Melbourne News

United by one call

Friday 28 September 2012

By Christopher Akehurst
Kairos Catholic Journal

EIGHT new priests ordained for the Archdiocese of Melbourne—a spring blessing on the Church on a cold September day. But the weather only served to emphasise the warmth of the welcome they received and to highlight the palpable air of joy in St Patrick’s Cathedral as these men offered their lives to God.

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The ordination took place on Saturday 8 September, the Feast of the Birth of Our Lady. Of the eight priests ordained by Archbishop Denis Hart, four—Fr Andrew McCarter, Fr Benneth Osuagwu, Fr Jerome Santamaria and Fr Kevin Williams—completed their studies at Corpus Christi Seminary. The other four— Fr Neil Fryer, Fr James Grant, Fr Christopher Seton and Fr Ramsay Williams—are former Anglican clergymen, members of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross.

Watch the ordination ceremony at St Patrick’s Cathedral

The packed congregation in the Cathedral included friends, family and well-wishers who had travelled from near and far to be with the ordinands on this great day. In the sanctuary were Archbishop Hart; George Cardinal Pell, Archbishop of Sydney; Auxiliary Bishops of Melbourne Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop Peter Elliott and Bishop Emeritus Hilton Deakin; the Bishop of Lismore, Geoffrey Jarrett; the Ordinary of the Ordinariate, Fr Harry Entwistle; seminarians and more than 120 priests.

Archbishop Hart, together with Cardinal Pell and his brother bishops and priests, welcomed all to the “special and historic ordination” as priests in the Catholic Church.

“Today is a moment of unity when the ministerial priesthood of the Church is presented as a gift to a diverse group of men united by one call, to be priests of Jesus Christ given for God and for people.”

Collectively, as Archbishop Hart pointed out at the ordination, the eight new priests bring to the Church a remarkable range of talents—pastoral, practical and intellectual. Some bring the enthusiasm of youth, others the wisdom and experience that comes from having already achieved much in their careers so far. They all bring the humility of men who have sought long and prayerfully to discern God’s will for them. The Ordinariate priests offer the Church the sacrifices, sometimes of loyalties and friendships, or of financial security, that they have been prepared to make in order to follow what they have come to see as Christ’s will for the unity of his Church.
Each of the new priests has a story to tell of the pilgrimage of faith that led him to the momentous decision to devote his life to the Catholic priesthood.

Fr ANDREW MCCARTER is a ‘cradle Catholic’ from the Melbourne suburb of Reservoir, who has felt called to the priesthood since childhood and remembers setting up an altar, saying and practising ‘Mass’ privately. His late uncle, Fr John McCarter, was a strong source of inspiration, yet Andrew at first felt that his more immediate vocation was to teaching. He studied Arts and Teaching at ACU Aquinas and Computer Education at Melbourne University, where he graduated with a Master’s degree in Education.

It was when he attended World Youth Day in Cologne in 2005 that Andrew realised that his call to the priesthood had become clear. His next step was to enter Corpus Christi seminary.
Andrew sees his priesthood partly in terms of mission. “My hope is that people will realise that I am here to help them enter the joys of Heaven and to deepen their relationship with God,” he says.

The day after his ordination Fr Andrew celebrated his Thanksgiving Mass at St Gabriel’s, Reservoir.

FR BENNETH OSUAGWU was born in Nigeria, the fourth of five children in a family with “a strong Catholic background”. Like Andrew McCarter’s, his vocation goes back to childhood. “I have known that I was called to the priesthood since I was 12 years old, since making my first Holy Communion,” he says.

An important influence for Benneth was St Dominic Savio (1842-1857), a pupil of St John Bosco, who died early in his studies for the priesthood and was canonised in 1954 as an exemplar of holy life. Other sources of inspiration were “my parish priest back in Nigeria and my grandmother, who taught me much about service”. Benneth began seminary training at Enugu in Nigeria, then studied in Rome and Ireland before being accepted for the priesthood by the Archdiocese of Melbourne.

Benneth says that since arriving in Melbourne he has been made to feel very welcome. He believes he is finally “where God wants me to be and to serve” and he enters into his priesthood “with all enthusiasm”.

Fr Benneth’s First Mass was at St Monica’s, Moonee Ponds, on Sunday 9 September.

FR CHRISTOPHER SETON can count among his ancestors St Elizabeth Seton
(1774-1821), the first native-born citizen of the United States to be canonised and founder of the first Catholic school in the US. Christopher was born in Sydney and, until his recent reception into the Catholic Church, had been a lifelong Anglican. He was ordained in the Anglican Church in Wangaratta in 1979 and later moved to Melbourne.

Among his achievements is the establishment of a new Anglican parish at Mount Eliza. In 1983 he became a chaplain in the Royal Australian Navy and in 1986 vicar of Kooyong, which he built up as a traditional Anglo-Catholic (‘High Church’) parish linked to Forward in Faith, an international movement opposed to liberalising tendencies in the Anglican Communion. Christopher’s parish was the venue for meetings organised by Forward in Faith to promote the Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross, under the provisions of which Christopher was recently received into the Catholic Church.

While at Kooyong, Christopher led his congregation through the ‘Evangelium’ program in preparation for their reconciliation to the Church. Now, as a Catholic priest, Christopher recognises the need to integrate the Ordinariate, which has its Melbourne church base at Holy Cross in South Caulfield, into the wider Catholic community.

AS an Anglican married to a Catholic, FR JAMES GRANT has been supported and accompanied on his journey towards the Ordinariate by his wife Dolores. James, born in Adelaide in 1957, began his career as a teacher but, having discerned a vocation to the ministry, was ordained an Anglican priest in 1985. He has held parish posts in East Frankston, Richmond and Preston, and in London and at the Anglican chaplaincy in Berlin.

In fact, chaplaincy has been a large part of James’s work. He has been senior chaplain at three schools, Geelong Grammar, St Michael’s Grammar and the Peninsula School. While vicar of St Stephen’s Anglican church in Richmond he was a chaplain at RMIT University. Then in 2005, the same year he became team vicar of the new Anglican parish of Jika Jika, which includes Preston, he founded Chaplains Without Borders, a “modern urbanised vision of chaplaincy” that provides paid chaplains for places in central Melbourne frequented by large numbers of people, such as Southern Cross Station and Crown Casino. This inspired venture has met a perceived need and been welcomed by the companies and utilities involved, who willingly pay for the chaplains.

Continuing education has played a big part in James’s life—among his academic qualifications are a Graduate Diploma in Islamic Studies, a Diploma of Computer Studies and a Diploma of Trauma Counselling—and now, as a Catholic priest, James is leading the project for Ordinariate schools. He is well aware of the strong emphasis placed on schools by Australian Catholics and he sees education as a way not only of developing the Ordinariate, but of integrating it within the wider Catholic community.

EDUCATION played a part in helping FR JEROME SANTAMARIA discern his vocation, something he had not thought about earlier in life. “My family always went to Mass on Sundays, so I did too. But I’d say I only started taking my faith seriously once I was challenged about it at university.”

Jerome, who grew up in Hawthorn, had attended Xavier College and, after studying Law and Science at Melbourne University, worked as a commercial lawyer. He says he first felt called to the priesthood while completing further studies in Law at University College, London, where he was living at Newman House, the Catholic chaplaincy.

“In 2004, a priest asked me whether I had ever considered the priesthood. Up to that point, I don’t think I had, but after a few months, I thought I needed to look into it a bit more; and 18 months later, I was in the seminary. I think I knew I was called after my 30-day retreat in my fifth year at the seminary.”

Jerome says that his inspiration has come “mostly from the needs of my friends and my understanding of Easter”. There is also a group of saints whom he admires: “St Lawrence, St Thomas More, St Philip Neri, the Little Flower, Mother Teresa, St Joseph and Our Lady, St John Chrysostom and St John the Baptist.”

He is specific about what he aspires to in the practice of his priesthood. “My hope is to become a better witness to the Gospel. The more you go through formation, the more you realise that people want someone who knows God, knows how to pray. People come to priests because they want help with their relationship with God, so I hope to know God more and more.”

Fr Jerome celebrated his First Mass on Sunday 9 September at Immaculate Conception church in Hawthorn.

FR KEVIN WILLIAMS is new not only to the priesthood but—relatively—to the Catholic Church. He was born in Ayrshire, Scotland, and came to Australia aged nine with his parents in 1982. The family settled in Frankston, where Kevin grew up without any religious influence, his parents having lapsed from the Church of Scotland as teenagers.

After completing his education Kevin spent eleven years working in a factory. His parents separated and his mother subsequently began attending a Catholic church. “She was concerned that she had never baptised her sons,” Kevin remembers, “and asked the parish priest what she should do. He assured her that God understood her situation, and encouraged her to pray for both her sons.”

It was in 2000, seven years later, that Kevin, “in response to a raging emptiness in my life that nothing was filling”, started attending Mass with his mother and sought to be baptised. “I entered the Catholic Church through the Rite of Christian Initiation about a year later, at the Easter Vigil, 2001.”

The parish priest who received him was Fr Alistair MacLellan of St John’s, East Frankston, and it is to him that Kevin credits “the most profound impact upon my faith formation in those first few years as a catechumen then as a newly baptised Catholic.” Kevin dates his vocation back to a homily of Fr MacLellan’s on Father’s Day, 2000. “Our parish priest preached about the retired priests’ fund and mentioned the ageing population of Australian clergy. A fire ignited in my being from that moment that has never faded or gone away.”

Four years later he entered the seminary and now, like his newly ordained brother priests, he has reached the destination of that long road of study and preparation. “I know that with ordination I become a priest forever,” says Kevin. “I hope to remain true and faithful to that calling.”

Fr Kevin celebrated his First Mass at St Mary’s Basilica in Geelong on Sunday 9 September.

ORDINARIATE priest FR NEIL FRYER grew up in Glenhuntly, where he attended the Anglo-Catholic parish of St Agnes. When he discerned a vocation, he was encouraged by Rev. Leslie Llewellyn Elliott, vicar of St Agnes and father of Bishop Peter Elliott. Neil was trained at St Michael’s House, Crafers, South Australia, an Anglican monastic theological college, and ordained in 1976 for the Anglican Diocese of Rockhampton, where he began his parish experience.

Parish work has always been important to Neil, and he worked in the Anglican dioceses of Brisbane and Ballarat before returning to Melbourne as vicar of Springvale. His last appointment was as vicar of Coburg and Fawkner before he retired in 2001 and took up supply ministry both as a locum and assistant. He has assisted at St Peter’s, Eastern Hill, and All Saints’, East St Kilda.

Like his fellow former Anglicans Fr Christopher Seton and Fr Ramsay Williams (see below), Neil was active in Forward in Faith and was a celibate member of the Society of the Holy Cross, an association of Anglo-Catholic clergy founded in London in 1855. After his reception into the Catholic Church, he became a parishioner of St Francis Xavier’s, Frankston. With his heart still in parish work, Neil is looking forward to returning to pastoral ministry as a priest of the Ordinariate.

FR RAMSAY WILLIAMS, also ordained for the Ordinariate on 9 September, was Neil Fryer’s vicar when the latter was an assistant at All Saints’, East St Kilda. The story of Ramsay’s pilgrimage towards the Church was told in Kairos No. 14 (5 August 2012).

Born into an Anglican family in 1945, Ramsay gave up a promising career in journalism to study for the Anglican ministry. He was ordained in 1973 and worked as an assistant priest and vicar in the Anglican Diocese of Ballarat. He too has had school chaplaincy experience, as a chaplain at Brighton Grammar School.

He was vicar of Murrumbeena before his appointment to All Saints’, East St Kilda, a posting that turned out to be crucial in Ramsay’s journey towards the Catholic Church. He oversaw the restoration of this fine Anglo-Catholic church and maintained and enhanced its liturgical and choral tradition. At the same time he was active in Forward in Faith and, once the Ordinariate was established by Pope Benedict in 2009, encouraged people to move towards the unity of full communion with the Catholic Church. Ramsay himself was received into the Catholic Church after his retirement and became a parishioner of St Patrick’s, Mentone.

Photos by Casamento Photography

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