Homily: Mass of farewell: Ms Phil Billington, November, 2014

Director CEO Sandhurst

Ecclesiasticus 50:24-26; 1 Corinthians 1:3-9; John 15:9-17

We have heard in our second reading, St Paul giving thanks for the people of the Church in Corinth who have been enriched by the gifts of the Spirit and, as a result, have been enabled to build up the Church. As St Paul prays for their spiritual growth, he reminds them they will be judged on how they have used the gifts they have been given. He stresses that God’s gifts may never be allowed to be unused. St Paul is confident about the future of the Church in Corinth because of the fidelity of the God who has promised his support.

Tonight we are gathering to farewell and to express gratitude to our colleague and Director of Catholic Education, Ms Phil Billington. She has worked well in the five years she has been Director and prior to that as Deputy Director, to show that there are intrinsic elements to education and formation. She has led our educators to a respect and a sincere search for truth; to develop a self -respect and a respect for others; forming values and living virtues. Under her watch, students have learned the value of wisdom so they can know how to live their lives; understanding that contributing to things beyond oneself, is the only way to find authentic meaning in life.

The blessing of God the Father, the mission of the Word and the power of the Spirit enable us to do what we could never do on our own. These words are easy to believe in good times, but they become much more difficult to believe in challenging times. Yet the theology stands unchanged. Phil during her leadership of Catholic Education has shown that to trust in the enabling power of God is essential.

In the beautiful passage from St John’s Gospel, Jesus teaches that we are his friends IF we do what He commands us. There is no question that God pursues us with unconditional love in order to obtain our conversion. But the other side of the coin is that we must undergo continual conversion; we must keep his commandments in order to be his friends. Keeping the commandments means believing and living the Faith.

The love of Jesus Christ compels us to give our best not only to God but also to our neighbor who is created in the image and likeness of God. God's love purifies and transforms us into the likeness of Christ. We know that Jesus promises that those who abide in his love will bear much fruit for the kingdom of God - fruit that will last for eternity as well. If you seek to unite your heart with the heart of Jesus, you will bear great fruit in your life - the fruit of joy, peace, friendship, and love that lasts forever.

We know that Phil has led her colleagues in the Diocese working to express their faith not just at Church but also in lives of Christian leadership, service and devotion, working diligently in the complex and important field of education.  For all of her efforts Catholic Education has benefited greatly.  However, our gratitude to Phil goes beyond this contribution.  For the time in which Phil has lived in Bendigo she has contributed to the life of the Diocese and her Parish with characteristic enthusiasm, generosity and energy.  A particular love of Phil has been her involvement with Teams of Our Lady, serving as chaplain to one Team.

To speak of Phil retiring seems incomprehensible, if one imagines retirement as taking life quietly and putting one’s feet up.  Certainly, we can say Phil is retiring from Sandhurst CEO and moving to the South Coast of New South Wales, however, we can be certain that life there will be full of activity and that she will not be confined to the place of her residence.  Phil’s new activity and involvements will be directed at how she can assist others in their faith journey, particularly through enriching their knowledge of their faith and involving them with fellow pilgrims of this journey in faith.

As we farewell Phil from Sandhurst, we assure her that she leaves with our deep gratitude for the fruits of her labour has born, in these years she has given to us, our good wishes for the future and our enduring prayers for God’s richest blessing upon her and all that she undertakes in the future, in her service of the Lord.

Bishop Leslie Tomlinson