- Published: Wednesday, 28 August 2019 23:50
JOHN RATE MSC: INAUGURAL PMRC IMPACT AWARD 2019
In July, this award was made to John Rate. He was unable to attend but sent a video message. The award was presented by Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP and accepted for John by Helen and Leo Wursthorn. With thanks to Francine Pirola for the photos.
This is the text of the testimony address:
This evening we are launching the PMRC Impact Awards. This award will be a part of each Renaissance of Marriage Conference going forward, and its purpose is to acknowledge and honour the efforts of an individual, couple or organisation for their work in building a positive culture of Catholic Marriage in this country.
We were told that we could never do this as it we could never properly thank all those who deserved such recognition, however, we all have big hearts and so we decided we should take the risk.
Fr John Rate MSC
It is with great pleasure that we award this inaugural PMRC Impact Award to Fr John Rate MSC for his work in supporting the Sacrament of Matrimony, most especially through his work and leadership with Worldwide Marriage Encounter in Australia and internationally.
It is not insignificant that we make this inaugural award to a priest. The Sacraments of Matrimony and Holy Orders have long reinforced each other in their respective sacramental missions. A particular charism of the Marriage Encounter Movement is its joint leadership by priests and married couples working together - in other words, bringing the graces of the Sacraments of Holy Orders and Matrimony in co-responsible leadership roles.
Unfortunately, Fr John can’t be with us in person tonight due to health reasons. However, we do have a pre-recorded message from him and we also have Leo and Helen Wursthorn, the Australian leaders of Worldwide Marriage Encounter who will receive Fr John’s award on his behalf.
Fr John Rate described himself as coming from an Anglo-Celtic lower middle-class Melbourne home, a Collingwood supporter and a supporter of the DLP in early adult life.
He was ordained 46 years ago on 19th May 1973 as a Missionary of the Sacred Heart. He was attracted to the MSCs because of the particular spirituality of the Heart promoted by the MSC founder, Fr Jules Chevalier. Fr John always said that we need to use our head, but it is the heart that most brings us close to Jesus.
Fr John has a passion for parish work. He saw the parish as a love community centred on the loving heart of Jesus and he continues to this day to carry this vision with him wherever he has worked in MSC parishes around Australia. Around 1980 he was sent to France to study liturgy and he enthusiastically put all that he had learned to good use over the years.
Then 40 years ago he was invited to a Worldwide Marriage Encounter weekend in Sydney. He was captivated by the practical method of communication based on sharing of feelings. Here at last was something of the heart that he could share with his parishioners and he has been tireless since then in bringing this missionary work of evangelisation through Worldwide Marriage Encounter to his parishes.
He has been part of the presenting team for literally hundreds of Marriage Encounter weekends. The impact of this has been on thousands of couples and their families and on the many Priests who have participated in these weekends designed to enhance their communication skills, build trust and learn how to make daily decisions to love, as Jesus called us all to love.
Fr John carried this out not only in Australia but at an international level. He and Liam and Sue Davidson of Melbourne were ecclesial team leaders for the Pacific region in the late 1980s and they became the International Ecclesial Leaders from 1990-1992. Fr John also joined with Christine and David Sloane from New Zealand in the late 1990s as the Pacific Ecclesial team. Then he was once again in International ecclesial leadership with David and Bronny Lea from New Zealand from 2005 to 2010.
Meanwhile, in the 1970s to bring the charism of Worldwide Marriage Encounter to a wider audience of parishioners, a new parish-based approach was developed called the Marriage Encounter Resource programmes. These were designed for particular areas of family life such as marriage preparation, parenting, family relationships and of course marriage itself. These programmes morphed into PMRC itself which was formally established in Australia in 1978.
John was always a supportive influence in all this. He was a wise go-to priest with a heart for marriage and family life as PMRC itself evolved over the years.
Then in 1981, a new parish-based outreach began in Australia - Antioch. It is a movement for youth, but its spirituality is based on relationships, creating Christ-centred community within the parish. One of its unique contributions to Australia was the new concept of adult supports for each community being mature married couples, often with teenagers of their own. They share from their own Sacrament of Matrimony with the youth of the parish in ways that parallel the role of parents in their own families.
MSCs have always been a major support of Antioch and, not surprisingly, John became heavily involved, always having an Antioch community in whatever parish he found himself. And, as always, in giving, he received. In a recent video, he said that Worldwide Marriage Encounter and Antioch were the two major influences in the enrichment of his vocation as an MSC priest.
Over all these years, he has remained keen to support anything that impacts on the spiritual life of his parishioners and that helps him to share in his joy of spreading the Gospel. For example, he has shared his own MSC spirituality with parishioners through MSC Lay Associate groups; he has reached out to less involved people through Alpha and he has worked at moving his parish from maintenance to mission through Fr James Mallon’s programme of Divine Renovation.
As most of you know, John was diagnosed with kidney cancer about four years ago. It was already incurable, and he has undergone exhausting and difficult treatments. Most patients would be expected to hang up their boots at that stage. Instead, John has powered on.
Of course, he has to rest and to conserve his strength but he spends every spare moment in service of his beloved people, always initiating new ideas, new ways of making established formats work better and always focussing on supporting others. His love of Jesus and of the people that make up the Body of Christ is palpable, and he expresses it with joy and enthusiasm.
John would, of course, be quick to point out that his efforts in this work were greatly amplified by the many, many wonderful couples who worked with him to bring the Marriage Encounter and Antioch experiences to Australians. In presenting this award, we too wish to acknowledge the contribution of these couples and welcome warmly, those of you who have made a dedicated trip here to celebrate this award with the ROM delegates.
It is a great honour, and with deep gratitude, we make this award to Fr John Rate, and invite Archbishop Anthony to present it to you, Leo and Helen on John’s behalf, with the appreciation of a very grateful Church.
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