The 2006 Annual Conference of the Australian Confraternity of Catholic Clergy took place in Albury from 10-14 July with 51 resident and eight non-resident clerical participants, as well as ten resident seminarians.
The use of a church (rather than a chapel) for liturgies meant that local Catholics could also participate, particularly at the daily concelebrated Masses at St Patrick's, Albury, and on Friday at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, Thurgoona. These Masses and the Divine Office were sung with support from a small but competent schola, while there were sermons on three consecutive days by three different bishops.
A number of papers were given on the theology of Pope Benedict XVI. These included one from the immediate past National Chairman of ACCC, Father John Walshe, on the ecclesiology of Pope Benedict; another from Father Anthony Robbie on the life influences in the making of Benedict XVI; and a third from Father Glen Tattersall on the Pope's theology of worship.
The Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Ambrose De Paoli, gave a brief address, assuring the gathering, "My presence indicates that I do care [about priests] and I am interested in you and in what is happening." He also took part in discussions with participants.
Bishop Gerard Hanna of Wagga Wagga, who was the principal celebrant at the Opening Mass, gave a welcoming homily. Members of the ACCC National Executive were the main concelebrants.
Bishop Luc Matthys of Armidale was the homilist and principal celebrant of the usual Requiem Mass for deceased members. In his homily, he drew attention to the centrality of funeral liturgies celebrated according to the mind of the Church.
The principal celebrant and homilist for the Mass of Christ the High Priest was Bishop Max L. Davis, Military Ordinary for Australia, while for the closing Mass the homilist and principal celebrant was the Very Rev Peter Thompson CM, Rector of St John Vianney Seminary, Wagga Wagga.
The Conference Dinner talk, titled "Why I love being a priest!", was given by Father Gregory Jordan SJ from Brisbane.
Dr Tracey Rowland, Associate Professor and Dean of the John Paul II Institute in Melbourne, gave three papers, one drawn from her forthcoming Oxford University Press book, Keys to the Theology of Benedict XVI, another on "Benedict and the Second Vatican Council", and a third on "Augustine in the Theology of Benedict XVI".
Dr Rowland's public lecture was well-attended by laity and clergy, with one mother-of-three, a nurse by profession, declaring to the gathering how much she was inspired and enthralled by the talk. The breadth of Dr Rowland's undergraduate studies was evident in her treatment of the topics while the fidelity of her theology to the magisterium of the Church also shone through.
Her mastery of historical theology, along with the depth of her appreciation of the present Pope, ensured a clear overview of the structure of his theological thought.
The experience of the Diocese of Wagga Wagga was also a highlight of the Conference. Wagga Wagga priests are always well represented at ACCC conferences, and more so with this one where travel was not such an issue. Wagga Wagga Diocese stands out in Australia because of the large number of young priests called forth and nurtured during the episcopacy of Bishop Brennan and his successor - who has continued to emphasise the need for vocations and to support the St John Vianney Seminary.
The diocese has an impressive number of young priests with Roman licentiates, so the seminary tuition is mainly delivered by young priests of the diocese, and priests who have day-to-day pastoral responsibilities. This gives another distinctive quality to the formation as it may now be noticed in Wagga Wagga: the seminarians clearly get good on-going exposure to parish-based priests, including young priests, throughout their seminary life.
Also present at the conference were resident seminarian participants from Corpus Christi Seminary, Melbourne, and Good Shepherd Seminary, Sydney. They benefited from the talks and the conference fellowship while providing dignified contributions at the conference liturgies.
During the Conference Benedict XVI announced the appointment of Monsignor Barry Jones, an ACCC member in New Zealand, as Coadjutor Bishop of Christchurch, New Zealand. This was especially welcomed by priest members from three New Zealand dioceses who were present at the Conference.
At the end of the Conference, the National Chairman, Fr Michael Kennedy, announced that the 2007 Annual Conference would be held in Melbourne from 2-6 July, with Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver, Colorado, to be the main speaker.
Archbishop Chaput needs no introduction to readers of AD2000 which in recent years has provided numerous articles and reports about this outstanding Church leader. Again, plans for the 2007 Conference are intended to allow the opening of the main liturgies to Associates, and there will be the usual public lecture by the principal speaker.
Membership of the Australian Confraternity of Catholic Clergy (ACCC) - www.australianccc.org - is recommended to readers of this journal, whether priests, religious or lay people. Lay Associate membership, which includes a subscription to the excellent journal of the ACCC, 'The Priest', can be obtained for $20 annually, from ACCC Secretariat, PO Box 151, Artarmon, NSW 1570, (02) 9411 6144. The motto of the ACCC is "Ubi Petrus, ibi ecclesia", "Where Peter is, there is the Church", and priest members are marked by their fidelity to the magisterium of the Church.