Mass of Thanksgiving for the Ministry of the Little Company of Mary and blessing and opening of the new Calvary Adelaide Hospital.

At yesterday’s blessing a brief mention was made about how the mission came to Adelaide. In 1885, just eight years after the founding of the Congregation, six Sisters arrived to begin the work of the Little Company of Mary in this land. In 1899, negotiations began for the founding of  Calvary  Hospital  North  Adelaide  in  1900. The  work  of  the  Sisters  commenced  in  all  its  aspects, and covered the range from birth to those at the end of their journey, following the charism implanted by Mother Mary Potter.

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11 Mar 2020

Calvary Adelaide Hospital Chapel

March 11 2020

CALVARY HOMILY.jpg

At yesterday’s blessing a brief mention was made about how the mission came to Adelaide. In 1885, just eight years after the founding of the Congregation, six Sisters arrived to begin the work of the Little Company of Mary in this land.   In 1899, negotiations began for the founding of  Calvary  Hospital  North  Adelaide  in  1900. The  work  of  the  Sisters  commenced  in  all  its  aspects, and covered the range from birth to those at the end of their journey, following the charism implanted by Mother Mary Potter.  In 1976 we saw the commencement of the Mary Potter Hospice. To any South Australian Calvary North Adelaide and the Mary Potter Hospice are institutions that have engendered much affection and respect, and attachment. We have been very proud of Calvary in this State, the role it has played in creating good will and positive attitudes  between  Churches  as  the  Sisters  and  nurses  gave  the  witness  of  their  dedication.

There  had  been  a  hangover  of  bitterness  from  the  secular  education  debates  of  the  late nineteenth  century;  the  fierce  antagonism  that  followed  the  Constriction  referenda  with  the  backlash  of  great  bigotry  against  Catholics  following  the  Mannix  campaign;  there  was  still  a great  disdain  in  the  Establishment  circles  towards  the  largely  Irish  Catholic  population  who  were  deemed  to  be  ignorant,  loutish,  credulous  and  unthinkingly  subservient  to  its  clergy. Founded in 1900, Calvary exercised its ministry through the decades of antagonism and bigotry that  characterised  the  relationship  between  Churches,  but  the  witness  of  Calvary  and  its  nursing nuns did so much to show the face of the Church as caring and compassionate.  It was also the training and formation environment for hundreds of nurses over those years, many of whom  would  attribute  their  own  religious  commitment  to  their  experience  at  Calvary,  often  through the witness of the Sisters.  It also was a wonderful forum for multiple engagements and marriages  over  the  years!    In  numbers  of  cases  the  nuns  seemed  to  have  become  marriage  brokers  between  doctors  and  nurses.   So  many  South  Australian  babies  came  into  this  world through Calvary maternity, and I myself am a graduate baby from Calvary!

Mary Potter saw her Sisters as embracing life, from its beginnings to its end in the completion of death.  No one was to die alone.  There would be so many families, impossible to number, who live in great gratitude for the ministry of Calvary, especially those whose loved ones were cared  for  at  Mary  Potter  Hospice. So  the  Church  in  South  Australia  is  indebted  to  the  Little  Company  of  Mary  and  those  who  worked  with  the  Sisters,  and  this  is  truly  a  Mass  of Thanksgiving for the wondrous work that has been done, and for a new beginning in this fine new hospital blessed yesterday.

The Sisters in 1900 brought that vision of Mary Potter. They knew her personally. They had lived the story of the early years of the Little Company, one remarkably similar to that of the Josephites, especially in its intense experience of interfering Bishops.

The vision of Mary Potter is expressed through some of her sayings:

There is no greater power in life than love…
We are not made for time only but for eternity…
Let us be instruments God can use at any moment… God chooses the most humble instrument to do His work..

Mary Potter saw the fidelity and perseverance of those who stayed with the Suffering Jesus at the foot of the Cross.  The Little Company worked to shine the light of faith and love on the experience of suffering and dying.  For them death was not to be seen as something shunned but accepted as the completion of life.  And Mary the mother of Jesus became the figure and model for the foundress and the Sisters – “Is there are any trial more keenly felt by the loving heart than the inability to help or comfort a loved one in sorrow or suffering?  Then by what rule can we measure Mary’s grief on Calvary?”  In the Cross Mary Potter and her Sisters saw God’s unspoken comment on the problem of pain and illness.  God’s Son went down that path. He could have walked away but He chose to follow the way of the Cross, so that to the question “Why suffering?” God’s comment is that somehow in the mystery of the Cross is the answer to suffering.    There  is  the  prayer  of  the  Anima  Christi,  dear  to  Ignatius  Loyola  –  “Soul  of  Christ,  sanctify me, Body of Christ save me..passion of Christ, strengthen me..”  Included in that prayer is the line “Within thy wounds hide me”, acknowledging that at times there can be no place of recourse,  no  point  of  refuge,  except  within  the  wounds  of  Christ,  in  their  silence,  protected,  being with the Suffering Christ at a level beneath words.  May the richness of the Mary Potter ministry continue to strengthen the people of God in this State.
But we gave thanks also in blessing this new hospital for the ministry of joy and life in which it rejoices,  a  ministry  of  joy  and  peace  and  healing  and  completion.    There  is  the  reading  from  Galatians that Mark Green gave us that over all things we put on love, and that the peace of Christ  might  reign  in  our  hearts,  that  we  should  always  be  thankful,  and  we  should  let  the  message  of  Christ  find  a  home  in  our  hearts.    That  is  why  the  staff  of  the  hospital  live  their ministry, to live what Christ asked us, to feed the hungry, look after the destitute, care for the sick, tend the dying.  Because in doing this to the least of His brethren we do it for Him.   
There  is  Bartimaeus  in  the  Gospel,  a  blind  beggar  sitting  by  the  road,  a  figure  of  one  whose  healing needed to go beyond the visible, a figure of someone in desolation, living a life without seeming purpose because of his affliction, not able to see a future of worth.  In his suffering he was placed to the edge of the road, drowned out by the crowd, his cries trapped by them.  He summoned all his will, as patients can do, and made the strongest of pleas, Lord Jesus, have pity on me.  It is a plea that Christ cannot refuse, and to Him Bartimaeus makes a prayer, “Master, let me see again”.  He had known sight, known the vision of shapes and sunsets, of colour, of flowers and the beauty of birds and animals, and human eyes.  It had all gone. So his prayer from the heart, “Master, let me see again”.   He casts off his cloak, the symbol of all the despair of pointlessness that was weighing him down, and Christ returns his sight, and he follows Him then with purpose along the road.

In the hospital you are to live your baptismal vocation as the Body of Christ in the world.  He has no voice but yours, no touch but yours.  May all at Calvary continue to live that vocation, carrying on the tradition of the Sisters, and strengthening the people of God no matter their faith or background, for generations to come.  “Whatever you do to the least of His servants, you do to Him.”  May you continue in this hospital to give sight to those whose sight has been blurred by illness.  May the colour and beauty of faith and love enlighten and uplift all the sick who come herein.

 Homily - Mass of Thanksgiving Calvary Hospital 11032020.pdf

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