Justice, Peace & Integrity of Creation - Fr Kevin Bates, 2014

kevin bates

Kevin Bates SM is the parish priest of Holy Name of Mary parish, Hunters Hill/Woolwich, NSW, and author of numerous albums of liturgical and reflective music. His weekly reflections for the parish bulletin often include isses of social justice.     Visit Fr Kevin's web site

Click for Fr Kevin's reflections:   2010-11     2012-13

This page:     St Patrick and the boat people


St Patrick
and the boat people


"Saint Patrick was a fifth-century Romano-British Christian missionary and bishop in Ireland. Known as the "Apostle of Ireland", he is the primary patron saint of the island along with Saints Brigit and Columba.

The dates of Patrick's life cannot be fixed with certainty but, on a widespread interpretation, he was active as a missionary in Ireland during the second half of the fifth century.

He is generally credited with being the first bishop of Armagh, Primate of Ireland.

When he was about 16, he was captured from his home in Great Britain, and taken as a slave to Ireland, where he lived for six years before escaping and returning to his family.

After becoming a cleric, he returned to northern and western Ireland. In later life, he served as an ordained bishop, but little is known about the places where he worked.

By the seventh century, he had already come to be revered as the patron saint of Ireland. Saint Patrick's Day is observed on 17 March, the date of his death." Wikipedia

There are so many myths about St Patrick, including a number of possible birthplaces!

Somehow the myth of Patrick has glued the Irish people together through thick and thin. Even now during the various recent crises in the Irish Church, St Patrick is still some source of identity and celebration.

St Patrick's spirit has travelled the globe, mostly by boat, and people escaping appalling living conditions in Ireland, especially during the nineteenth century, came to this country in large numbers.

They and their descendants created new lives for themselves and in turn breathed their Irish spirit into this nation as it grew and developed.

As we know, people from so many other nations likewise have arrived, often by boat, and they in their turn have contributed to the melting pot that is today's multi-cultural Australia.

[top of next column...]

For all the courage and initiative of these thousands of boat people, they assumed an attitude of superiority regarding the people who had cared for this land for over 40,000 years.

This attitude continued on among us their descendants, and found expression in the sort of jokes we told, the attempts at assimilation we developed, the laws we made which excluded our first peoples from our newly emerging nation of boat-people and their descendants.

In 1967 we finally recognized their existence at a national referendum, showing what slow learners we were.

More recently we recognized their claim to ownership of their own lands. We even got around to saying sorry for being such slow learners.

The people who brought the spirit of St Patrick with them brought us so much on which to build our nation.

The people who have arrived since from hundreds of other nations have done and are doing the same thing.

Our first Australians too, have much to bring to our national enterprise as we struggle to care properly for this ancient land that they understand so well.

Surely the new wave of boat people have something to share with us as well.

They are only a trickle when it's all said and done, but they've certainly touched a nerve of fear in our nation and preoccupied our political leaders in a way that prevents us from knowing them, welcoming them and learning what they have to offer us.

The Religious Congregations of our Australian Church are inviting us to think again about our response to these people. Check this link to see how you can participate in the Lenten project sponsored by our Religious Women and Men.

As we celebrate Paddy's Day with all his Irish boat people and their descendants, let's remember the multi-coloured spirit that created this place and then build on it.

St Patrick, pray for us.

Father Kevin

Posted: Mar 17, 2014