One year to the day after consecrating two auxiliary bishops for the archdiocese of Sydney, Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP ordained two more labourers for the vineyard of the Lord in St Mary’s Cathedral – this time to the priesthood.
One of the new priests had miraculously escaped harm in a serious car accident in Africa, just one week earlier.
Gerard Woo Ling and Sebastian Wai Keet Hew were ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP at St Mary’s Cathedral on the evening of 24 August, the Feast of St Sebastian. Concelebrating the Mass were three Auxiliary Bishops-Bishops Terry Brady, Tony Randazzo and Richard Umbers-and the Vicar-General, Gerry Gleeson.
In his homily, Archbishop Fisher described how just one week earlier Sebastian had been in a car accident in Kampala, the capital city of Uganda. Deacons Sebastian and Gerard had travelled to Kampala to be present for the ordinations of two fellow seminarians-Frs Richard Ddumba and Moses Tamale.
Sebastian had been in a vehicle with three others “driving along a dirt road in a national park, when their rear wheels lost traction,” Archbishop Fisher said.
“The car skidded wildly and finally rolled a full 360 degrees, crumpling the roof and shattering the windscreen.
“A few have remarked that it would have been a great pity for Sebastian to die two weeks shy of his priestly ordination,” Archbishop Fisher continued.
“I can only agree: it would have been a pity even two weeks after, or two decades after for that matter: I’m looking forward to long service from both these men!”
Fr Sebastian attributes his amazing escape from harm to the protection of Our Lady, the Archbishop remarked.
He said that Fr Sebastian and the three other occupants of the car only sustained “a few lacerations and bruises” and two days later they were well enough to take part in the ordination Mass for their two friends, which in true African style went for six-and-a-half-hours.
Both Frs Gerard and Sebastian are ethnically Chinese. Fr Gerard was born in Trinidad and arrived in Australia in 2005. Fr Sebastian was born in Malaysia and moved to Australia with his family when he was ten years old.
Family and friends of the two men were present at the Mass, some of them had travelled from Trinidad and Malaysia for the special occasion.
Commenting on the formative influence of families, Archbishop Fisher said, “A priest is a man who has been evangelised himself, usually first in the ‘domestic church’ of the family as were our two ordinands tonight, that ‘sacred school’ which by nature and revelation is headed by a man and wife, who bring together the opposite sexes so a new generation may be conceived and raised with the benefit of a Mum and Dad.”
It was while receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation that Fr Gerard first felt a calling to the priesthood, and he said “yes” to that call while praying before the Lord in Eucharistic Adoration at Lewisham.
“I pray to be a good priest, a holy priest and a joyful priest,” Fr Gerard told The Catholic Weekly prior to his ordination.
He worked as a Financial Accountant before entering the Homebush Seminary and both his mum-who passed away in 2014-and the example of St Teresa of Calcutta, helped in his faith formation and vocational discernment. Fr Gerard said Fr Bill Milsted, Parish Priest of St Peter’s in Surry Hills, had also been influential and supportive in his journey towards priesthood.
After completing a doctorate in physics at Cambridge University, Fr Sebastian realised that he had been using his studies as a “delaying tactic” to avoid the vocational call that had been stirring in his heart.
When he told his spiritual director he was considering the priesthood, the priest responded by asking Fr Sebastian, “Religious or secular? Where would you go?” Cardinal George Pell asked him exactly the same two questions when he applied for admission to the Homebush Seminary.
In his homily Archbishop Fisher warned Frs Gerard and Sebastian that “the priesthood is not getting easier.”
“If we are to recover people’s confidence after the scrutiny and criticism of the Royal Commission, we will need priests who excel both humanly and spiritually,” he said. “You must be orthodox preachers of the new evangelisation, compassionate pastors in generously serving your people, and worthy celebrants of Godly worship.”
The Archbishop referred to a “spirit of sectarianism and secularism” that is pervasive today saying, “You my sons, must be ready for it.”
“There are those who would, if they could, eliminate our sacred hierarchy, overturn our high morality, silence our teachings, defund our schools, close our institutions, even undermine the sacraments of Confession and Marriage,” he said.
“But for every hostile person you might encounter, you will meet many more who are faithful children of God … You must be ready to give yourselves to them and to God wholeheartedly, not just tonight but every day hereafter.”