Congratulations, Archbishop Anthony Fisher

This was one boot that was a long time in dropping, but the news has finally broken that Sydney has a new Archbishop. 

My family, Cathy, Mad and Mia, join me in wishing Archbishop-elect Anthony Fisher OP every blessing and grace from God for his new appointment. 

There will be many rejoicing in Sydney and around Australia tonight at this news, but I feel deeply for the people of the Parramatta Diocese who will lose a very much beloved bishop. Bishop Fisher has been so close to his people there, and has embraced the diversity and vibrant youth of that diocese. Especially, in communion with the people of the diocese, he has introduced the new pastoral plan that will see the Parramatta Diocese take up the call of Christ and the mission of the Gospel into the future. There were still many irons in the fire and plans for the future to work out, but now they will be for someone else to take up. As St Paul wrote, “I sowed, Apollos watered, but God gives the growth”.

And now to Sydney. As he is just 54, his care of the diocese of Sydney is likely to cover the next two decades. Sydney is a smaller diocese and (although Parramatta and Sydney are equally Australia’s European oldest settlements) technically the oldest diocese in Australia, which gives it a certain seniority among the Australian dioceses. It has also traditionally been a cardinalatial see – although given Pope Francis’ new paradigms, there is no reason to expect that Arcbishop Fisher will receive a red hat very soon. 

As great as the honour that now befalls this humble Dominican friar is, I pray that he will in fact be given the grace and strength he needs for what is going to be a Herculean task. One would have to be mad to actively seek high office in the Church these days, and I don’t believe Anthony has ever sought it. Right now, he may be recalling an earlier Bishop Fisher from some five centuries back, and indeed asking for his intercession. 

Many years ago, when I first suggested to my dear friend and father in the faith, John Fleming, that I wished to become a Catholic, he recommended to me that I should make contact with a Fr Anthony Fisher at the Dominican Priory in Melbourne. Fr Anthony became my catechist, and 3 years later received me into the Church by confirmation and gave me my first holy Communion. A couple of weeks after confirming me, Fr Anthony was made auxiliary bishop of Sydney. I remain ever thankful to him for his support and friendship over the years.

Thank you, Pope Francis, for this appointment. Holy Spirit, send your fire and strength on Anthony for his new mission. St Dominic, pray for your son. St John Fisher, pray for your fellow bishop.

About Schütz

I am Catholic, married to Cathy, father of Maddy & Mia. Since 2002, I have been the Executive Officer of the Ecumenical & Interfaith Commission of the Archdiocese of Melbourne. I was once a Lutheran pastor, but a "year of grace" and soul-searching led me into the Catholic Church. It was a bumpy ride, but with the support of my (still Lutheran) wife, I was finally confirmed on June 16, 2003.
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6 Responses to Congratulations, Archbishop Anthony Fisher

  1. Stephen K says:

    Dear David, I found your eulogy of + Anthony Fisher consistent with your general religious approach, but dissatisfyingly full of jargon that was simply obscure, meaningless or unsubstantiated. I expect more of you, a normally more meaningfully articulate apologist. I found myself asking many questions, as follows:

    There will be many rejoicing in Sydney and around Australia tonight at this news [what number do you have in mind for “many”, and how do you know this?], but I feel deeply for the people of the Parramatta Diocese who will lose a very much beloved [how do you know he is very much “beloved”?] bishop.

    Bishop Fisher has been so close [what do you mean by “close”? what things did he do to be close? How do you know how “his people” feel regarding his closeness?] to his people there, and has embraced [what do you mean by “embraced”?] the diversity [what do you mean by “diversity” here?] do you include the diversity of different views or attitudes, or simply socio-economic and ethnic conditions? and vibrant [what does this mean?] youth of that diocese.

    Especially, in communion with the people of the diocese [would it be more accurate to say ‘with a selected few’ here?] , he has introduced the new pastoral plan that will see the Parramatta Diocese take up the call of Christ and the mission of the Gospel into the future.

    …….although given Pope Francis’ new paradigms [what paradigms are these? A paradigm of retreating from worldly or “princely” honours, for example? And, do you agree with his new paradigms, whatever they are?], there is no reason to expect that Archbishop Fisher will receive a red hat very soon. [Would you, personally, like him to?]

    As great as the honour that now befalls this humble [what do you mean by ‘humble’ here? Filled with a sense of modesty? Of lowly rank? Is he, in fact, a humble friar if he is a bishop?] Dominican friar is, I pray that he will in fact be given the grace and strength he needs for what is going to be a Herculean task.

    One would have to be mad to actively seek high office in the Church these days [what do you mean by this? Do you mean deliberately career-aim? To what extent is ‘seeking high office’ ever been other than seeking to cultivate networks of like-minded mentors? And why do you think one would have to be ‘mad’? Do you mean no normal person would want to assume an increasingly tarnished and discredited office?], and I don’t believe Anthony has ever sought it. Right now, he may be recalling an earlier Bishop Fisher from some five centuries back, and indeed asking for his intercession [What do you imagine St John Fisher can or would do here? ]

    I think your answers to these questions would enhance your eulogy.

    • Schütz says:

      Fair enough, Steve. I admit it was a bit of a “jargony” post. I’ll respond later today when I have a spare few minutes. I am off to Ballarat today to teach for Anima Education, so I worn have much opportunity for blogging.

      In the meantime, Rocco Palmo does a good job here: http://whispersintheloggia.blogspot.com.au/2014/09/in-sydney-fisher-king-pell-protege.html

      • Faz says:

        LOL, I first read your typo as ‘I warn you, I’ll have plenty of time for blogging!’.

        Beyond that, look what you’ve started, David, the [square-bracketed parsing] is spreading!

        I also thought your assessment was straight out of the ‘PR101 manual’, but I wonder if you were so effusive because you’ve had personal dealings with +Fisher?

        If that’s the case, you might be better to reflect on how you found him person-to-person.

        [Just a suggestion]

        [No offence intended]

        [Not much anyhow]

        [Too early for port?]

  2. Schütz says:

    Gentlemen, thank you for your comments. First let me say that I would be effusive about +Anthony’s appointment even if I did not know him. He is the kind of bishop I think we need more of. Young(ish), well educated, orthodox, pastoral, evangelical, and reforming. The “many” in Sydney who I referred to who will be joyful at his appointment are the “many” who want bishops like that.

    In actual fact, my post was a little reserved. I do have a personal connection with Bishop Fisher, but I didn’t want to make any sort of claim on that in my assessment in this post, and I still don’t. Bishop Fisher is a friendly guy, and has lots of friends and personal connections, so there is nothing exclusive or select about this relationship. If you have the chance, I would really recommend you get to know him personally too. You won’t regret it.

    As for the jargon about “being close” to his flock, when this article in the Australian today (http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/mud-on-boots-of-new-chief-catholic-anthony-fisher/story-e6frg6nf-1227063358658) quotes Bishop Anthony as saying that his style of bishoping is “mud on your boots” and “smell of the sheep”, he is being straight. That’s how he is and how he will be.

    When I say that he prepared the pastoral plan for Parramatta “in communion” with the people of Parramatta, he really did. The process was broad and inclusive all through the several years it took to prepare and launch, with lots of parish meetings and other opportunities for real input from the folk in the pews. Everyone I’ve spoken too is pretty happy with the result.

    When I speak of him “embracing the diversity” of the diocese in Parramatta, I chiefly meant the cultural diversity. It would be hard to find a more diverse mob in any diocese in Australia, including Sydney and Melbourne. From indigenous to Vietnamese to Lebonese, Bishop Anthony was in touch with them all. And he was known about the town too. Walking with him down the main street of Parramatta, my daughter heard someone say (as passing) “that’s the bishop”; in shops and restaurants, people would greet him and engage him in conversations and vice versa.

    I also mentioned Parramatta’s “youthfulness”. I once arrived at the Cathedral to find him among a crowd of a hundred or so ethnically diverse youth on the cloister lawn, with a sausage and sauce in bread from the BBQ nearby, chatting and laughing merrily with them. As Bishop of Parramatta he has personally lead the largest contingents of pilgrims from any Diocese in Australia to the last two World Youth Days.

    My one other reflection, while on my lunch break and before I go about my pressing business, is that it is a great pity he could not have been left in Parramatta to pursue the good work that he was doing there. Why is it necessary that we move bishops around from diocese to diocese? Parramatta is, I believe, one of the largest dioceses in terms of population in Australia, and it is growing like crazy both in the Church (one indication is that the seminary there is producing more priests than Sydney’s seminary) and in general population. I am convinced that +Anthony could have remained in Parramatta and still become a prominent leader among Australia’s bishops. There was no reason why not, at some time in the future, the Red Hat could not have been bestowed upon the Bishop of Parramatta, rather than the Archbishop of Sydney, if he earned it through merit and hard work and good example. Instead, we have for some reason decided that Sydney is the “mother church” of Australia (which she was and is, historically speaking, but not in real terms today) and that it is the “highest-ranking” position in Australia. Why else would anyone have thought that the Archbishop of another capital city might have been given the job, when he has already in his second diocese in as little as ten years? So, I would rather have seen +Anthony remain in Parramatta and receive the recognition due to this service there than that he had to be shifted to Sydney. And I rather suspect that he might have wanted the same, although honestly I do not know his heart or mind on this matter, and this is only my supposition from the little I know of him.

    And this is what I meant when I spoke of +Anthony’s humility and not seeking promotion. When I say that he is “humble”, I do mean “filled with a sense of modesty”. The tension between being “of lowly rank” and a bishop is one that I believe he feels very deeply, and one reason why he prefers to get about in his Dominican habit rather than the official black cassock with pink piping.

  3. Joshua says:

    I second all that David wrote in his post and his comment above – for, while I cannot think of a better Archbishop for Sydney (nor a worthier Cardinal-to-be), it saddens me that Parramatta should lose such a good bishop, just as it saddened me (despite his evident worthiness) when the Dominican friar I knew and admired was transferred to Sydney from Melbourne, where I was living at the time. If only Parramatta and Broken Bay were rejoined to Sydney – that would right a wrong indeed. Now is the perfect opportunity to reunite all: but of course that is merely my wishful thinking!

  4. Brian Coyne says:

    The plain statistical fact, David, is that nearly 90% of the adult baptised in Australia now have left the pews — and the participation rate shows no sign of slowing (and is probably being exacerbated by the information coming out of the Royal Commission). Here in the Parramatta Diocese the record is that Anthony Fisher has done nothing to encourage anything for this vast majority that have left. All his strategies have been geared to stroking the small remnant minorities who seem to believe they alone can read the mind of Almighty God and everyone else can go to Hell.

    I fully expect we are in for “more of the same” which has characterized this great apostacy and exit out of the pews for the past 40+ years. Francis is listening to George Pell rather than the opinions of any of the other bishops. What we can look forward to is Benedict’s vision of a “smaller, purer Church” — basically composed of those who believe they are “God’s chosen ones” who have been given some kind of exclusive access to reading the Divine Mind.

    As I wrote on Catholica a little while ago: “The official institution simply no longer speaks in language that is accessible to the vast majority. I think it is because all the energy at the institutional level is invested in not upsetting the remnant minorities following the Ratzinger belief that ‘The Christian believer is a simple person: bishops should protect the faith of these little people against the power of intellectuals.’ That’s what happened to +Bill Morris. He was trying to speak in language that served the needs of the majority of his vast flock. A small minority did not like that language though. They complained to Rome. Rome listened to them (and couldn’t give a stuff about the majority of the people in Toowoomba Diocese) and the rest is history — Morris had an official visitation forced on him and he was eventually forced to retire.

    When do you think Rome might wake up? When Hell has frozen over; when everybody except their precious remnant has left the pews; or when any of them are fronting the Almighty and asked to explain their ‘brilliant strategies’ for ‘bringing to Good News to all of humankind’?” [LINK]

    We obviously move in different circles because, apart from the conservative blogs and websites I visit from time to time, I’ve heard nothing but negative comments about this choice Pope Francis has made.

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