Today we celebrate St Patrick's Day, and with it our ties as Australians and Catholics to Ireland. St Patrick, of course, is one of many saints whose memory is honoured in the Australian Church. Other saints that we honour include the many Italian regional saints, the Vietnamese martyrs, and of course Mary MacKillop.
As Jesuits we remember especially the generosity of the Irish Province who began the Jesuit mission to the Australian cities. William Hackett, Michael Watson, Joseph Dalton, John Fahey and Jeremiah Hogan are some Irish Jesuits who have blessed the Australian church. I am constantly amazed at the scale of their dreams when I think of their small resources while looking at the scale of the early buildings at Xavier, Riverview and St Ignatius Church in Richmond.
Today, St Patrick's day can be simply a matter of indulging ourselves with Irish drink and Irish music. But the little that we know of St Patrick suggests something much more robust. Patrick was from Britain and taken as a slave to Ireland by a raiding party. After he escaped and returned to Britain he had a dream that he was called to preach the Gospel to the simple Irish people who knew nothing of Christ. This was a large dream - previous foreign priests had confined their attention to the existing Christian communities. When Patrick landed in Ireland as a Bishop, he went beyond the boundaries.
Patrick's life of service and of mission is his deepest gift to us. In this edition of Province Express it is reflected in the journeys to other worlds. Patrick would surely have approved of bringing bikes to Bathurst Island, of celebrating a success in the campagain against cluster munitions in Battambang, of remembering Matteo Ricci at the North Sydney Chinese Mass, and of reflecting on the life of another courageous Bishop, Oscar Romero.
St Patrick did much with few resources, as did the Irish Jesuits who began so many of our works. We are constantly reminded of our limits, particularly by the sickness of many of our Companions, Jesuit and lay. We pray for them, too, this St Patrick's day.
Fr Steve Curtin SJ
From Jesuit Australian Province www.express.org.au