Generosity, unity and obedience

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After seven years together Deacons Ben Saliba, Mark Anderson, Ben Gandy, Bijoy Joseph and Adrian Simmons will be ordained next weekend. Photo: Alphonsus Fok
After seven years together Deacons Ben Saliba, Mark Anderson, Ben Gandy, Bijoy Joseph and Adrian Simmons will be ordained next weekend. Photo: Alphonsus Fok

This weekend five men are being ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP at St Mary’s Cathedral and who better to offer them some heartfelt advice than a fellow brother priest at the early stages of his ministry.

Assistant priest at All Saints Parish Liverpool Fr Roberto Keryakos was ordained at the end of 2020 and shares some of his learnings from the first 18 months of his priestly life.

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Dear brothers, congratulations on becoming priests of Jesus Christ! You know I’ve only been ordained for not even two years, and we’ve journeyed together through Seminary for much more than that! However, these past few years in the parish have blessed me with a multitude of experiences and challenges. Here are three reflections I would like to offer you:

1. Be generous, but know your limit

As deacons you were called on by the Church in many ways: baptising babies, celebrating marriages and funerals, blessing homes, food, cars, and more, preaching homilies, leading Exposition and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, assisting at Mass, the list goes on.
But now, as priests, you are called upon even more.

You’ll be celebrating Mass, preaching every day, anointing the sick, sending the dying home to God, forgiving the sins of others, meetings, paperwork, and supplying at other parishes when needed. A lot will be demanded of you.

All priests need to be totally generous because God in His immense generosity has bestowed on us great and mysterious gifts for the salvation of souls.

“… love the people you serve, but try to properly discern what you can and what you can’t take on right now, especially as a newly-ordained priest.”

And whilst we need to use these gifts lovingly, we need to know our limit.

There will be times when we will need to say, ‘no’ to offers that come our way, not because we are lazy or couldn’t be bothered, but because our workload may be quite intense or demanding at certain times in our lives and we need appropriate self-care or deeper dedication to the tasks already at hand.

So, of course, be generous, love the people you serve, but try to properly discern what you can and what you can’t take on right now, especially as a newly-ordained priest.

No one, no parish, no group, no activity is worth you burning out!

2. Be a builder of unity

I was initially shocked many years ago when the then-Rector of the Seminary, Father (now Bishop) Danny Meagher, told us seminarians that out of all the promises made by priests the most difficult one to keep was the promise of obedience and not celibacy!

He explained that obedience was the most demanding promise partly due to the society in which we all live, a very self-centred, hedonistic one.

Advertisers sell us products with the catchphrase, “be in control of your [savings, super, health, life]” etc.

This desire for control can even infect our ministries, our capacity to be open to new adventures or new appointments.

It can even govern our prayer lives where I tell God what I want, and what I expect from Him and His people.

One way in being a builder of unity is to be a lover: a lover of people, a lover of the Church, a lover of Christ, her Head.

So, be open to suggestions and criticisms, sift through them and see what is of the Holy Spirit and what is not. Preach boldly, but with love.

“Be open to the counsel of your parish priest, remember that you are assistant priests of a particular parish, assisting in his vision and mission for that place.”

All Christians, but especially priests, are called to exercise the prophetic office of Christ in preaching and teaching, in calling people (yourselves also) to constant conversion and renewal.

Remember that one of the promises made at your priestly ordination was to “exercise the ministry of the word worthily and wisely, preaching the Gospel and teaching the Catholic faith”.

Another way in being a builder of unity is to be obedient. Be open to the counsel of your parish priest, remember that you are assistant priests of a particular parish, assisting in his vision and mission for that place.

And of course, be obedient to your bishop, be a man of integrity. You also promised your bishop and his successors respect and obedience on your ordination day, so don’t gossip about him, don’t slander or detract from his good reputation. Remain united to him!

Fr Roberto Keryakos speaking to participants at the Sydney Catholic Youth Camp, 10:10. Photo: Alphonsus Fok

3. Stop feeling sorry for yourself, and go!

Because as priests you will be stretched in ways that you didn’t know you could, you will sometimes, like St Peter, be taken to where you would rather not go (c.f. Jn 21:18): the early morning Mass, the midnight hospital visit, the tiresome marathon of meetings etc.

Heed the warning of our former Seminary Spiritual Director, Father Ed Travers MSC, and “beware of the spirit of complaint!”.

“Really believe Our Lord’s words to His disciples, and now to you, in Matthew 25:40.”

So, when you are called to be like St Peter, stop feeling sorry for yourself, snap out of it, get up and go!

Really believe Our Lord’s words to His disciples, and now to you, in Matthew 25:40.

May God bless and strengthen you for the journey ahead!