Celebrating Father Phil Medlin’s Golden Jubilee of Ordination


Celebrating Father Phil Medlin’s Golden Jubilee of Ordination
Celebrating Father Phil Medlin’s Golden Jubilee of Ordination.
Photography: Alphonsus Fok.

Ballarat Victoria in the middle of winter can be a cold place at the best of times but the 5th of July 1964 was the coldest day for fifty years. In the secular world, perhaps not an auspicious start, but for father Phil, just the beginning of 50 years of making the best of the conditions, being positive  and overcoming challenges, albeit from then on, mainly in much warmer climate!

On the 10th of July 2014, The Most Reverend Anthony Fisher OP, officiated at the celebratory Mass for Priests for Father Phil at St Patrick’s Church Blacktown in company with Emeritus Bishop Kevin Manning, many priests, Otto Henfling and others from CatholicCare Social Services, supporters and international theologian Fr Kevin O’Shea former lecturer at the Redemptorist Seminary Ballarat who taught Vatican II theology to Father Phil all those years ago before Vatican II happened. The theme of Bishop Anthony’s Homily was the Prophet Jeremiah and the trials and tribulations faced by a man of God and God’s Plan for us all.

Father Phil was the one of the first clergy to be ordained in the English Language, rather than Latin. It was in a service where, for the first time, priests faced the congregation rather than the altar, in a mass that reflected the changes brought about by the Second Vatican Council which became known for its renewal of the Catholic Church.

Following Ordination, Father Phil spent his Apostolic Year in Melbourne , training in various parishes and writing the standard 45 minute sermons on Jesus Christ , Mary, prayer, passion, death and especially a fire and brimstone version of hell, an interpretation he now reminds us doesn’t reflect the hope and life that comes with trusting in Jesus.

Celebrating Father Phil Medlin’s Golden Jubilee of Ordination
Photography: Alphonsus Fok.

Soon after this he commenced a lifelong dedication to mission which began in Tasmania where he preached about the reforms of the Second Vatican Council and brought a message of encouragement, hope and life through Baptism. There followed missions all over NSW , Victoria and South-west Western Australia through school renewal programs at different grade and age levels where he was able to evaluate the success or otherwise of different approaches to teaching religion.

An overseas posting to the Philippines established lifelong relationships with the Filipino community, there and in Australia, for Father Phil. Soon after his arrival on the island Luzon in September 1972 ‘all hell broke loose‘ when martial law was declared by then President Marcos due to the National People’s Army Communist insurgency in the southern part of that island. Although communists, many were also staunch Catholics who needed the services of a priest like anyone else.

Father Phil worked with the US Peace Corps and learned the local, southern Luzon language, Bikol. Later, a move to the central Luzon meant learning another language, Tagalog (Filipino and the equal official language with English) and coordinating the listening program of the North Tagalog Mission Team- stressful intensive work which caused two collapses from exhaustion. He then took up a new position as vice Provincial Bursar.

The Redemptorist mission is to preach the Gospel with an emphasis on those at the margins of society and the Church, and so, on return to Australia, Father Phil worked with the Yarraville and Kew Redemptorist Communities to assist youth, sole parents and the unemployed.

Crossing Australia, Father Phil began another mission, this time to the Indigenous community- by chance when he heard an Aboriginal woman, who was living in the tool-shed of the Perth Redemptorist mission and retreat house, swearing so loudly that he decided to find out why. Since then he has served at the Wadeye Community, Daly Riverwith the Turkey Creek mob, Bathurst Island, Darwin, Alice Springs, Uluru and the remote Yuendumu Community. In Perth, he has worked at the Daughters of Charity Centre for the poor bringing hope to the needy street-people.

Western Sydney has one of the largest concentrations of Indigenous people in Australia so it was natural that a priest with Father Phil’s background could make a major contribution here. He has been doing this for twenty-two years and counts Aunty Janice and Uncle Ben Taylor amongst his closest friends.

In his thank you speech after Mass, Father Phil acknowledged the outstanding support of Bishop Bede Heather and the Executive Director of CatholicCare Social Services (CCSS), Otto Henfling who had encouraged him to continue his ministry even as he was in intensive care after a serious operation!

Father Phil also acknowledged the importance of CCSS:-

It would be hard for the Church here in Parramatta to call itself Catholic without CCSS’

and he reminded all that ‘God is in-love with us.’

Father Phil is currently Chaplain to the 140 staff of CatholicCare Community Services. He also continues to be a prison chaplain and in his humble style advises inmates;-

‘Jesus was a prisoner, so you are closer to him than I am’

Perhaps the best description of Paster Phil comes from his business card

‘Priest, Listener, Learner and Breaker of Bread’

His Holiness Pope Francis sent the Apostolic Blessing invoking divine graces;

‘You didn’t choose me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain; that whatever you will ask of the Father in my name, he may it give to you!

John c15, v16

For more photos from the Golden Jubilee Mass, click here.

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