By Josh Low
Belmont Centre for the Traditional Latin Mass Rector Fr Michael Rowe has this week celebrated his Silver Jubilee, marking 25 years since his ordination to the priesthood.
Solemn High Mass was celebrated by Fr Rowe at St Brigid’s Church in Northbridge in the presence of Emeritus Archbishop Barry Hickey, together with priests from across the Archdiocese and Australia, in a ceremony that had not been seen in Perth for some 60 years.
Fr Rowe this week spoke to The Record about his life and priestly ministry.
Born in Perth, Fr Rowe shared that his discovery of Christ came about partly through his upbringing.
“Both my parents died when I was a baby, so I was brought up by my grandmother,” he explained.
“This led to a lot of thinking about my place in the world, why we’re here in the world and the meaning of life.
“It was in the silence of just going to Mass on my own that I realised there was someone who cared for me and loved me.
“The things that happen to us affect us in life and often in those sad things, that’s where we find God,” he said.
As a young man, Fr Rowe had won a scholarship in metallurgy (an art and science of metallic elements), but discerned that he was being called in a different direction.
“I decided it wasn’t for me and kept thinking that there’s so much more to life than material things and the things of this world.
“So it was that focus on the next world and the spiritual realm that led me down this path.”
Because St Charles’ Seminary was closed at the time, Fr Rowe spent seven years in Adelaide at Rostrevor’s St Francis Xavier Seminary, before returning to Perth to be ordained to the priesthood by then Archbishop of Perth, Barry Hickey on May 21 1994, on the Vigil of Pentecost.
Twenty-five years later, Fr Rowe said there have been many highlights which have stood out for him.
“I would say encountering Christ in the sacraments and helping people along in the sacraments and walking together with them have been highlights, whether baptisms, weddings or funerals,” he said.
“The priest is often involved in both the happy and the sad times, so there are always lots of occasions to remember over the years. Those events have stood out for me over my time in the priesthood.”
While the priesthood has seen various challenges over the years, Fr Rowe added that he has found it to be an incredibly fulfilling vocation.
“Looking back over 25 years, everyone could say there are things they would’ve changed or done differently because you learn more through experience.
“I think experience helps you realise things you might have done differently in your priesthood.
“You need to be holier, that’s what I’d try to tell my younger self from 25 years ago; to spend more time in prayer, and perhaps even more in study and spiritual reading, which is what I’d say to myself now anyway!
“I think we all get too busy in life, especially in the modern world, flat out all the time with a million things to do. There are so many things vying for our attention in this world.
“But we’re obviously not made for this world and a priest is called to focus, in one sense, on the otherworldly things rather than the material, to hopefully bring people to God and save his own soul, and help others to save theirs and get to heaven,” he said.
Fr Rowe added that while society’s outlook on the priesthood has changed, the world needs good, holy and above all, more priests.
“Over the past 10 years, the world, in part through the media, has become more secular and antagonistic to religion in general, and more specifically Christianity.
“It is certainly harder to be a priest today than it once was, but in a sense we’ve got to be careful because we don’t want to be loved by the world, we want to be loved by God. It is hard, but God gives us the grace to keep going,” he said.
“Each one of us is called to serve God in our own way, our own vocation; but I think every faithful Catholic man should consider the call to the priesthood at some point in his life.
“For those thinking about the priesthood, I would say to commit yourself to prayer in the process of discernment, and to get spiritual direction from a priest.
“It may not work out and God will make it apparent whether it’s for you or not, but if you feel called to the priesthood, I think the most important thing is to give it a go,” he said.
For himself, Fr Rowe says he remains hopeful in serving as best he can in his own role.
“I suppose my hope for the future is that through God’s grace the chaplaincy for the Extraordinary Form may be built up more to allow for the opportunity for more people to experience the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.
“But at the end of the day, I just pray that I can be the best priest that God is calling me to be,” he concluded.