Moloney, Brendan Murphy and Anthony Quang and lightened up by the shining silver threads of 25 years of ordination of Kelly Kam and religious profession of Brother David O’Brien.

Truly such a garment together woven for the Lord represents our lived consecration over the years. Yet, if we look closer, we see also other threads have been woven there. One can see the darker threads of difficult moments experienced, of doubts and uncertainties and the black threads of the loss of confreres who, had they lived, would have shared in these celebrations. Their names surface in our memories, and rightly so, for they have stood at the loom with us over the years and, although the shuttle has fallen from their hands, they are remembered since their honoured dust we still hold in trust at Rupertswood: Fr Adrian Wenting, Fr Gerard Remie and for the 60th of Ordination, Fr Wally Cornell and the unforgettable Fr Adrian Papworth. It is indeed well that we remembered them for prayerful remembrance is also an act of appreciation and honour.

Two years ago. A pharmacist from Western Australia, a reader of the Salesian Bulletin despite his sincere atheism on seeing the photographs of the 2008 Jubilarians featured in the Bulletin wrote to me: “What a waste of lives! No homes, no children, to call their own, no fleshed bonds or wealth to bequeath to the world, no great reputation or society’s acceptance or appreciation to be justifiable proud of. What a waste!

How wrong can one be! Our total religious and priestly consecration surely emblazoned the message that possessions do not make people happy: they often stagnate and dry up the human mind and heart. Only people make people happy and friendship is the only lasting and worthwhile wealth to be had. Your jubilarians of this year can testify that there is indeed a richness to be had in the sacramental daily life of our communities and such enrichment is to be enjoyed. Indeed Constitution 49 goes even further stating that “our daily lives lived in our Salesian communities is a reflection of the life of the Blessed Trinity and is capable of fulfilling all the aspirations of the human heart.”

Given his atheistic tenets could our pharmacist friend possible understand that truth or the significance of the comradeship and belonging so evident this evening!

Encouraged by your valuing appreciation this evening, may our younger jubilarians, stand at the loom for many years to come, finding that their community life indeed reflects the Life of the Blessed Trinity and fulfilment for ‘all the aspirations of their human hearts.’ The poet Shelly reminds us in his appreciation of the soaring skylark that “We look before and after and we pine for what is not.” For we jubilarians of older years, we do look backwards down the years that have been, and in our golden years we do look for ‘fulfilment of the aspirations of the human heart’. May our pining not be a nostalgic trip back over the years but be for the time when our Salesian life will not be a reflection of the life of the Blessed Trinity but a participation in it: when we will see not the often confused tapestry of our years’ weaving but the complete beauty of the garment we have together woven for the Lord by long years of priestly and religious life.

On behalf of the 2010 jubilarians, both present with us and those sadly absent, thank you once again for your presence here that in itself speaks volumes, but also thank you for your honouring words and encouraging appreciation. They will remain with us to enrich our coming years.

Thank you all and God be with you all.