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Thankful for the grace of priesthood


Father Anthony Kain celebrated the golden anniversary of his ordination with the parish communities of Glenelg and Plympton earlier this month. Here he reflects on his 50 years in the priesthood.

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My journey to the priesthood began with a faith-filled family of parents Nell and Bill and siblings Michael, Mary and Peter. Educated at Christian Brothers College and involved in the YCW at St Peter’s, I was inspired by Fr Jim Kelly, our parish priest, and the Holy Name parish, all of which led to my entering the seminary as the Second Vatican Council began in 1962.

These were the heady days of Pope John XXIII’s vision of aggiorniamento (bringing the church up to date). It finished in 1965 with 16 documents, the last being The Church in the Modern World.

My ministry was shaped by the Council’s renewal in the 11 parishes to which I was appointed and the tasks that came my way: teaching liturgy/sacraments at the Theology Institute, UniSA and Adelaide College of Divinity; chairing the priests’ Continuing Education Committee; serving on the Adult Education Service, the Diocesan Liturgy Committee,  the Consultors, the Council of Sites and Architecture, the National Liturgy Council, Clergy Care; attending international liturgists’ gatherings, and being involved with schools and colleges…it has been a full life!

In all that, I have loved the collaboration of ordained and lay ministry, and especially the way Archbishop Len Faulkner led us into being women and men together in ministry when he established his team governance with a lay woman, a religious woman and a priest. He showed us the way.

I was ordained on September 7 1968. It was seven weeks after the publication of Pope Paul VI’s encyclical, Humanae Vitae, on contraception that shook the Catholic world. The ministry of lay people was happening and it was a grace to gather five couples and my brother Michael, who was a young Catholic GP, to introduce the Billings Method of Natural Family Planning. It was a delight that hippies and new age people came along as well as parishioners.

Adult formation became a hallmark of these years with Mgr Denis Edwards’ founding the Theology Institute which morphed into the Adelaide College of Divinity, an ecumenical college of Anglicans, Uniting Church and Catholics.

In 1963 Archbishop Matthew Beovich came back from the Council enthused by the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. He established our Diocesan Liturgical Council a few months later. I was caught up in his enthusiasm.

Archbishop Gleeson was keen for us to study and I received the Brian Jordan Scholarship to study liturgy in Washington DC and Paris in 1978/79. It was great sitting at the feet of liturgy scholars who had been periti (advisors) to the Council. I came back to pilot the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults at Mount Barker and in the Diocese with Mercy sisters Ruth Mullins and Catherine Seward.

Through my experience with the North American Academy of Liturgy and the French equivalent, Mercy Sister Maryanne Duigan and I founded the Australian Academy of Liturgy in 1980. Building on the work of the DLC and its workshops I was asked to establish the Archbishop’s Office for Worship in 2002.

Back in 1975 an encyclical of Paul VI fascinated me – Evangelii Nuntiandi (On Evangelisation). I was drawn into the question of inculturation by his statement: “The split between the Gospel and culture is without doubt the drama of our time.” Links came to me when 10 years later I was State director of the Papal Visit in 1986. We held the Rural Australia event and our Eucharist on the theme ‘Australia, Land of Many Cultures’. This led to my doctorate in Chicago in 1992-94 on Companions of Variable Mindfulness: Ministry in a Multicultural Church and Society.

I have loved my life as a priest. Now is a time to be thankful to God for the grace of these years from my family life and the faith communities and ministries for which I was chosen. We go forward in hope.


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