The Night WATAC Celebrated Vatican II in Parliament House with Bishop Pat Power and Sister Anne Derwin, 12 September 2012, NSW Parliament House

On Wednesday evening 12th September 2012 WATAC and friends gathered in NSW Parliament House Theatrette to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the opening of Vatican II.

The evening's joy was clouded by the news that Bishop Bill Morris, one of our guest speakers was sadly unable to be present as he'd been instructed by his doctor he was too ill to travel. This caused us sadness; and shock that with just one day till the event who could fill Bishop Bill's place at the table with Sister Anne Derwin rsj? The good news was Bishop Pat Power had a 24 hr window free in his diary and was delighted to help WATAC out. Both Pat and Anne shared their wonderful reflections of Vatican II. While everyone was saddened by Bishop Bill's absence and concerned for his health, the evening itself was a great event as you read in Carmel Maguire's record of the gathering. Just to whet your appetite let me add here that I have been in contact with Bishop Bill and he has agreed to come in March next year to speak with WATAC at Parliament House Theatrette, Alleluia!

Dr Carmel Maguire, of the Randwick WATAC group, wrote about this fantastic evening for WATAC News:

WATAC is blessed in its bishops! When Bishop Bill Morris was too sick to come to Sydney for our advertised meeting with him on Wednesday, 12 September, at very short notice Bishop Pat Power stepped into the breach. Sister Anne Derwin, congregational leader of the Sisters of St Joseph, joined Pat on the stage at the Theatrette in Parliament House and Rosemary Breen facilitated this vital session with expertise.

Pat began by quoting Cardinal Koenig's address at the Council on the nature of church. He brought out the importance of dialogue in contrast to the 'closed shop' mentality, and reminded us that respect for tradition does not mean that we have to be locked into the past. With the appreciation of the value of any life comes appreciation of the role of the whole People of God. Pat referred to the weakness of the response to the Vatican put up by the Australian bishops after the dismissal from his diocese of Bill Morris. He sees Vatican II as primarily a pastoral Council, with the strong image of a pilgrim Church, and he referred to Sri Lankan Jesuist Aloysius Pieris's book on Vatican II., Vatican II and Trent: two approaches to liturgy and priesthood.

Our country's treatment of asylum seekers is a cause for shame and Pat mentioned Ann-Mari Jordens' book, Hope: Refugees and Their Supporters in Australia since 1947. He made reference to the sexual abuse scandal in the Church and to his 1998 address at the Oceania Synod of Bishops in Rome, in which he pointed to marginalized people in society and in the church and to the need for change. He continues to point out that the attitude of the official Church has been skewed and there is a strong need to re-imagine human sexuality. What is officially promulgated in matters ecumenical and liturgical is 'just so much against what the spirit is all about'. He also instanced the authoritarian approach to US nuns. [Pat also referred to his interest in reading a book by Colette Livermore, an Australian who was one of Mother Teresa's nuns, called, Hope Endures.]

Sister Anne Derwin talked about some of the work of nuns, for example in adult education groups in Revesby, and how much influence Yves Congar's theology of charism had on the nuns at the time while the whole Council encouraged the religious orders to explore, w3hich they did. Listening to Anne's talk reminded me of Sr Pat Farrell OSF in her presidential address to the LCWR Assembly in USA 'Navigating the shifts', when she said of Vatican II 'How significant for us who took it so to heart and have been so shaped by it!' Anne gave as part of the exploration of the new possibilities the great effort put in by the religious orders in reaching new understanding of eucharist. She talked of one example of the growth of ecumenism saying that in the wide open spaces of outback Australia ecumenism bounded along, for example the Easter liturgies conducted in Quilpie, Queensland, organised jointly by two Josephite sisters jointly with two Anglican women who are ordained ministers.

Vatican II made the whole thing real about the supremacy of conscience and its strong call was for us to be a pilgrim people with a preference for the poor. Neither the intervention in the Northern Territory nor our treatment of asylum seekers seem to answer that call. The Council also gave us the gift of scripture and liturgical reform which was communal and comprehended by all. Another achievement was episcopal collegiality, especially in South America, which has all been changed now. Anne sees that we are waiting for charismatic leadership – probably by a woman this time - to which Rosemary Breen added 'maybe another little farmer Pope'.

This was a splendid evening filled with spiritual (as well as temporal) nourishment.

Carmel Maguire