Two new priests have joined the ranks of clergy in Sydney, and are among eight ordinations for the Archdiocese in just a fortnight.
St Mary’s Cathedral exploded with music, joy and life as Anderson Gallego Rodas and Rafael Silva Galicia were ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP on 3 December.
Described as an “extraordinary grace for the Church”, the new priests join five recently-ordained deacons, all future priests, as well as the consecration of Bishop Danny Meagher (8 December), to cap off a busy two weeks for vocations. Fittingly held on the feast of Jesuit missionary St Francis Xavier, the two new priests, members of the Neocatechumenal Way, were commended by Archbishop Fisher to his protection and intercession.
Well-known for its distinctive and uplifting music, men answering the call to the Way’s missionary priesthood know they are not only open to the Lord, but to whatever corner of the world he may send them.
“Eight ordinations in a fortnight is an extraordinary grace for which we give thanks to Almighty God.”
It’s a message not lost on the two young men from the Neocatechumenal Redemptoris Mater Missionary Seminary at Chester Hill, who knew little more about Sydney other than it had kangaroos, an opera house and an impossible language, English.
Ten years later and now calling Australia home, Fr Anderson, 31, from Colombia, and Fr Rafael, 30, from Mexico, agree the only thing missing from the night was their friends and family unable to attend due to travel restrictions.
While it might have only been at a quarter capacity in terms of attendees, the cathedral was overflowing with prayers and praise for the new priests who agreed it was the “best night of their lives”.
“We are over the moon, the whole thing was just incredible,” Fr Anderson beamed.
“The music, the atmosphere and the support shown by everybody was just amazing.
“Words cannot express how happy we are and we can only thank God for this wonderful calling he has given to us.
“The only thing missing was our family and friends, but we were happy to see more than 3000 people viewed the live-stream around the world so they were with us in spirit.”
Around 50 priests processed into the cathedral to the community’s distinctive and uplifting music, one of the newest and fastest growing movements in the Church.
As the two candidates lay prostrate before the high altar of St Mary’s, the voices of the Spanish choir complimented by guitars, flutes and drums almost lifted the roof seeking the intercession of the saints as the Litany of Supplication was chanted. They then knelt as Archbishop Fisher laid his hands on them and prayed the Prayer of Ordination before clergy from Sydney and beyond came forward to pray, one by one – over and for – their new brothers.
The new priests were then vested in stole and chasuble to the tune of You Are So Handsome – a Neocatechumenal community song inspired by Psalm 45. With huge smiles on their faces, the newly-ordained processed out with fellow clergy before giving their first blessings to the sounds of clapping and cheering from the enthusiastic crowds.
Both will remain at the parishes where they have been serving as deacons – Fr Anderson at Our Lady of Fatima, Caringbah, and Fr Rafael at Our Lady of the Annunciation, Pagewood.
Archbishop Fisher joined priests of the Archdiocese and beyond, in welcoming their two new brothers into their ranks and thanked all those who have contributed to their journey of faith, their discernment of their vocation and their formation for it.
“When they volunteered to be missionary priests, neither could have imagined they’d spend years in formation and service in Australia,” he said.
“It took trust in providence and a sense of adventure for our two young men to brave the wilds down under and learn our dialect, but they say it’s been an amazing adventure with Christ.
“Thank you Rafael and Anderson for offering yourselves to God and His people for this beautiful vocation and for persevering through a full decade of formation and mission.
“Our Gospel tonight told us of a crowd for whom Jesus felt pity because they seemed to Him like sheep without a shepherd.
“Well, tonight the Archdiocese of Sydney has added two fine priests to its numbers and in the past fortnight we’ve added five deacons, all of them future priests; as well as Bishop-elect Danny Meagher will be consecrated.
“Eight ordinations in a fortnight is an extraordinary grace for which we give thanks to Almighty God and pray for these eight men and their future ministry.”
The Neocatechumenal Way founded its own Redemptoris Mater Missionary Seminary in Rome in 1987 in answer to St Pope John Paul II’s call for a better distribution of priests worldwide.
Dedicated to the New Evangelisation, lay communities not only lived and worked with the poorest of the poor, but brought them the gift of Christ and the Gospels.
Introduced to Australia more than 40 years ago, today communities are found across the country in parishes focused on Scripture, prayer and praise of God as they engage in a long-term program of catechesis in the Christian faith.