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Friends mark priestly milestones

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Archbishop Julian Porteous, second from right, was one of 15 priests celebrating significant milestones. Photo: Giovanni Portelli
Archbishop Julian Porteous, second from right, was one of 15 priests celebrating significant milestones. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

Fr John Grieg remembers a particular conversation he had with Catholic Cardinal Archbishop Sir James Darcy Freeman before entering St Patrick’s College Manly seminary in January 1979.

“He said to me, ‘So you want to be a priest?’ to which I replied ‘Yes.’ He said, ‘You are saying goodbye to the I, the my and the me, and you are taking on the we and the us. I welcome you to Manly College.”

On Wednesday 20 March, Fr Greig was one of 15 priests who celebrated the anniversary of their priesthood at the annual Manly Union Lunch at the Seminary of the Good Shepherd.

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He marked 40 years of priesthood alongside Fr Anthony Misfud, Fr Thomas Alukka and Fr Thomas Kurunthanam, while Fr Fernando Montano, Fr Terrence Millard and Fr Sebastian Savarimuthu all celebrated 25 years.

Fifty-year golden jubilarians included Fr Peter Kelleher, Fr Paul Crowley, Fr john Doherty, Archbishop Julian Porteous of Hobart and Fr Jan Chrzczonowicz, while Fr Eugene Szondi and Fr Carmelo Sciberras celebrated 60 years.

Fr Sciberras in his speech spoke of his memories from 60 years of service to God.

“We read in the Book of Wisdom that young men see visions and old men dream dreams,” he said.

“Now at the age of almost 86 I am a man with dreams, mixed with a little bit of nostalgia and hope for the future of the church.

“I salute the other members of my class, the class of the 1st Philosophy of 1958 at St Columba’s College, Springwood.

“Thirty-five of us were ordained, fourteen of who are still on the road, all retired bar one. Twenty-one have gone home to God, eleven left the ministry and are now husbands, fathers and grandfathers. Three of us became bishops of Wollongong, Maitland-Newcastle and Wewak.

“I wish to remember them all.”

The Manly Union was formed in 1914 to encourage and assist Australian vocations to priesthood, and grew into a fraternity for alumni of St Patrick’s or St Columba’s—but it has since expanded to include priests from across the nation.

Fr Greig told The Catholic Weekly he found the St Patrick’s difficult as he didn’t consider himself an academic.

The now-parish priest of Our lady Star of the Sea in Miranda and Our Lady of the Way in Sylvania persevered and by 1984 was ordained.

Years later in 2007, after saying he would never go back, Cardinel George Pell asked him to be vice-rector of the Good Shepherd in Homebush.

“I told him it couldn’t possibly work for the same reasons that I struggled with through the seminary. But he explained that he wanted me for my pastoral qualities,” Fr Greig said.

“That was a wonderful place because not only was it filled with fine men discerning their vocation, but wonderful priests who I learnt a lot from.

“It’s a very different thing for a parish priest to go into the seminary. It was a very humbling experience.”

At the union Lunch, Fr Greig encouraged today’s seminarians to see the beauty of the priesthood.

“It’s a very difficult life sometimes. But to persevere—you realise once you’ve done it, that it’s a great life to be a priest for our times,” he said.

“What keeps me going is being able to stand up in front of people and profess a faith that tells us there is a God who is madly in love with us and encourages us. Death is not the end, only the beginning.”

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