By Emilie Ng
BISHOP John Gerry’s episcopal mission began with wobbling knees as he processed down St Stephen’s Cathedral to be installed as one of Brisbane’s auxiliary bishops.
But like the prophet Ezekiel, whose words were proclaimed at Bishop Gerry’s Jubilee Mass last week, the Holy Spirit overtook the bishop and his wobbling knees became strong.
“It was something palpable, I can remember it still, and I floated into the cathedral,” Bishop Gerry (pictured below) said.
He shared his story of the Holy Spirit’s work in his 65 years as a priest and 40 years as bishop at his Jubilee Mass on July 5 in the same cathedral.
Archbishop Mark Coleridge, Archbishop Emeritus John Bathersby, Bishop Brian Finnigan, Bishop William Morris, vicar general Monsignor Peter Meneely, cathedral dean Fr David Pascoe, and Bishop Gerry’s friends and family, including his brother Divine Word Missionaries Father Francis Gerry, were among those who joined him to celebrate.
“I like jubilees,” the bishop said in his homily.
“More than birthdays they invite us to stop and take a good hard look at the mystery of life that we are gifted with.”
Bishop Gerry has always looked at his appointment in 1975 with a touch of humility.
“There’s a voice that says to me, ‘John, don’t take yourself too seriously; it’s my Church, these are my people in whom I delight. I am still in charge’,” Bishop Gerry said.
“I thank God for the almost 65 years of ordained priesthood of Jesus Christ and 40 years as auxiliary bishop in this Spirit-blessed archdiocese.
“Priesthood still is the most marvellous gift and mystery – there is no end to the wonder of it; it’s a joyful life.”
Bishop Gerry recalled two blessed moments in his 65 years as a priest, firstly his love for parish life at Queen of Apostles Parish, Stafford, and his involvement with social welfare apostolates.
“I inherited the relatively young parish at Stafford,” he said.
“They were mostly young families; dinkum Aussie battlers.
“I couldn’t have been more blessed.”
The bishop said his early parish days inspired his episcopal motto.
“They taught me how to be a priest for Christ’s people, and that Stafford experience led me to choose for my episcopal motto, a Pauline maxim, ‘Though many, one in Christ’.”
Bishop Gerry’s work in his 25-year role as vicar for social welfare and 12 years as chairman of Australian Catholic Relief (now Caritas Australia) taught him the importance of reaching out to the poor, to regard people by what they have suffered, and the Church’s power to be an empowering home.
Bishop Gerry said he was “pleased” about Pope Francis’ insistence on God’s mercy, and the retired bishop said this must be at the heart of evangelisation.
“You may have noticed also how often Pope Francis speaks of tenderness,” he said.
“Tenderness I think is a beautiful word, but it’s more beautiful in action, when we see Jesus interact with people.
“Today’s world desperately needs us to live this Jesus way.”