By Josh Low
On 16 November 2007, Deacon Manoel Lopes-Borges, Ernesto Cerutti and Arnel Taracina were ordained to the priesthood at Infant Jesus Church, Morley by then Archbishop Barry Hickey.
In celebration of the tenth anniversary of their Ordination, The eRecord caught-up with the three priests to talk about the journey so far.
Fr Arnel Taracina
Having spent 12 years in minor and major seminaries in the Philippines to arrive at his Ordination to the Priesthood, Fr Arnel explained that he came from a Catholic family where his mother was devoted to the faith.
“At first it was my mother’s dream for me to become a priest.
“After primary school, mum had a very close friend who was Parish Priest and mum decided to send me to the seminary at an early age,” he said.
“I basically did my secondary school at the seminary, after which I continued studying philosophy.
“It was then that I began considering if the priesthood was actually the vocation God was calling me to or if it was just my Mum’s dream for me.”
After philosophy studies, Fr Arnel worked in a local bank in the Philippines for two years.
“In those two years I realised that seminary life was like a ‘part of my being’ and decided to return to the seminary and take the next step of studying theology,” he said.
In the years studying theology, Fr Arnel came to know then Archbishop Barry Hickey, and was later interviewed and eventually invited to Perth to join St Charles’ Seminary in Guildford.
He was ordained to the diaconate in 2006 and spent his time as a Deacon at Lockridge and Girrawheen parishes, before being ordained to the priesthood in 2007.
Fr Arnel’s first appointment after his ordination saw him serve as assistant priest at Mirrabooka Parish for almost a year before being moved to Kalgoorlie for two years.
He was later appointed Parish Priest in the Wheatbelt and now serves as Chaplain at Royal Perth Hospital.
Fr Arnel said the communities he has been a part of in his appointments throughout Western Australia have played a big part in his ministry.
“When I went to Kalgoorlie, I was far away and isolated as most of my friends lived here in Perth.
“I would say that is one of the challenges of being a priest. When was appointed to Southern Cross for three years, I think the population of the whole town when I was there was around 2500 people,” he said.
“There was definitely the feeling of isolation and loneliness, but I was fortunate as the teachers at the school, the principal and the parishioners helped a lot, the community was very supportive.”
He added that his ministry as a priest is different at Royal Perth Hospital.
“Here at the hospital, it’s very different to the experience of serving at a parish, because most of the time here you deal with very sick and vulnerable people and are on call 24/7.
“But as a priest, we have to reach out to people and be the face of Christ to all, especially the weak and vulnerable.
“One of the things I’ve learned is that this experience helps me a lot to be connected with people, to walk with them on their journeys of life and to appreciate the beauty of getting to know them,” he said.
Fr Arnel believes the Church in Perth and Australia needs young local priests to spread the Good News of the Gospel and for locals to connect with.
“I really encourage those in Perth to at least experience seminary life, or for anyone who has that inclination or desire to join religious life or the priesthood.
“I think if we have local Australian vocations it will be greatly beneficial and will improve the Catholic community both here in Perth and nationwide, and contribute to the evangelisation and bringing back of the faith into our society,” he concluded.
Fr Manoel Lopes-Borghes
Hailing from Brasilia, the capital city of Brazil, Fr Manoel is the fifth child of a family of nine children and a former Judo champion and instructor.
He explained he first felt called to the priesthood at the age of seven, inspired by his Parish Priest, a Capuchin Friar who, he explains, worked hard to build relationships with the young and elderly within his parish community.
However, it was only while working as a Judo instructor seeking success, when he unexpectedly found what he was truly searching for, at a parish retreat offered by lay people for others within the parish.
“I wasn’t really happy at that point in my life and was searching for true happiness; their message of God’s love changed my life,” Fr Manoel said.
After his Ordination to the Priesthood in 2007, Fr Manoel said his priorities as priest were to announce the Good News and to build genuine relationships with each and every member of the parish community.
Following his ordination, Fr Manoel was assistant priest at Cottesloe and Mosman Park parishes for two years before being sent to Rome to study Canon Law by Emeritus Archbishop Hickey, and returned in 2012 to serve at the Catholic Church Tribunal as a ‘Defender of the Bond’ among other roles.
Fr Manoel explained that the community in Perth has been a great blessing, especially in times where he has felt lonely or homesick.
“Not having family here can be tough, but reflecting on my priesthood, I can testify the Lord is very generous,” he said.
“This is the answer he gave to Peter in the Gospel of Matthew, when He was asked what the disciples would get for following Jesus, ‘…every one who has left houses, brothers, sisters, father and mother, children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life’.
“I left four brothers and four sisters, and now I can prove that the Lord has been greatly generous and has given me much more than a hundredfold and I want to introduce His love to people that don’t know about God.”
He added that the Tribunal is a great place to be a witness of the Gospel, as he is able to meet people from all walks of life.
“At the parishes, I meet people who go to Church, but here I meet people who do not believe in the Church nor God.
“It is a good place to use my skills as a Canon Lawyer to help the Church and the people of God,” he said.
Fr Manoel said a priest’s life is full of challenges, but through prayer and with the help of his community of the Neocatechumenal Way, the Lord has given the graces to overcome those challenges.
“For anyone discerning the priesthood, take courage and do not be afraid.
“The Lord is faithful and will be with you all the way through. Trust in Him, pray, be a sign for this generation, seek spiritual direction and you will see that true happiness only comes from Him,” he concluded.
Fr Ernesto Cerutti
Originally from Argentina, Fr Ernesto had finished school in Argentina when he felt God calling him to the priesthood.
“I was wondering what to do with my life and felt the call to share what I had received from the Church – namely, the experience of God’s love,” he said.
Inspired by his Parish Priest in Argentina, who he described as one who served with dedication, Fr Ernesto said he had the courage to answer the call and came to Perth to study for the priesthood at Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Morley, where he studied for close to eight years.
After being ordained to the diaconate, he was assigned to Good Shepherd Church, Kelmscott, where he also spent one year after his Ordination to the Priesthood.
He remained at Kelmscott Parish for a year, before being appointed assistant priest at Our Lady Queen of Peace Cathedral in Broome for more than five years.
In 2014, Fr Ernesto was sent on mission to Alotau, Papua New Guinea, where he joined the ‘Missio Ad Gentes’ (Mission to the Nations) based there.
“This is a mission that focuses in reaching out to the ‘unchurched’ as well as lapsed Catholics, so we visit everyone in town regardless of their denomination or active participation in their congregations,” he explained.
“We try to bring the Church to and share the Good News of Christ with those who are far away and whenever possible I assist at the Cathedral in Alotau and other parishes nearby.”
Fr Ernesto said he feels very privileged to have been part of people’s lives in very important moments.
“From birth to death, at baptisms, weddings and funerals, regularly visiting schools, prisons or hospitals, it all still remains a very humbling experience for me,” he said.
He added that there have been many experiences that have stood out in his ministry, from which he has learned a lot.
“The most lasting one is the realisation that the priesthood, together with the mission, are things I cannot do on my own.
“I was (and still am) faced with my own human limitations as I strive to imitate Christ in being a servant to others.
“There have been moments of feeling useless, powerless, lonely, but I can say that it has been God who has overcome them for me, showing me so many times His immense love, patience and mercy for me and His wisdom in guiding the events of life,” Fr Ernesto said.
“None of the difficulties I have experienced have been pointless; God has always brought out something good out of them, and so they’ve become highlights.
“At those points of loneliness came a very powerful experience of the closeness of God, and I believe God had to remove everything so that I could just see Him and listen to Him… this is necessary in every journey of faith.”
Finding one’s mission and discerning God’s will, whether through the priesthood or another vocation, Fr Ernesto said, is a wonderful journey.
“To everyone one discerning, God will answer; He will confirm it by facts.
“God is faithful and will complete His work. He is the strong one, and the source of the real joy and happiness we all desire. So, take courage, and trust in the Lord,” he concluded.