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On their Way to the priesthood

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Deacons Željko Evetovic and Ronny Jose D’Cruz will be ordained by Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP on 4 November. Photo: Giovanni Portelli
Deacons Željko Evetovic and Ronny Jose D’Cruz will be ordained by Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP on 4 November. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

Having grown up worlds apart Deacons Željko Evetović and Ronny Jose D’Cruz will be ordained together by Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP at St Mary’s Cathedral on 4 November at 10:30am.

Both missionaries of the Neocatechumenal Way, they share a passion for telling how God’s extraordinary mercy changed each of their lives.

From boxer to priest, Deacon Željko, 43, had a “Rocky” start to life.

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Growing up in Serbia, he was barely out of primary school and already a national champion boxer amid the violence, corruption and political upheaval of war in the 1990s.

“But I quit boxing when I was 18 because of the criminal things that were happening in the sport and other things I didn’t want to be involved in,” he explained.

Željko’s parents were divorced but at 19 he received a call, literally, when his father phoned from overseas and said he wanted him and his sister to be baptised.

That day he says he also received the “seed” of a call to priesthood, but his life took a few more twists and turns before he finally gave it over to God.

“Within a year I had replaced God with fake gods of power, money and pleasure,” he said.
“I went deeper into a sinful life of drugs and alcohol and I was living like the prodigal son, literally.”

The larger-than-life prodigal pugilist came back to the church at 23 in 2003.

He joined the Neocatechumenal Way, and threw himself into missionary life.

Aged almost 30, he was on the threshold of marriage before giving God an ultimatum with the help of a spiritual director.

“I said, ‘If you want to speak to me, you have to make it obvious,’” he said.

Deacons Željko Evetovic and Ronny Jose D’Cruz. Photo: Giovanni Portelli
Deacons Željko Evetovic and Ronny Jose D’Cruz. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

“I continued my life with my girlfriend and then one day, out of the blue she looked at me and said, ‘You should be a priest.’

“A year later she broke up with me and it was clear that God was calling me to the priesthood.

“What I have received from and through the church is always love and mercy, the prodigal son parable is always very close to my heart because that’s my life.”

He was sent to Sydney in 2012 to study for the priesthood at the Redemptorist Mater seminary at Chester Hill.

Deacon Ronny, 47, came to Sydney in 2006 from his native Goa on a money-making mission which left no room for God.

“I was very career-driven but did not know where I was heading in terms of my personal life,” he said.

“I believed in God but it was just a belief. It never crossed my mind to have a relationship with God. I never went to confession for 17 years. I was very self-centred and lived a very cynical life.

“I had my own little world and my own recipe for success.

“A family friend introduced me to Fr John Hayes, who was from the Neocatechumenal Way, and he asked me to come and listen to some catecheses. But it took me a while to make sense of my life.”

Attending World Youth in Rio in 2013 opened Ronny’s eyes and turned his heart to God. He entered the Redemptorist Mater seminary in 2015.

“I was deeply touched by those three million young people coming together for Christ,” he said.

“Now I truly see that God has called me to this life as his priest, to bring people to Christ.

“It’s nothing of my own doing but God’s. I carry my weakness but I also carry the strength of the gifts God gives me through the Holy Spirit and that is what I can offer as a priest.”

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