Embracing the Challenge: 15 new Members invested at the 2019 Assembly of the Order of Malta
In June, Members of the Australian Association congregated in Sydney for the 2019 Biennial Assembly.
The theme of the Assembly was ‘Embracing the Challenge’ and the guest speakers at the conference presented compelling and thought provoking insights about challenges facing the Catholic church today.
“The Biennial Assembly is the only opportunity for us to congregate en-masse and discuss the affairs of the Order but more importantly to meet old friends face to face, make new ones; to welcome our new Members into the Order and most importantly to gain spiritual enrichment and inspiration from each other”
Dr Ian Marshal, President of the Australian Association.
His Grace Archbishop Fisher provided the opening address and was followed by Dr. Trudy Dantis, Director of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference National Centre for Pastoral Research, who provided insights into the changing demographic of the family in Australia today and what that means for the Catholic Faith. Senator Amanda Stoker, a Liberal member of the Australian Senate representing Queensland, continued on theme with a discussion on today’s challenges for the family in Australia.
“Making the case for the importance of fundamental freedoms – freedom of thought, conscience, belief, freedom of association and freedom of speech – has never been harder. And each underpins the social political causes that are important to this room, such as religious liberty and respect for life.”
Senator Amanda Stoker
The Hon Greg Smith SC, former Attorney General in NSW and Judge Dyson Heydon covered threats to religious Liberty and the need for legal protection for religious freedom respectively. The final session for the opening day featured Commissioner Robert Fitzgerald who served on the Royal Commission into the Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. His reflections on this Commission was extremely powerful and Bishop Vincent Long, Bishop of Parramatta, also spoke on the response of the church in the aftermath of the Royal Commissions findings and both speakers answered questions from the assembly attendees in an open forum.
The opening day of the Assembly closed with a Vigil Ceremony at St. Mary’s Cathedral followed by a welcome dinner for attendees at the Royal Sydney Golf Club.
The second day of the Assembly, featured talks from Members of the Order, providing updates and reports on internal activities, charitable works, volunteering activities and Ambassador reports. Guest speaker Monica Doumit, Director of Public Affairs and Engagement from the Archdiocese of Sydney spoke on increasing the role of women in the Church, and members of the Order, Francine and Byron Pirola, who are also Directors of the Marriage Resource Centre addressed the assembly on ‘Defending the things that matter’.
The conference segment of the assembly was wrapped up by Damian Wyld, the Order’s Hospitaller to South Australia and the former CEO of Marriage Alliance. His session focused on ‘where to from here for our Order’ and discussed practical and effective responses to key issues that emerged from the presentations.
Delegates then attended an investiture ceremony at St Benedict’s, Broadway, with His Grace Archbishop Fisher as the principal celebrant. 15 new Members were invested and Confrere Justin Harkiewicz took the Promise of Obedience to become a member of the Subpriory of the Immaculate Conception.
A formal dinner followed with the Hon John Howard OM AC, former Prime Minister made an after dinner address. He spoke about religious freedom in Australia and discussed implications of attempts to remove current exemptions in anti-discrimination to religious schools and also questioned the right of businesses to make a person’s religious beliefs subject to an employment contract. He was hopeful the new Morrison government would act to protect religious freedoms and that this would receive bipartisan support.
“If parents send their children to denominational schools because they want a Catholic education, or a Jewish education, or an Anglican education then they are entitled to have that delivered – it’s as simple as that and I think that’s a proposition that most people support.”
Hon John Howard OM AC, former Prime Minister
The Assembly concluded on Sunday with Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral with Auxiliary Bishop Anthony Randazzo as principal celebrant and concelebrants being the Order’s chaplains.