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.