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Archdiocese set to ordain eight men to priesthood


By Jamie O’Brien and Marco Ceccarelli

The Archdiocese is this weekend set to celebrate a landmark event with the ordination of eight Deacons to the Priesthood.

Archbishop Timothy Costelloe will celebrate the ordinations on Saturday, 1 August at St Mary’s Cathedral at 10am in the presence of an expected 1,000 people, maximising the capacity of the Cathedral and bringing the number of ordinations for Perth in 2015 to 12.

Deacons Simeon San, Garner Vergara Jr, Stephen Gorddard, Jeffey Casabuena, Israel Quirit and Grant Gorddard have all studied at St Charles’ Seminary, Guildford, and Notre Dame University, Fremantle, and are originally from Australia, the Philippines and Myanmar (Burma); while Deacons Conor Steadman, also from Perth, and Patrick Toohey, who is originally from Sydney, have also both been studying in Rome for the past year.

In an interview with the eRecord speaking about their vocations, each of the men spoke about a strong desire to serve the Christian community that God will entrust them with.

Their experiences, they said, conveyed a distinct sense of faithfulness and commitment to their ministry as they framed their transition into the diaconate as a sign of their devotion to the Church, the people of God and, more importantly, to Jesus Christ.

The intimacy with Christ, they said, had sustained their openness to their vocation and had steadily accompanied them on their journey towards priesthood.

Reflecting on the significance of having reached this significant milestone in his life, Deacon Patrick commented on the importance of bringing wisdom to and fostering adult faith in today’s Church.

“My ordination to the priesthood is the culmination of my life and simultaneous fulfilment of it.

“It is a chance for me to exercise my gifts and to make a contribution through the graces of the Holy Spirit to the building of the kingdom,” Deacon Patrick said.

Born in New Zealand but raised in Australia, Deacon Conor Steadman obtained a degree in dentistry from the University of Western Australia (UWA) before entering St Charles’ Seminary in 2008.

“In thinking about the priesthood I am often reminded of the words of St Josemaria Escriva which I make my own: Before God, I'm like a little donkey, pulling the cart. That has been the job I have dedicated myself to. My job is serving God, and, in God's service, serving all souls without distinction.

“For me, this is quite simply the mission, the vocation, of the priest to talk about God, to repeat the teachings of Christ the Lord and to administer the sacraments with great love,” Deacon Conor said.

Garner Vergara Jr, originally from Cebu in the Philippines, studied nursing at a Catholic University run by Augustinians before arriving in Perth in 2008. He joined St Charles’ Seminary in 2009.

“I think it was the desire to serve people that attracted me to the priesthood. Selflessness and altruistic love was my inspiration,” he said.

Equally inspiring testimonies were given by 34-year-old Jeffey Casabuena and 26-year-old Israel Quirit, also from the Philippines. Jeffey initially entered the Sacred Heart Seminary, Bacolod City, where he finished his AB Philosophy Degree and attended the University of Santo Tomas, in Manila, for his Bachelor of Sacred Theology Degree.

He describes his experience of discovering his vocation to the priesthood as a “beautiful tapestry” woven by God from a “jumble of threads”, a reference to the different events of his religious life that pointed him towards the seminary.

“In the seminary, I was able to reflect God’s wonderful plan for me, and that all the things that happened, happened for a reason. Indeed, nothing happens by chance” he said.

Deacon Israel, on the other hand, grew up in Dipolog city, Philipines, where he studied electrical engineering, before deciding to choose the path of religious life in 2005.

While he entered the seminary in 2009, his true calling to become a diocesan priest did not blossom until 2012. It was in this time that, he says, he began to fall in love with the priesthood, “that is, ‘falling in love’ to a way of life, to way of being, that constitutes the priesthood”.

Simeon grew up in the village of Pan Hlaing, Myanmar (Burma), where he was raised by parents strong in the Catholic faith. He was inspired by different role models during his youth, including his parish priest and the numerous seminarians who would visit his village every year to carry out pastoral work.

“When they visited, they shared their stories with us. Some of the seminarians’ stories inspired me.

This year, the Archdiocese of Perth will also be gifted with the ordination to the diaconate of two brothers.

Stephen, 31, and Grant Gorddard, 39, entered the seminary of St Charles at the same time yet each came to his decision independently.

“We both knew that the other was discerning the priesthood over the years beforehand, but the surprise for us and our family was when we discovered in 2008 that we were both applying for St Charles’ for the following year,” Grant said.

He also spoke of the centrality of faith and prayer within the Gorddard household – an aspect of family life which contributed to his decision to enter the seminary.

Recalling the true meaning of the term “deacon”, Stephen spoke of his vocation to the priesthood as “a life for others, a life of sacrifice, a life of service, a life of intimate relationship with Jesus and a life of joy”.

“For me, the vocation to the priesthood corresponds to the deepest desires of my heart, desires which God put there,” he said.