Tuesday, April 23, 2024
14.9 C
Sydney

From Highway to Hell to Stairway to Heaven, Fr Oche rocks out in Bourke

Most read

Fr Oche Matutina CSsR, affectionately known as Fr Rock’n’Roll, is “strumming up” parishioners from all over the diocese of Wilcannia-Forbes and beyond. Photo: Supplied
Fr Oche Matutina CSsR, affectionately known as Fr Rock’n’Roll, is “strumming up” parishioners from all over the diocese of Wilcannia-Forbes and beyond. Photo: Supplied

A heavy metal loving priest is spreading the love of God through music across regional NSW, turning people away from the Highway to Hell and putting them on the Stairway to Heaven.

Fr Oche Matutina CSsR, affectionately known as Fr Rock’n’Roll, is “strumming up” parishioners from all over the diocese of Wilcannia-Forbes and beyond.

Hitting the right note with locals, the performing pastor has seen Mass attendance numbers triple since his arrival in Bourke last year and it’s not just Catholics he’s proclaiming the Gospel to.

- Advertisement -

Scores of people who would never normally step foot in a church are flocking to hear him play—not bad for someone who doesn’t read music, but plays by ear.

At the 2021 Census, nearly 40 per cent of Bourke’s 2350 people said they were Catholic.

Fr Matutina is determined to reach out to the community through his musical mission.

“I believe music is a kind of prayer,” Father Oche, a member of the Redemptorists of Oceania community said.

“Music connects people with God in a way that they cannot receive through words.

“Through my mission in Indonesia, Samoa and now Australia, people like the music and it is something to inspire them to join the church.

“I use music to reach out to people, and when they see or hear it, they enjoy it, it makes them happy and brings smiles to their faces and shows music can transcend the mind and goes straight to the heart and the soul.

“Many times, I have been playing music in the church and passersby stick their heads in after hearing me and sometimes they even stay.

“I’m even told tourists who pass through Bourke stop just to see the ‘guitar playing priest’ they have seen on Facebook, where I sometimes get around 10,000 views.

Scores of people who would never normally step foot in a church are flocking to hear him play—not bad for someone who doesn’t read music, but plays by ear. Photo: Supplied
Scores of people who would never normally step foot in a church are flocking to hear him play—not bad for someone who doesn’t read music, but plays by ear. Photo: Supplied

“The locals tell me Bourke is a town almost 100 per cent Catholic yet many don’t come to Mass. So I hope my music will at least encourage them to come and have a listen and hopefully they will like what they hear and stay.”

Father Oche, who lists Metallica, BB King and Santana among his favourites, was appointed to Bourke after serving in parishes in Indonesia, Samoa, and Melbourne.

He said he hadn’t planned on joining the priesthood when he was younger but God clearly had other plans.

“My father was very musical and played guitar and ukulele, and me and my seven siblings all performed together. So I always dreamed of being a professional musician,” he said.

“Then one day I met an old German priest in my hometown on the island of Sumba in Indonesia, and I saw how he visited people and was very kind to them, and then and there I decided I wanted to be just like him.

“Even though I really wanted to be a musician, something in my heart told me to give my life to the priesthood, and so I joined the seminary in 1995 and I was ordained in July 2004.”

Throughout his ministry, Fr Matutina has used his music as a form of evangelisation, but also loves playing everything from reggae, country, rock, blues, and heavy metal in his spare time.

He also writes his own songs and is in the process of releasing an album in Indonesia.

He hopes he can one day write enough songs in English to release an album in Australia using local Bourke talent.

“During the COVID lockdown, I composed some songs and in January I went to Indonesia and made an album with my sister and a friend—mostly country, pop and rock—which I hope when people listen to it, they think about the church and feel good about it,” he said.

“We are a very poor parish, so I hope one day to be able to make some money off my music and feed it back into the local church community.”

- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -