By Paul Dobbyn
BRISBANE archdiocese’s Assembly of Catholic Professionals guest speaker Tim Kirk, voted Australian winemaker of the Year in 2013 by a gourmet wine magazine, recently delivered what he called his “theology of winemaking” to the assembly’s largest audience yet.
“Part of God’s glorious creation is present through the medium of wine,” he said.
“To work with creation, a particular landscape – God’s design and gift – and grow vines in that landscape is a wonderful gift.”
The chief winemaker and chief executive officer of Clonakilla Wines in his talk “Business, Family and the Catholic Thing” took his audience at the Hilton Brisbane on February 27 on an exhilarating journey of discovery.
Mr Kirk told how his biochemist father Dr John Kirk had founded a family business in Murrumbateman, near Canberra.
Clonakilla Wines had grown from producing 592 cases of wine in 1971 to more than 18,000 cases today.
Mr Kirk told of searching for God’s will in his life – of being torn between a desire to study theology and make wine and of a Jesuit priest’s advice which settled his decision.
He also presented three principles which have made Clonakilla Wines such a success, suggesting they could be readily applied to spreading the Christian message.
Drawing on his love of viticulture, Mr Kirk described the Catholic faith in Brisbane as “growing in a quiet way like a seed in good soil into a tree for birds to find shelter”.
He also observed “the fact that we have over 200 people at a lunch of an Assembly of Catholic Professionals is a great testament that the faith is truly alive”.
Ipswich parish priest Fr Peter Dillon was master of ceremonies for the event, ably replacing ACP founder Peter de Keratry, now fundraising campaign manager in the Archdiocese of Chicago, United States.
Fr Dillon acknowledged ACP luncheon sponsor The Catholic Leader noting “as the official newspaper and online news for the archdiocese, it reaches a readership of 45,000 a week”.
“This new approach they have taken with this cross-platform offering of the Leader reaches hundreds of parishes throughout Queensland and the rest of Australia …,” he said. He also noted as a not-for-profit service of the archdiocese, support from Catholic businesses was essential.
Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge was next introduced to lead the gathering in prayer before lunch.
Prior to doing so, he amused the gathering by reference to rumours swirling about his possible succession of Cardinal George Pell as Archbishop of Sydney.
“I was in Sydney yesterday but I came back last night and I thought what a good thing to do, to come back to Brisbane … and to stay.”
Archbishop Coleridge also referred to his friendship with the guest speaker.
“Tim and I go back a long way … I have taught him, though not at school.
“He was a brilliant student of biblical studies before he took to winemaking … he was also a great friend and supporter of mine in the archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn where I was once upon a time,” he said.
Mr Kirk told how his father having come to “far-flung Canberra” from the United Kingdom had eventually set up the Clonakilla Vineyard.
Meanwhile, Mr Kirk was teaching religious education at Melbourne’s Xavier College.
He was also becoming increasingly involved in the Disciples of Jesus Covenant Community. However he was “torn”.
“At a Jesuit retreat, I confessed to one of the priests that every time I looked at scriptures all I could think of was the best way to make wine,” Mr Kirk said. “The priest queried: ‘Why assume it’s a distraction?’
“‘You come here in good faith with an open heart to the Lord. Maybe he’s trying to tell you something.’”
Not long after this Mr Kirk went on to join his father in winemaking.
No doubt business people and others at the ACP gathering keenly listened to the three principles which had made Clonakilla so successful.
Mr Kirk applied these principles to his other great passion – evangelisation.
“In the case of Christianity, it’s about the person of Jesus himself; the love of God made visible in this man.”
He also left his audience with a challenge.
“Who’s going to do that speaking about Jesus if not us?” he said.
“Share your excitement about what you have discovered: the person of Jesus.”
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