Homily - Mass for 150th Anniversary of the death of Dean John Grant

Bishop McKenna celebrated Mass in the Cathedral on Monday 24th February 2014, the eve of the 150th anniversary of the death of Dean John Grant, the man most responsible for the building of the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. John.

Edited text of Bishop McKenna’s homily at the Mass for the
150th anniversary of the death of Dean John Grant

If there are any wise or learned persons among you, let them show it by their good lives, with humility and wisdom (James 3:13-18).

The words of the Apostle James, in our first reading tonight, describe well how the late Dean John Grant was known and remembered in Bathurst and beyond. A man of kindness, confident vision and generosity; an inspirer of hope and generosity in others.  He died on this day in 1864, at the age of 48, and was buried here, in the church he built.

We offer this Mass for John Grant, aware that, when we pray for those who have gone before us in faith, they are praying with us. The prayers of the holy men and women who built up our local church accompany us as we take up the task to renew and rebuild on the foundations they have left us.

John Grant was from a prosperous and well educated family in Kilkenny, Ireland. It was there he began his studies for the priesthood. When Dr Ullathorne, on a visit to Ireland to recruit priests and seminarians for the Australian mission, made his appeal at St Kieran’s College, young John Grant volunteered. He was 19 years old.

Ullathorne returned to Australia with five Sisters of Charity (the first religious women to come here); three priests; and three seminarians.

Grant and the other seminarians completed their studies at St Mary’s Seminary in Sydney. One of the group was James Dunphy, who, after only 18 months of priestly service, drowned on his way to say Mass in Mudgee.

Father John Grant served as chaplain at Darlinghurst Gaol; then Appin, Berrima and Windsor, until 1851, when his health broke down. He then accompanied Abbot Gregory to Europe. In Rome, Blessed Pope Pius IX conferred on him the degree of Doctor of Divinity.

By the time Grant returned to Australia, the Gold Rush had begun to transform life in the colonies. He came to Bathurst in 1853 and set about the work to which he devoted the rest of his life.

We have a tangible example of Dean Grant’s work in this Cathedral. St Michael’s and St John’s was completed in 1861 as a parish church. With “his good life, in humility and wisdom, ” Grant united his Catholic people and in fact the whole Bathurst community in building this place of worship to God. When Bathurst was established as a Diocese, the year after John Grant’s death, it became our Cathedral.

This building expresses in stone the faith of John Grant and his people, but it cannot tell the whole story. The full record of their good deeds is known only to God, but what we do know can fill us with gratitude and hope.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells the father of  the afflicted boy that “everything is possible for anyone who has faith.” The man, conscious of the weakness of his faith, replies “I do have faith, help the little faith I have.”

May that be our prayer for ourselves tonight, as we pray for Dean John Grant and those who caught his vision of faith and worked with him.  And may their prayers accompany our work today.

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