Outgoing Perth archbishop sizes up the achievements, challenges.
Perth Archbishop Barry Hickey said he was “planning to fade into obscurity” and was “looking forward to it” when introducing his successor Bishop Timothy Costelloe SDB yesterday, employing the understated humour that has been a calling card throughout his 21 years service in the role.
Archbishop Hickey introduced Archbishop-designate Costelloe to a small crowd of local media and church agency workers at St Mary’s Cathedral, fielding several questions after Bishop Costelloe had addressed the gathering.
Archbishop Hickey nominated the opening and re-opening of two seminaries – Redemptorist Mater and St Charles’ – in 1994, as his greatest achievements, subsequently providing the archdiocese and wider Church with almost 100 priests.
Archbishop Hickey also pointed to a greater sense of unity in the archdiocese than before he had taken up the position in 1991.
“There are all sorts of factions and opinions and ideas that can be conflicting at times … but the unity with the Holy Father … that acceptance of the Holy Father and his teachings is strong and I think it’s stronger than when I started,” Archbishop Hickey said.
The fostering of “a huge cohort of catholic lay leaders”, particularly in education, was also encouraging, he said, before turning to the ongoing challenges which the new archbishop would also have to face.
“On the one hand I see great positives. On the other I see the forces that would take us down increasing, but they never will,” the archbishop said.
“The numbers of people practising the Faith have declined; not significantly, but they have declined.
“Secularism has arisen. Legislation has passed parliament that is against the Gospel; against what we believe and we’ve fought hard to stop it.
“The secular forces have been too strong but we haven’t given up the fight,” he said.
The archbishop nominated “the reinvigoration of young people” as a sign the Church was trying to meet that fight.
“I would have thought that young people growing up today would have been full of the values of secular society and would find what Jesus is asking to be too hard and not want it.
“I don’t find that mentality among many young people,” Archbishop Hickey said.
“They want the hard bargain, to make the tough choices, to live morally…They want honesty, justice, sexual morality, and they’re joyful in doing it.
“They’re a great witness. I can’t take any credit for that,” the archbishop said.
“They exist and they’re increasing in number and that’s a joy to me.”
As an unmarried man with no family, the first thing he would do upon retirement was to learn how to cook, the archbishop said to some amusement.
“I’ll still be faithful to my call so it won’t be just going off to theatres and going off to the beach,” he said.
“I still must maintain that vocation; that’s an outlook, a mentality – that you still want to give use, even just to the people around my neighbourhood: To care for the poor and people who are down on their luck.
“I hope to do that and I don’t need anyone’s permission to do that,” Archbishop Hickey said. “The Lord’s command is enough.”