It was about August 1998 that a Catholic lay apostolate, to become known as the Confraternity of the Holy Name of Jesus, was formed with ecclesiastical approval in the Archdiocese of Melbourne. Its purpose was to give honour, reverence and respect to the holy name of Jesus and to make reparation for the innumerable sins of blasphemy, committed daily throughout Australia.
Just after launching the Confraternity we were offered, and gratefully accepted, the spiritual, physical and financial advice and assistance of the late Mr Brian Burgess, founder and president of Mary Help of Christians, a Sydney- based Marian lay apostolate.
God quickly blessed us with quite a sizeable membership from all parts of Australia, and even some from Papua New Guinea, which is continuing to grow. By the very nature of our organisation, our membership has, up until now, been on an individual and family basis, united in prayer and penance, rather than consisting of great numbers from any one particular area or parish.
Here in Melbourne, we have approached, and continue to approach, parish priests, with mixed success, seeking permission to speak to their parishioners at Sunday Masses.
One such priest was Fr Barry Tobin, parish priest of St Peter the Apostle at Hoppers Crossing (between Melbourne and Geelong). When first approached some months ago for permission to address his parishioners, Fr Tobin had had a recent experience, a week or so earlier, of listening to a half-time address by the coach of a local football club, full of taking in vain of Our Lord's name.
Fr Tobin, aware of the increasing public acceptance of everyday use of such blasphemy throughout Australia, threw his wholehearted support behind the work of the Confraternity in his parish. He set up the 9.00am Mass on the first Sunday of the following month as a "Confraternity" Mass and not only allowed a representative of the Confraternity to speak at all Masses, but ably and zealously supported our efforts, to the extent that 54 parishioners indicated their interest in joining the Confraternity.
On Sunday 6 August he asked those interested to remain behind after Mass - which quite a few did. These people agreed to form a parish group of the Confraternity, electing a President and Secretary to take care of all formal requirements.
On Sunday, 3 September, Fr Tobin, together with approximately 32 parishioners took a significant step in the history of the Catholic Church in Australia, by becoming the first parish to form a branch of the Confraternity of the Holy Name of Jesus.
At an appropriate time during Mass, Fr Tobin invited all those who had indicated an interest in the Confraternity and its aims to come forward and stand around the front of the altar. He then read a prayer, inducting them spiritually as members of the Confraternity. After their induction, they all joined together in reciting their pledge to God, and then the President and Secretary formally presented the new members with their membership badges.
It was noted, and commented upon, that it was a most significant day for this very historic event - Fathers' Day - since it involved honouring God the Father through His Son.
Inquiries about the Confraternity of the Holy Name of Jesus can be directed to the present writer at 1 Murtoa Street, Dallas Vic 3047. (03) 9309 3842.