By Matthew Lau
“It will not fill our hearts if we keep standing by the window with the excuse of waiting for the right time, without accepting this very day the risk of making a decision. Vocation is today! The Christian mission is now” – Pope Francis.
News that Redemptoris Mater Seminary will receive three incoming seminarians for 2019 from Texas and Colombia will come as a great boost to the Archdiocese of Perth.
Father Michael Moore SM, inaugural seminary Rector since January 1993, hopes there will be plenty more to come.
“When I was a seminarian 45 years ago, there were hundreds of seminarians in different religious orders. In the diocesan seminary of Sydney, there were 250 seminarians. In a very short time, these numbers have dwindled,” Fr Moore said.
“The worry is that God is calling them, but someone has to announce to them this love of God and this call to as give them the possibility to be able to answer it.
“So the secularisation is very strong, but I think the Church has an offer for young people – especially young men to the priesthood – that is very exciting, and very real in terms of faith.”
Of the 40 priests who have been ordained so far, 23 are working outside of the Perth Archdiocese in seven other dioceses in Australia where bishops have asked for them.
The Morley-based seminary currently has 16 young men in formation, six of whom are on placement.
A pastoral team that consists of a married couple, a priest, and a single man assists the Rector, Vice Rector, and Spiritual Director.
“The seminary proper looks after the formation for a man to become a priest. The Neocatechumenal Way, found in various parishes in the Archdiocese, strengthens his faith so he can fulfil his vocation from his baptism,” Fr Moore explained to The eRecord.
Liam Ryan, 31, is reaching the end of his ninth year of formation, and is preparing himself for his tentative diaconate along with fellow seminarian Matteo Verdi.
Of the nine years at Redemptoris Mater, he estimates about six of the years were spent in full-time study. Two years were on mission in Papua New Guinea, which, for Liam, was the zenith of his seminary journey.
The hands-on experience was a real eye-opener to “another world” compared to his relatively comfortable upbringing in Perth.
After becoming a deacon, Liam hopes to attend World Youth Day 2019 in Panama, before returning to Perth to be placed in a parish of the Archbishop’s choosing.
Liam recalls his Year 12 class being asked to write a letter to themselves for what they hoped to achieve in the future.
Five years later, Liam had already checked off most of his list. He had the car he wanted, a beautiful girlfriend, was surrounded by good mates, and attained a Bachelor of Commerce Majoring in Philosophy.
But all of this wasn’t gratifying enough for him, he felt something was missing.
“I’m one of 10 kids. I always thought I would have a big family of my own, but I guess God had a different plan for me.”
Liam is one of the few seminarians permitted to wear a clerical collar as he has completed his Admission to Candidacy.
“It’s a sign that the Church is alive,” Liam said.
“The approach here is a day-by-day thing. We are not risking it; it is in God’s hands.”
At 19, Manuel Ruiz Guarin is the youngest of the current batch of Perth Archdiocese seminarians, and is mindful of the long journey of formation ahead of him.
Having moved from his native Colombia, the first-year seminarian is conscious that priesthood will only transpire “if it is the will of God”.
Manuel tells The eRecord about a crucial meeting two years ago that changed his perspective on life.
“I wasn’t really thinking about priesthood, but then came a meeting with all the young men. Seeing those men [willing to follow Christ] stand up started my vocational process.”
He said he felt the relationship with his then-girlfriend “had no sense, no reason”.
“I know my parents are very happy because they’re from the Church. I also miss home a lot, especially in December. I want to share the holidays with them.
“It’s interesting to see what the Gospels say about it – Jesus Christ fills the void in your family. It isn’t that they have lost a family member, they have gained one more,” Manuel added.
“In the end, what Fr Michael says is that you are not the superhero of your family – God is, and you are not better than God.”
Prior to entering seminary, Manuel aspired to study music. He is now using his talent for music to help channel his spiritual journey with the Neocatechumenal Way.
For third-year seminarian Jupiter (Peter) Justin, the biggest adjustment moving from Malaysia was the language barrier.
Jupiter had difficulty learning Italian, Latin, Spanish, and English – as he was raised in the outskirts of Kota Kinabalu – but has made great strides with the help of the rectors and fellow seminarians.
“I am still learning and improving, I feel more comfortable,” Jupiter expressed.
The term “God works in mysterious ways” is particularly true for the 35-year-old, who owned an electronic repairs business in his hometown for seven years.
While the business was a monetary success, Jupiter reflected on his life and felt that it was lacking in some way.
His shop was ransacked one day, and subsequently the number of customers plummeted. Jupiter felt it was God’s means of leading him towards priesthood.
“It’s a beautiful experience. That tragedy wasn’t a way that God punished me, but a way for him to call me as I was unhappy, even though I had money.
“[The money] actually made me more dissatisfied.
Redemptoris Mater Seminary Rector Fr Michael Moore looks back on the past 25 years in the role with fond memories.
“Our seminary exists in the providence, so the Archdiocese provides some funding, the rest we look for other people. The people in Perth around Australia have provided for this seminary, this has always been a clear sign that this is the will of God,” he said.
“To see these men vow to go announcing the Gospel in difficult places and bring this light of the mercy of Christ to people wherever they are, that’s the singular joy.”
Fr Moore also highlighted the brotherly bond Redemptoris Mater shares with St Charles’ Seminary, a relationship he described as “one of great communion fraternal support”.