On the threshold of a new beginning: five men to be ordained priests
Deacons Matthew Hodgson and Truc Nguyen, from St Charles’ Seminary in Guildford and Deacons Giovanni Raffaele, Rodrigo Da Costa Ponte and David Nieves from the Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Morley will be ordained to the priesthood by His Grace Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB on Friday, 4 March 2016 at St Mary’s Cathedral at 7.30pm. Photos: Deacons Truc, Rodrigo, David and Giovanni – Marco Ceccarelli; Deacon Matthew: Supplied
By Marco Ceccarelli
As the Jubilee Year of Mercy enters its fourth month, the Catholic community of Perth continues to be presented with joyful occasions which reflect the mercy of God within this Archdiocese. Having served for a time as deacons, five more men will soon be ordained into the priesthood. In an interview with journalist Marco Ceccarelli, Deacons Matthew Hodgson, Truc Nguyen, Giovanni Raffaele, Rodrigo Da Costa Ponte and David Nieves recently spoke about their ministry.
“I have lived this pastoral placement with two objectives: to be faithful to my new state in life as a deacon, called to serve the faithful as a minister of the Word and of charity, and to be open to the Holy Spirit in terms of what growth He still desired in me before the day of my ordination to the priesthood,” said 32-year-old Deacon Matthew Hodgson.
Since his ordination to the diaconate on 22 May 2015, Deacon Matthew has undertaken his pastoral placement at the Floreat/Wembley parish – an experience he found to be as rewarding as it was challenging.
“I now look back with fondness at the ‘first-time experiences’ as a deacon, such as proclaiming the Gospel at Mass, preaching a homily and the privileges of performing my first baptism and officiating at my first wedding,” Deacon Matthew said, “but I can’t help but recall the nervous energy leading up to these.”
Originally from Perth, Deacon Matthew was formed at Sydney’s Seminary of the Good Shepherd, joining the seminary in 2009 after working for a year at the Perth World Youth Day Office in Highgate.
Now on the doorstep of his ordination to the priesthood, he recognises the abundance of gifts bestowed on him by God up until this point and hopes to serve the people of God to the best of his ability.
“I hope to be there for them in all their joys and struggles,” he said. “I also hope to be a privileged witness of lives being continually transformed by the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Also about to take the decisive step into the ministry of priesthood is Deacon Truc Nguyen, currently serving as deacon at St Columba’s Parish in Bayswater.
Born in the former Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City), Deacon Truc arrived in Australia in 1994 after having experienced the hardships of living in Malaysian refugee camps for more than five years.
In 1999, he entered St Charles’ Seminary in Guildford for two and a half years, after which he spent another four years of formation abroad, within St Mary’s Seminary, Houston, USA.
Interspersed with various breaks during which he studied and mastered the English language, Deacon Truc’s formation was put on hold for some time and resumed in 2009 at the Assumption Seminary of San Antonio. Following two years at the Assumption Seminary, he was ordained to the diaconate in Houston and returned to Western Australia at the end of 2012.
In WA, Deacon Truc undertook his pastoral placement at St Mary’s Parish in Kalgoorlie for 14 months and was eventually appointed at St Columba’s in Bayswater, where he has been serving for the last 10 months of his ministry as deacon.
“My time in Kalgoorlie, despite the difficulties of having sudden shortages of Mass attendees and volunteers, was very formative for me. In Bayswater, I have learnt to build a good relationship between the church and the school, between the priest and the parishioners, and between priests and priests,” he said.
Looking ahead to his ordination, Deacon Truc spoke of being a servant through whom people may discover God. “For me, the most important thing of all is to have peace in my heart. With this peace, and with God’s help, I can be a bridge between God and people, by which I mean bringing God to people and people to God.”
The desire to be an instrument through which people can meet God is also felt by Giovanni Raffaele. The 29 year old, who is originally from Messina in Sicily, speaks of having significantly benefited from his time as deacon in the East Hampton parish, Melbourne, and feels that the experience finally confirmed his desire to enter the priesthood.
“In my role as deacon, at first I found it somewhat difficult to expose myself, give homilies, bestow blessings and much more. Yet, slowly, the Lord has helped me to have a good relationship with the parishioners, to hear their problems and also to see how much need there is for shepherds to lead people today.
“The need is urgent. People need guides. In my priesthood, I hope to give sacraments, but I also hope to be a concrete sign within the lives of people. This, I believe, can be manifested through the announcement of the Good News. Those who do not know the Church don’t have sacraments; I feel called to go out and reach them,” Deacon Giovanni said.
Formed at the Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Morley, a missionary seminary, Deacon Giovanni looks back at his formative years and sees that he is indebted to many people, his rectors and family first and foremost among them.
“My rectors and those who guided me spiritually I must thank, but my family also. They will all be present at my ordination. If it was not for the faith transmitted to me by my parents, I would not be preparing to become a priest.”
Also formed at the Redemptoris Mater Seminary is David Nieves from the Colombian city of Valledupar. The 28 year old has spent the better part of a year in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Bunbury, and feels that the missionary spirit he has received in his formation will serve him well in his time as priest.
“I found the possibility to speak to people about some of their sufferings, and announce the love of Jesus Christ to them, one of the most rewarding parts of my time as deacon. Those moments helped me to see the need to announce the Gospel to people everywhere.
“Visiting the sick, speaking to Christians and non-Christians, also talking to couples going through difficulties in their marriages - it has been very humbling. What could I say to them? That this is not the end, that there is always another possibility in Jesus Christ: a possibility to love, also to love the enemy,” Deacon David said.
The youngest of the deacons being ordained is 27-year-old Rodrigo Da Costa Ponte. Originally from Brasilia in Brazil, Deacon Rodrigo has been ministering in various parts of Adelaide (South Australia) and Broken Hill (New South Wales) since his ordination to the diaconate. Much of his time was also spent visiting remote parishes and witnessing some of the difficulties faced by isolated churches.
“Visiting parishes and priests in the countryside placed me in front of the solitude within such isolated places. At first, it was not easy for me. However, to witness these priests giving their lives for the Church was very moving. The people in Broken Hill were extremely kind to me: I will never forget them.
“I hope to receive graces in this ordination that will accompany me during my entire life as priest. I hope to never lose the zeal and love needed to announce the Gospel and meet people who, because of something I say or do, may, in turn, meet Jesus Christ,” Deacon Rodrigo said.
The five deacons will be ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB on Friday, 4 March 2016 at St Mary’s Cathedral at 7.30pm. All are invited.